Those of you who have purchased my book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: a Memoir know that on the back of the book it states that I live with my two CKC dogs. People in the dog world know that CKC is the affectionate name for Cavalier King Charles spaniels. I have had nine years with these smart, cooperative, affectionate, devoted animals; my two CKC dogs, Cara Cozy and Markey Mark. That statement changed November 19, 2016 when the younger of the two dogs, Markey Mark, passed away suddenly from congestive heart failure. It is always hard to lose a beloved animal. But it is especially difficult when my life has gone from a bustling household consisting of a daughter, her husband, two grandchildren, and a beloved husband Sy, to–in three years–me living with my two dogs. Life can take some sharp turns.
Markey Mark came into our lives when Cara Cozy, the older dog, was about a year old and was acting as if she were depressed. Just imagine what it is like to live in an environment in which no one else speaks your language! We went back to the breeder where we had purchased Cara Cozy because I had seen on their website a dog that I thought would be good for Cara. I called the breeder and told her my wishes. She countered that she thought that dog would not be a good choice for our household but to come and see. We made the long trip to New Hampshire and the breeder’s new kennel. The breeder told us to bring Cara so she could help choose a playmate. When we arrived the breeder led us into her living room, which only contained a dining table and chairs with two leather couches set in an L shape. Cara came in with us and the breeder let our chosen dog into the space. He immediately started crowding Cara, pushing at her and in general bullying our little lady. It didn’t take long for all of us to see this was not a match. The breeder took that dog away and brought in a smaller brown and tan pup with a white spot on his chest. “This is Mark,” the breeder announced. “We call him that. He is not a show dog because of the white spot on his chest. He is neither a black and tan nor a tricolored spaniel.” That didn’t matter to us. Mark started to run and then invited Cara to join him. She trotted along beside him and shortly he showed her how to go outside through their swinging dog door. The breeder assured us the two dogs were safe outside in an enclosed pen.
By now I had sat down on the floor using one of the couches as a backrest and Sy had seated himself on the far end of the second couch with his arm and hand extended to his left onto the couch seat. Markey came bursting back through the door, ran to me, sniffed my face and then jumped up on the arm of my couch. He pranced along the arm, up across the back of my couch, jumped to the couch Sy was sitting on, traveled along the back behind Sy’s head and slid down onto the seat beside Sy, where he started to lick the back of Sy’s extended hand. Now did I tell you Sy wasn’t keen on dogs or cats or any little furry thing that sheds and causes you to trip? Looking back I have to giggle because it was as if while the two dogs were out in the pen Cara told Markey that he’d better kiss up to Sy if he wanted to go home with us.
The upshot was that we both decided Markey was the one to live with us, but he had not yet been neutered and the breeder wanted to see that her own veterinarian did the neutering and checking that Markey was in the best of health. We put our money down and went home without our new puppy.
Three weeks later we got the word that Mark was ready and we should come to collect him. I built up the area behind the front seats in the car and then fashioned a riser so that the dogs could see out the windows. There was a foam cushion and blankets that created a comfy, filled in, level back seat. We started off with Cara near the door and behind my seat. When we arrived at the kennel we left Cara in the car because it was icy and slippery in the driveway and we were just collecting our dog. I carried Markey out and when I got to the car I asked Cara to move over so that I would have the pup right behind me. She gave me a horrible death stare like she couldn’t believe we were bringing that creature home, and then moved over just enough so I could put the puppy into the backseat. As the trip progressed Cara got farther and farther away from the little puppy.
About half way home we both recognized that a puppy might need to get out and relieve himself, in fact both dogs might need to get out. Sy had trouble finding a spot but he finally stopped in front of a police station that sat down below the road. Now, remember I said it was icy. Well, actually there was an ice coating over the snow beneath. So we let Mark out first and he started down the hill, his legs began to spread apart and soon he was sliding belly first down the incline while I struggled to keep my feet. We both landed in a pile near the bottom of the hill. Sy tried to keep his composure but was cracking up. I guess we did look pretty funny. Cara, lady that she is, had enough sense to stay close to the car to do her duty, and once finished she sat watching the silly antics on the ice. Getting back up the hill was even worse.
By the time we arrived home Cara had managed to get all the way to the far side of the car. My guess is she thought Markey was a great pal as long as she didn’t have to share her extended life with him. It took a while for the thaw to take place but Markey was such a happy-go-lucky puppy it was as if he didn’t even notice. Gradually, we saw that Mark would lick the eye discharge off of Cara’s face—a favor she never returned until just before his death. They had about nine years together and the night Markey died he was on the floor of my bathroom when his heart gave out. At five in the morning there is not much I could do but sit with him and soothe him until he crossed over the rainbow bridge. I went back to bed and did fall asleep. When I awoke again at 8:00 a.m. Cara was not in their bed. I got up to search and found her on the floor of my bathroom about eight inches away from Mark, laying with her face flat on the floor as Cavalier King Charles spaniels do, pointed towards him, keeping watch until I should get up.
Early in their relationship a friend met the dogs for the first time and said, “Ah, Lady and the Tramp.” And it certainly describes the way they walked through life together. Love with disdain.
I want to share these pictures with you taken two winters ago for it captures their way of interacting.