musings from Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington ... home of The Write Spot

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

dear little friend of mine...

A few weeks ago, while searching for something interesting to post for Throwback Thursday, I unearthed this smile-inducing photo of my Dad with our dog, Cookie. A rescue from the Toronto Humane Society, Cookie came home in a big cardboard box in the summer of 1957. I'd been quarantined at Grandma's house with a miserable case of mumps and the puppy was intended as a cheer-up present from Mom and Dad. It worked!

Cookie was a sturdy mixed breed, fluffy and white with brown ears and a feathery, perpetually wagging tail. She quickly became my best friend. In fact, much more than a friend, Cookie was the sister this only child had always wanted. Naming her Cookie was a no-brainer – our family name is Cooke – but the moniker suited her. Cookie was a real sweetie and, as far as I'm concerned, she will always be the Best Dog Ever.

This photo of us from September '57 is the only one I've been able to find of Cookie as a puppy. I'm sure there were lots more but since Dad was infamous for leaving his photo subjects completely or partially headless, this one with 'just a little off the top' might be the best of the lot anyway. (Sorry, Dad, but you know it's true.) Cookie was mid growth spurt when this picture was taken. She had doubled in size since the day her tiny puppy-self emerged from that box in Grandma's kitchen.

One afternoon, when she was still just a wee thing, we were playing with a ball in the backyard. At the time, the fence between our neighbour's yard and ours was a rusty metal grid of 4x4 inch squares. When next door's spaniel ran into their yard, Cookie was so excited to see another dog, she raced to the fence and stuck her little head right through one of the openings. Doggy kisses were exchanged, tails were wagged, and the older, wiser neighbour dog wandered off to do her business. That's when Cookie realized she was well and truly stuck. Her head and ears fit neatly going in but, once through, those pretty ears of hers perked up and prevented retreat. I'll never forget her terrified howls – hard to believe such a tiny pup could make such a big noise! Dad and the neighbour eventually had to take a hacksaw to the fence to release her. Mom was apoplectic. I wish I could say Cookie learned her lesson that day but, well, let's just say it wasn't long before the old fence was replaced with a new, puppy safe model.

Cookie's misadventures continued inside the house, too. Mom's prized Singer sewing machine soon had permanent gnaw marks on all four legs, as did my piano. Even the heirloom sideboard in the dining room wasn't spared. And speaking of gnawing on wood…

Our sofa sat in front of the living room window. Whenever we were out, Cookie would climb up onto its back where she could sit comfortably and watch for her people to return. Mom usually remembered to leave the venetian blinds pulled halfway up so Cookie's view would be unobstructed. One day, probably running late for work, Mom left the blinds down. The slats were in the open position, so a curious dog could see through. But a teething puppy, presented with lovely, thick wooden slats, did what any teething puppy would do in the circumstances: she chewed. She watched and she waited and she chewed. And when the first delicious slat was gnawed all the way through, she started on the second. Etc., etc., etc. Baaaad puppy! I wish I could say Cookie learned her lesson that day but, well, let's just say it wasn't long before the venetian blinds were replaced with new, puppy approved curtains.

Years later, a fully-grown Cookie was once again implicated in a domestic disaster: the Terrible Coffee Table Incident. She and I were home alone one afternoon, having convinced Mom and Dad that we were perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves while they went grocery shopping. We read for a while, played ball in the yard, shared a glass of milk, and then went to the living room to watch TV. 'Somebody' decided to sit on the coffee table. It was all good fun until the glass top made a loud cracking noise and shattered in a spectacular starburst. Luckily, 'somebody' jumped off in time and wasn't injured by the shards of broken glass.

I looked at Cookie. Cookie looked at me. There may have been tears.

I did all the talking when Mom and Dad got home. "It wasn't Cookie's fault," I said, trying hard not to cry. "We were playing and she jumped up on the table. She didn't mean to. It was an accident!"

Cookie stayed by my side the whole time, looking hangdog sorry and thoroughly ashamed. We were both sent to our room. The coffee table top was eventually replaced – at considerable expense (being a custom cut oval piece of glass in a mahogany frame) – and the incident wasn't mentioned again until, finally, I couldn't stand the guilt and confessed the truth to my parents.

I was the one who'd thought it might be fun to sit on the table. Cookie was innocent. It was my fault. All mine! Mom and Dad listened and nodded. I'd been expecting an angry reaction and suitable punishment, but all they said was, "We're glad you finally told us." They'd known who the culprit was all along. And they'd understood just how badly I'd feel after making poor Cookie take the blame. My angst was far worse than any punishment they could have doled out. I was the worst sister ever. And the Best Dog Ever loved me anyway.

Aside from her family, Cookie had three great joys in her life: rides in the car, cows, and ice cream cones.

The Nash Rambler
Like most dogs, she loved going for drives with her people – all that lovely wind ruffling her ears and so many strange smells in the air! On summer Sundays we'd often swing by the house after church, pick up Cookie, and head out in Dad's metallic green Nash Rambler for an afternoon drive in the country. Cookie would begin the trip full of excitement, eager to see every sight and sniff every single scent on every single breeze. But eventually the rumble of wheels and hum of the engine would lull her to sleep on the back seat.

In those days, there were still lots of dairy farms in the countryside around Toronto and Cookie was positively fascinated by cows. We always knew when to expect cows in the next field because Cookie would twitch awake and head for the window, ears perked and tongue lolling in a happy grin. On the rare occasion when her cow early-warning system didn't work, all I had to do was whisper a quiet, "moo," and she'd spring to attention, nose at the ready. She never knew the thrill of a face-to-face encounter with a cow in its field – Mom was afraid the dog would get herself trampled, cause a stampede, or (more likely) enjoy a good roll in the cow pats. But Cookie didn't mind. She relished every molecule of cow essence her nose ever encountered. Mom was probably right about the patty rolling thing.

Cows in their field. Photo by Bernie Janssen

Another favourite Sunday destination was the soft-serve ice cream stand on Kingston Road in Scarborough. Dad would order three medium cones for the humans and a baby-sized cone for Cookie. We'd sit at a shaded picnic table to enjoy our treats and Cookie usually drew a crowd of onlookers. Everyone loved watching her eat her cone. She'd lick politely until the twist of ice cream was gone. Then, with Mom holding the cone, pup would nibble dainty circles around the wafer, revealing more of the good stuff deep inside the cone. Lick and nibble, lick and nibble, all the way to the bottom. Then she'd chomp the final morsel of cone, give her chops a clean-up swipe with her tongue, and settle onto her haunches to stare hopefully at anyone not clever enough to have finished before she did. Thanks to those dewy brown eyes of hers, Cookie could usually score a second or third 'last morsel' – sweets for the sweet.

Cookie Cooke - 1957 to 1968

Sweet Cookie was my sister, my friend, and my faithful companion for nearly eleven years. She left us far too soon but she'd lived a good life, her dog days filled with love and smiles and tail-wagging happy times. I've loved other dogs since, but there will never be another like Cookie, my one and only Best Dog Ever.

Wondering where you've heard that before? The title of this post is a quote from Verse For A Certain Dog, a poem by Dorothy Parker:

Such glorious faith as fills your limpid eyes,
Dear little friend of mine, I never knew.
All-innocent are you, and yet all-wise.
(For Heaven's sake, stop worrying that shoe!)

stillpoint is the blog of Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington

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At 11:00 am, Blogger Fran McNabb said...

Cheryl, I loved, loved, loved your story about Cookie. What a wonderful friend you had. Every child needs a Cookie in his or her life. Thanks for sharing.

At 7:17 pm, Anonymous Susan McNicoll said...

Oh what wonderful stories Cheryl. And you have given such a lovely picture of Cookie. I especially love the ice cream story and can easily visualize her eating the cone. Thank you for making my day, to you and Cookie. What a best friend you had.

At 10:03 am, Blogger Cheryl said...

Fran and Susan - thanks so much for reading. She was definitely one of a kind and the very best friend a girl could have. :-)

At 4:28 pm, Blogger Sheila Seabrook said...

Oh, what special memories, Cheryl! I was far too young to remember our family dog (other than from the pictures my parents took), but I've always loved watching the antics of my sister's dog and our youngest's dog.

At 7:11 pm, Blogger Kath Unsworth said...

Wonderful memories of a beautiful friend, enjoyed the read Cheryl.

At 11:29 am, Blogger Cheryl said...

Sheila and Kath - thanks for sharing the memories with me. Glad you enjoyed.


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