Pets have a way of impacting our lives in ways we never could expect.
I’ve lived with dogs since before elementary school and each one has taught me something new about life.
Made me a better person.
Done far more for me than I could ever do for them.
Each of my dogs has come along at a different time in my life, to offer their guidance in varying ways.
Cosmo happened to be the dog around for the most challenging.
I adopted the Jack Russell/beagle mix a year before moving 1,200 miles away for college.
He wasn’t a store purchased dog, nor did he come from the pound. He was, as Michigan State University put it, an “experimental dog.”
Inside the university’s School of Veterinary Medicine, he was born without an immune system.
Through multiple bone marrow transplants, he claimed what he had been born without.
When I moved away for college my parents came with me. To help me find an apartment in Savannah, Georgia and to make sure I settled down.
When they left, leaving me in a scantily furnished apartment, I’d never felt so alone.
Because in reality, I hadn’t been.
1,200 miles to home.
But I had my furry little friend.
I had Cosmo.
We would take several hour-long walks every day. More for something to do than anything else.
We made friends along the way.
Or, I should probably say, he made friends along the way. Part Wishbone, part dog from Frazier, people wanted to stop and say high.
He discovered the shops that handed out dog treats. There was an old man who’d sit outside of a barbershop and give him giant Milk-Bones every time we passed.
We ran into the same girl with her dog three or four days in a row.
So he made me my first friend.
The first activity I ever did with my eventual wife was walk Mr. Cosmo.
Cosmo pulled strings in my universe. I was only living in it.
We eventually moved back to Michigan after college.
I married shortly after.
I was happy.
And then the bottom fell out.
My father died unexpectedly.
My wife left. Not unexpectedly. But does the bat hurt more when you see it strike your face, or when it comes from behind?
I felt alone.
I think my family put me on suicide watch.
I didn’t want to talk to anyone. Do anything. Be anywhere.
But through it all, Cosmo was there.
To put his chin on my leg as I sat against walls, paralyzed from emptiness.
To lick my tears when emotions decided I’d gone long enough without crying.
To curl under my arms as I slept to keep my chest from going cold.
He had become my kindred spirit long before.
During those times he became so much more.
So at the age of nine, when I left a routine vet checkup with the news of bone cancer that had spread throughout his body I didn’t know what to do.
He’d taken it upon himself to ease my grief.
He burdened himself with it.
He had given it his all.
There was only one thing I could think of to do for him.
Drive him the 1,200 miles back to where came into his own. Where he made friends on every corner. Where old men by barbershops would feed him Milk-Bones.
1,200 miles to Savannah.
1,200 miles to home.
I had always wanted to take him back. It had been six years. I just never had the chance to.
Back in town, it’s like he had never left.
He walked me from my apartment to my girlfriend’s home (my eventual wife and eventual ex-wife) without any prompts. I just wanted to see where he’d go.
He stopped at the bench in front of the barbershop. The old man no longer there.
It took longer. He struggled to walk at times. We had to take longer breaks. But it all felt right. He was back in his element.
Some people thought I was nuts, to drive 2,400 miles round trip for a dog.
It wasn’t 2,400 miles for a dog.
It was 2,400 miles for a best friend who had always been there. I would have done so much more if I could.
Two weeks later, back in Michigan, I took him outside, his legs gave out and he urinated blood all over himself.
I called my mom to let her know the time had come.
I held my little buddy in my lap, cleaning him off. Not all too different from how I held him at the vet when they administered the shot.
In Savannah, there are a number of park squares. Some of these squares have fountains in the middle. One, in particular, overlooks a large church. His ashes are there.
So if you’re ever in Savannah, walking through a square, and for whatever reason, you feel just a little lighter. Your spirit just a little higher. Your smile just a little bigger. You’re probably in Cosmo’s square, and he’s doing for you what he did so many times for me.