Dec 3, 2007

Cordelia Mabel Marks

Cordelia Mabel Marks
June 13, 1991 - December 3, 2007
Loyal Unto Death

Cordelia Mabel was the first dog I ever owned on my own as an adult and one of the all-time best dogs ever born. When Griffin was two I decided it would be nice to have a family dog so we headed to a local shelter to see what they had to offer. Among all the young and adult dogs were three little black puppies just a few weeks old, one of which had a cloudy eye and was believed to have sight issues. The little damaged puppy chose us before we even had the chance to crouch down to greet the litter. She came right over and jumped onto David's lap, gave him a sloppy kiss and our hearts were instantly stolen. On the ride home with our new child she was named Cordelia (the Mabel came later when she was such a naughty little dog she needed a middle name for emphasis when she was scolded). Cordelia: King Lear's youngest daughter, faithful and loyal until death.

Puppy issues aside (she ate rugs, furniture and even a pair of expensive leather florsheim shoes which didn't go over so well) she quickly became a second child to us and she thought so too. When David, Griffin and I would go for a hike and Griffin, who was barely three at the time, became weary and asked to be carried, Cordelia would too. And there we'd be, our small family of four: David carrying Griffin and me carrying Cordelia who was far heavier than a child but as David flatly refused to "carry a dog on a hike. How ridiculous is that? She's a dog" I did because I couldn't bear to see her begging to be picked up and whimpering when it was refused. After all, Griffin had been picked up, so why shouldn't she? She saw no difference between herself and our son. To her she was another child of ours. If Griffin had a sliced apple as a snack, I would give Cordelia an apple as well. The first time I did this, Griffin's apple was peeled, sliced and put in a little dish for him and Cordelia's was unpeeled and set on the floor. Cordelia flatly refused to eat hers. She looked at hers, then at Griffin's, then at hers, then at me and back through again and again. After asking her why she wasn't eating her apple, I finally figured out what she was telling me. I peeled hers, sliced it like Griffin's and put it in an identical dish and she sat happily with him and they ate their apples together. I never made that mistake again.

When Griffin was tiny and would dance when he heard anything that even remotely sounded like music (as most toddlers will), Cordelia would run over to him, stand on her hind legs, and throw her front legs around his neck and dance with him: she'd sway if he swayed , she'd perform dance steps if he did. In the beginning she was far taller than he, towering over his head as she led him around the floor on her hind legs, fully embracing his little body. But as Griffin got older and grew taller, those years were marked by how much taller he had become than Cordelia, until even on her hind legs she barely reached his waist. What a lovely way to mark the passage of time with a boy and his dog.

She learned to speak, almost too well. She was a startlingly good mimic of what she was hearing, and even though she often sounded like Astro on the old Jetson's cartoon when she spoke, speak she did. She even picked up a couple of very naughty words which when she would say them would have people laughing until they cried. And as she's a big fan of his, my mother taught Cordelia to say "Elvis" plain as could be. If she saw you with a treat in your hand, it didn't matter what the snack was for, or who it was for, she would sit and begin to go through her vast repertoire of words, without prompt, hoping to win the food.

She was a wonderful watchdog, protecting her family and her home. She alerted us once to a robbery in progress on our property one night many years ago, as well as when a carpenter working on a nearby construction site broke into our home through the kitchen door to gain access to our cellar to turn on our outside water source so the crew might steal it for mixing plaster. I was upstairs at the time and her incessant, violent barking brought me downstairs to see what was happening. She so intimidated the man, and even tried to bite him, that he panicked and crawled out through the bulkhead rather than attempt to come back through a house he had clearly thought was unoccupied during the midday hours. But the dog who hated intruders loved to have company come to visit. From a solitary friend dropping in for a short visit to a house full of dinner guests, Cordelia was in her element, mingling and soaking up the attention. When my uncle, the animal raising and animal loving cowboy who I hadn't seen in over a decade came from Arizona to visit, I told him not to worry, Cordelia loves everybody. Moments after he settled in she pinned him on the couch in the living room, teeth bared, mouth foaming, until we dragged her from the room and locked her upstairs in a bedroom, where she stayed for the remainder of his visit. Go figure. She may not have always been the best judge of character, but she certainly stuck to her convictions.

She suffered from anxiety and fear aggression her entire life, which made it difficult to take her out in public, especially in large crowds. In spite of this, everyone she did meet thought she was absolutely adorable. We must have heard "look at that adorable face! What a sweet face!" a million times during her life. It was the same wherever we went. Everyone wanted to love her, and that was as it should be, given her very unloved and unwanted start in this world. And she had so much love to give herself. From that first moment at the shelter when she chose David, she was full of kisses and hugs. Especially for David. When we lived within walking distance of the train station we would often walk in the evenings to meet David's train from the city and as soon as all the people began to disembark, she would jump up and down on her hind legs trying to see David in the crowd, and when she did finally spot him, would squeal the most horrible, loud, shrieks of joy at the sight of him (those same screeches that would have shoppers looking at us like we were torturing our dog when one of us would leave her in the car to run into a store- you could hear Cordelia wailing from inside the shop, even when the car windows were up and closed- a deafening noise that would not end until you were safely back in the car with her). Everyone at the train station would walk by us laughing and shaking their heads at the howling, hopping dog but we didn't care because we found daddy. From that point in her life on, she always loved trains probably because she associated them with David. We would frequently walk the tracks and when a train came by she would jump on her hind legs and bark joyfully until it passed and if David was with us, she'd then jump on him in happiness. Trains and daddy were love.

We had some silly ritual games we played together from puppyhood. When she was very small and still had a pink puppy belly, she had on her tummy a nearly perfect map of the United States in white (it's still there under all that fur), and I would tell her to show me her belly. When she would lay down and turn her tummy upwards, I'd rub it and tell her what an intelligent girl she was as she had the whole United States on her belly. She'd get up and squeal and jump around me. She also liked to play the "piggy toe game" which consisted of me trying to put my feet on her feet, while she put hers on mine and she would try to play bite my feet to get them off of hers. While this game was fun, it was slightly less fun for my mother when Cordelia began to enjoy sleeping at the foot of my mother's bed. When my mother would move her feet in the night to get comfortable, and her feet would bump into the dog's feet, Cordelia, thinking the game was on, would bite her feet in a bid to win. That was the end of the piggy toe game until she was too physically feeble to get up on the bed, yet all those years later, she remembered the game when I began to play it once again.

She had her brushes with death, as anyone would if they lived as long as she had: the vet who performed her spaying lost her on the operating table but managed to miraculously resuscitate her, the day she slipped out the front door, before we could catch her, to chase a dog walking down the other side of the street only to be hit by a car in front of our home, horribly, right before our eyes and get right up with only a handful of bruises, or the time she got into over a pound of chocolate and ate the entire thing, foil wrappers and all and survived with only an upset stomach.

Cordelia Mabel lived a very long, very rich life full of joys and sorrows, good times and some not so good times, but always, always with absolute love. She loved us, her people, unconditionally and with a pure heart, and we loved her the same. To those people who abandoned her at that shelter so many years ago: thank you. Your indifference and selfishness gave us the greatest gift we could have ever been given. She was exceptionally intelligent, had a silly sense of humor and was an absolutely beautiful soul carried in a furry black body for longer than most dogs dream of living. She was a joy to be a companion to, as she was a joy to be my companion. And she was a joy to be our companion and best friend to all of us in the Marks house. Cordelia Mabel: faithful dog, faithful family member, faithful friend, unto death.

You are missed today. You will always be missed. You will always be loved with all our hearts, where you will be carried in the warmest embrace of love until the day we meet again. Bye bye for now, beautiful dog.

1 comment:

Draco and his Mom said...

I cried....RIP Cordelia Mabel

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