This is without doubt the most difficult post we’ve ever had to write. We’ve always been aware that this blog and the journey we’ve undertaken is not simply one of travel and adventure, but an inner journey toward more growth, joy, self awareness and letting go. While we have been tested in all these areas over the past five months, none have tested our inner strength as much as the events of this past week – when we experienced the saddest and most painful loss of all.
On Saturday, November 15, 2014, we said goodbye to our dear, sweet labradoodle Coda, shortly after we learned that she had advanced lung cancer. With her health in rapid decline, we were advised she was in the final stages (days) of her journey. Shocked and utterly heartbroken, we absorbed the enormity of this situation, while trying to come to terms with the imminent decision that was the most humane for her, yet most heart-breaking for us.
After lengthy discussions with the vet, we took Coda home with us to share what would be our final night together. Many tears were shed, much love and many hugs were lavished upon her and one other, and sleep was almost non-existent, for us at least. For those of you who have also lost and grieved the loss of a loved one – whether a pet, family member or friend – we know you will relate to the overwhelming pain and sadness we felt. It was as though our hearts were being torn right out of our chests, as we grieved for our inevitable, pending loss. As a child-free couple, we often referred to Coda as our “baby” and while we always knew this day would eventually come, we had not expected it to come quite soon. It was a poignant reminder of why we decided to commence our RV adventure in June – none of us ever really know how many tomorrows we have left.
While we are grateful for the many wonderful years we shared with Coda, we are especially grateful that we had the opportunity to process such a big decision and our emotions over the course of a couple of days, instead of losing her immediately. Being able to spend quality time with Coda not only during our travels, but in her final days was a gift that allowed us to be even more fully present, focus on enjoying our time with her and let her go before she became even more visibly distressed.
During this past week as we grieved, we also remembered and reflected upon our happy times with Coda – there were so many – and these brought us great comfort as we recalled our stories and memories of her 9 years and four months.
Marc: Though she loved us both, Coda was always daddy’s girl. When I brought her home from Nebraska to Colorado in the fall of 2005, she was just a 7 week old puppy. In Colorado, the law states that pups must be 8 weeks old before leaving their mother, in Nebraska it’s 7 weeks. Apparently it’s between week 7 and 8 of a dog’s life that they begin to form an emotional bond with their ‘parent’ and that is when the deep bond between Coda and I began.
Julie: Marc was the best doggy daddy Coda could have ever dreamed of. He was completely and utterly devoted to this adorable little ball of fluff – quite literally his “fur-child”. Marc shared many stories of the sleepless nights he spent on the bathroom floor soothing her, training her, and loving her into the amazing dog that she was. Gentle, affectionate, loving, youthful and patient, it is my belief that pets often embody the traits exhibited by their owners, and Marc certainly embodies all of these wonderful qualities as well. Their mutual adoration was obvious to anyone who saw them together – whether in person or photographs.
Marc: Coda was a dog loved by many who were blessed to have known her. She enjoyed regular, long daily walks around our Bradburn neighborhood with me every morning, noon and night. She loved playing with other dog pals in the hood and at the dog park until she was about 3, when she made it clear that she really just preferred to be alone with me and her tennis ball.
Julie: Oh, how Coda loved that tennis ball and her chuck-it! Marc (and sometimes I) would throw the ball for her and she’d go racing after it, leaping gracefully to catch it mid-air, with such agility, focus and depth of perception. She also loved the Colorado snow and would roll around in it, bury her face in it, never seeming to mind it’s cold wetness one little bit.
Marc: When Julie came into our lives in August 2010, Coda took an immediate liking to her. Naturally, it was important my baby approved of the woman I was already planning to spend the rest of my life with – and approve she did, plastering Julie’s face with loads of loving licks upon their first meeting. However, when Julie moved into the townhome Coda became quite territorial, chewing on and swallowing her underwear and socks! Thank goodness she grew out of that phase, I was always worried one of those episodes would end in surgery!
Julie: Coda seemed to have a knack for sitting, laying or sleeping in the most bizarre positions, almost always different and always entertaining. I became a little obsessed with photographing her in these weird and wonderful positions and naming each one, which inspired me to create her own Coda Sutra Facebook Page. While I haven’t updated that page for a while, I never stopped photographing her. Posting those images on her Facebook page kept me sane during a particularly challenging time at work. My lunchtime Coda Sutra posts became a welcome distraction from the office craziness and instead, allowed me to lose myself, as I created fun captions to accompany her latest nutty pose.
Marc: As a puppy, I taught Coda how to play Hide-and-Seek. It was a scene of regular entertainment at our house – one of us would go hide and the other would say to Coda (depending on who was doing the hiding) “Where is she? Where’s your Mumma?” or “Where is he? Where’s your Daddy?”. Coda would excitedly bounce around the house, going in and out of every room, trying to sniff us out, and get SO excited when she finally found us.
Julie: Coda was very much a home-dog, attached to her master Marc, above all, with me running a distant second. In 2013, when both of our work situations changed to allow us to work from home, Coda couldn’t have been happier. Now, she could lay adoringly at dad’s feet all day every day, instead of just in the evenings when he got home.
Marc: At her heaviest, Coda weighed about 65 pounds, but mostly averaged 55 pounds, so she was a fairly big dog. Somewhere along the way, she forgot she wasn’t a little puppy anymore, as she took every opportunity to jump up and lay in my lap (or Julie’s) for extra closeness and snuggles. It was this habit, coupled with her need to be as close as possible at all times, that inspired us to coin her very apt nickname: Coda-Pendant.
Always focused on her needs, Coda was a major factor in most of our decision making, whether it was going out for dinner (dog-friendly restaurants), taking a hike (dog-friendly trails) and even the kind of car we bought. One of the main reasons we bought the MINI was it had a backseat for Coda (unlike the Miata) while allowing us to enjoy the fun of a sporty convertible. When we began exploring the possibility of more future travel, we ruled out extended international trips as we felt it was important for us to spend whatever remaining time we had with Coda. In fact, Coda is one of the main reasons we embarked on this RV adventure this year – it provided the opportunity for us to travel and explore while we worked, enjoying adventures together.
And enjoy these adventures she did! As difficult as it has been compiling this video slideshow to celebrate Coda’s life this past week, it has been very cathartic for us both as it reminded us of what a big, fun time she had during our travels. Coda’s last five months were so full of fun, adventure, joy and exploration – it’s comforting for us to know we enjoyed so much engagement and presence with her, along with countless wonderful memories and photos.
Some of our favorites memories with Coda over these past 5 months include:
- Witnessing the joy of her first visit to the beach and swimming at Lake Tahoe, California
- Being towed like a queen in her “chariot” behind our tandem bike everywhere, especially our big day out in Long Beach, Washington
- Hiking in the woods and sniffing out new scents and critters everywhere, in particular, the Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, Oregon
- Sitting up with her face in the wind, checking out the scenery as we zoomed around top down in the MINI along Highway 1 to Big Sur, California
- Posing for photos by beautiful Crater Lake in Oregon, including the gorgeous shot of her and Marc that won an Instagram contest
- Chasing after and leaping to catch her tennis ball on many beaches along the Oregon Coast
- Running at sunset with Dad toward Julie with a big happy grin on her face, at the beach in Pacific City, Oregon
- Laughing, loving and licking us while taking family photos at Mt Rainier, Washington
- Enjoying love, attention and treats from all who met her while we were out walking, and being stopped in the street several times at the dog-loving town Carmel-by-the-Sea.
More than anything, it seemed that the sight, sound and smell of the ocean brought Coda endless joy. It seemed to mesmerize her, as you will see from the photos and video slideshow.
Our last night together
On our last night with Coda, we took her for a walk along Lover’s Point in Monterey, CA and captured some final family photos by the rocks and ocean. As we sat together and cuddled one another, with tears streaming down our faces, we couldn’t help but smile at her happiness being by the ocean and feel our deep love for her mixed in with deep sadness and pain. That night, Coda slept on our bed for the first and only time, so we could hold her close and monitor her breathing. In the morning, we knew it was time to take her to the beach and give her the best last morning we possibly could, doing what she loved most – playing with her tennis ball by the ocean, being close to us, and gobbling up handfuls of rotisserie chicken, sliced turkey and treats.
Yes, it has been an incredibly most heart wrenching week, but we are now through the worst of it. Time and happy memories and wonderful healers – and with such an abundance of special memories to bring us solace, it’s now just going to take some time to adjust to life without her physical presence. A quiet, gentle and peaceful dog, her loving presence was very much deeply felt in hearts and our home.
Our hearts are still broken and physically ache as they probably will do for some time, but by extending our stay in Monterey an extra week, we have had some time to be gentle with ourselves and start the healing process, before continuing our journey down south.
Whether you knew Coda and us personally, through this blog, or via social media through the many photos posted of her, we know this news will touch many of you. It was hard not to fall in love with such a special, soulful creature. So many people have shared how they enjoy seeing photos of Coda in our blog and social media posts. With so many posts and photos yet to be shared, there will still be more images of Coda to come, as we continue sharing stories of past adventures, as yet untold. In some ways, it will be a reminder that she is – and always will be – with us on our journey, both in heart and in spirit.
Last weekend we shared the sad news in an email and Facebook announcement among our immediate circle, and we have been overwhelmed by so many messages of support from family and friends, sending their love, thoughts and expressing their sorrow at our loss. We are so very grateful to everyone who has emailed, texted, posted or called us with such heartfelt messages. Marc rarely gets on Facebook and Julie does almost all of our blog and social media posts, but we have read each and every message together. Many have brought new tears, but all have brought healing. We are touched by how many people have reached out to express their caring and love and feel so blessed to be supported by such an amazing, loving community around the world – in person and online – thank you so very much.
Finally, we are truly blessed to have had the privilege of being pet guardians to such a wonderful, sweet, smart, loving, happy dog. We love you Coda, we miss you, and we will never, ever forget you. With love always, your Daddy and Mumma. xoxo
Celebrating the Wonderful Life of Coda: 2005 – 2014
We compiled a video slideshow of some of our beloved photos and memories that celebrate Coda’s life – along with the perfect soundtrack from one of our favorite Australian bands OKA – which perfectly sums up her life and our love for her.
Music Credits: One by OKAmusic.com from the album Half Lazy, Half Crazy.
If you have a special memory of Coda or if this post reminded of the loss of your own loved one, please feel free to share it in the comments below. We would love to hear how you too, have been touched or moved by Coda or this post.