Life and Love with Cooper: Losing my beloved dog!

I want to preface this article by saying that it is unlike anything I have written before. It does not focus on travel and a healthy lifestyle in the traditional sense, but it is still very much about these things. It may not immediately make sense, but bear with me.

Over the past six years, Cooper and I have traveled to eleven different states together, and he has been an integral part of my overall wellbeing. So I guess I am still respecting my niche of travel and healthy lifestyle.

On January 8th, 2024 I felt the deepest pain in my life, and while I am seated here weeping I still want to remember, but more importantly, share my pain and sorrow with anyone who has been through the same. I invite you to join me in reflecting on the profound bond of love and loss.

I started the Paula Pins the Planet blog, and Cooper was always by my side. He participated in everything, from when I made the crazy decision to learn something new, spending long hours studying SEO, keyword research, and WordPress. He was also there when I researched, wrote articles, and edited photos. Cooper would just lie on my desk and take long, peaceful naps. Just by watching his cute face, all the frustrations of a bad day disappeared, and I would feel a sense of peace and joy.

This is an unconditional love, friendship, joy, and happy moments story….I just wish it had a different end.

“My Cooper, one day we will be walking freely again, together, into nature and exploring new adventures.”

Adopting: A Love Story…

First it was Pingo, my Westie, joining the family. He was a 12-week old full of energy puppy that came to change my life forever. The way I describe Pingo is “my other half” as he is clearly my version in the form of a dog. He is outgoing, adventurous, fearless and strong.

After having Pingo for 2 years, I thought it was time for him to have a companion. I started fostering dogs with different breeds, sizes, and temperaments to find the perfect match for Pingo. After fostering about 10 dogs, I finally found Cooper.

Cooper was a very scared, shy and traumatized Chinese Crested Powder Puff coming from Puerto Rico to the USA looking for his new forever home. Cooper is a pure breed. Someone bought him and named him the most outrageous name: Shadaii Karim Isaac Agosto 🤔

Who would give this name to a poor dog? The same person that chained him in the backyard for the first 2-years of his life, until he get rescued by an angel from Compassion Kind organization.

Pingo was the first to adopt his stepbrother Cooper. He was very patient with him and would lie next to him for hours just to protect him. Cooper was too scared to sleep and couldn’t even close his eyes to take a short nap, because he didn’t trust anyone.

But Pingo gave him a sense of security. I was surprised to learn how emotionally intelligent dogs can be, and this experience taught me a valuable lesson about adoption and unconditional love.

Cooper was so traumatized, that took me exactly 2 months to be able to touch him for the first time.

After the first touch, I slowly conquered his first kiss, the first lap moment, the first play time…

Working with Cooper was a lot of effort, but it was also extremely fulfilling. He taught me the importance of trust, love, and patience. To properly care for him, I had to slow down my hectic routine and quiet my racing thoughts, and simply be present in the moment.

It was a magical experience, and Cooper was able to impart one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned: to practice patience, slow down, and live in the present.

Cooper would never let another human touch him and would react aggressively doing his famous *kamikaze attack if other dogs tried to play with him at the dog park. However, when he was with his family, he was a silly, funny, goofy, loving and lovable dog.

* kamikaze attack: He would close his eyes, shake his head, and gnash his teeth at anything or anyone in his path. Fortunately, most of the time, he only ended up biting at the air.

The Bonding: Joy & Unconditional Love

The next chapter of our lives was fulfilled with so much love and joy. My life changed in all aspects.

Ever since I got my dogs, I only go to restaurants where I can take them with me. I have never been to any other beach in Florida, except the Honeymoon Island Puppy Beach. All my weekends are spent doing activities with my puppies. My dogs are my family, they are my children. I love to be a fur mom, and I wouldn’t want my life to be any different.

Cooper was two years old when I adopted him, and he lived intensely for the six years. I can tell he lived his best life because it is so true.

Cooper loved pillows and long naps, but he also loved his little adventures. Even if he was so skittish, he was brave enough to learn new things, especially if they were associated with me or Pingo. He would feel encouraged to try something new, and I was so incredibly proud of him.

✨Cooper has traveled to 11 states in the United States

✨Cooper has been on a cross country road trip from Florida to Arizona

✨We took a road trip to New England and enjoyed his first snow adventures in Vermont in winter

✨We loved our yearly trips to the Smoky Mountains to spend days in a cabin, and go hiking in nature

✨ Every Sunday during summer time we would spend the day at his favorite dog beach, Honeymoon Island. I call it our little paradise.

✨Cooper learned how to paddleboard with momma and he loved bike rides at the park

✨ His favorite person was Pingo. He wanted to be Pingo when he grew up!

✨ Cooper spooned momma to sleep, safe and protected every night

✨ He was so goofy, and he knew he was being funny just to make us laugh

Cooper was love. Pure love. A level of love I never felt before. The closest to a motherhood love I have felt. I had to rescue, protect and hold him tight to make all his fears and anxiety go way

I protected and loved Cooper with all the love I didn’t even know I had. And he would feel so comfortable and safe in my arms, like there was no evil in the world.

These were lessons this little guy taught me. The unconditional love doesn’t have to have words, only a sparkle in the eyes, and a genuine smile, followed by puppy kisses.

Hiking in Arizona
Hiking in Arizona

The Beginning of the End…

Around a year before he passed away, I took Cooper to the vet for his yearly check-up. During the visit, the vet informed me that Cooper had a heart murmur and recommended that we bring him in for check-ups every six months instead of once a year. Cooper was so young, only 6 years old. I was devastated by the news and spent hours researching the condition.

In the months after Cooper’s diagnosis, he had been doing perfectly fine. One day I noticed he was breathing heavily and his lungs were making strange noises. It was quite scary, so I took him to the vet and he was diagnosed with pneumonia. The vet gave him an injection and he came home feeling much better.

However, a few weeks later, we had a follow up with the vet for an ultrasound, and the vet decided to go a little further, and also check his heart, and the news was devastating. They discovered that it was not pneumonia after all, Cooper had Mitral Valve Endocardiosis and Congestive Heart Failure.

We began a new routine of taking medication three times a day, going for potty time every two hours (including at night) due to the diuretics he was taking, and providing 24/7 care to monitor his heart and breathing.

Despite his serious health condition, Cooper lived a normal life. He enjoyed eating his meals, going for two walks a day, and playing with his toys and his brother. Sometimes, he would play so hard with Pingo that he would start coughing, but he would not stop playing.

Many times I had to interfere and slow him down to avoid his coughing fits. The beauty of it all was that Cooper didn’t even know he was sick.

Again, Cooper was doing fine for a while until he experienced another episode of heart failure.

His symptoms were heart murmurs, difficulty breathing, and required urgent visits to the vet, where he underwent various tests including X-rays, ultrasound and blood tests. This happened three times in a span of six months.

However, during the last visit, the vet stated that there was no further treatment that could be provided to Cooper and suggested euthanasia.

“Euthanasia!!!??? No…not even a chance! ” – I said to the vet. And started again my research. So this when I found a cardiologist vet (there were only two in Tampa Bay Area), and I had hopes again. After several tests, the cardiologist-vet adjusted his medication and increased the dosage, and he also confirmed how serious Cooper’s heart condition was.

A few weeks later, another heart failure occurred, necessitating a rush to the hospital. This time, it was more serious. Cooper had to spend the day and night in the ICU, receiving I.V. meds and oxygen to help him breathe. It was the most heartbroken feeling to leave him alone and scared at the hospital.

However, I had made my decision: I wouldn’t allow another single day at the hospital or another poke in his veins for another blood test. 🥺

When Cooper was being released from the hospital, the vet said: “I will be surprised if Cooper lasts 2-weeks”

Honeymoon Island Florida
Just another sunset in our “little paradise” Honeymoon Island dog beach

I had a trip scheduled to Tanzania, I was training for several months to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and this was one of my dreams coming true. I didn’t think twice before I cancelled this trip. I cancelled all my business trips, my social time with friends, and stopped going to the gym. I had a few weeks to make up memories for, and with Cooper.

When the vet said he had only two weeks to live, all I asked Cooper was for him to be with us for Christmas and his birthday (on Christmas Day) to celebrate his big 8 years. And he did it! He did what momma asked him and he lived for 5 more weeks. He was strong and a good boy, always 🐾💕

“Dogs die. But dogs live, too. Right up until they die, they live. They live brave, beautiful lives. They protect their families. And love us, and make our lives a little brighter, and they don’t waste time being afraid of tomorrow.”

Dan Gemeinhart, author of The Honest Truth

The Most Difficult Day of my life

Cooper showed how strong he was until his last day. I knew this was the most difficult day of my life, when I noticed he was having heart failure that night, having difficulty breathing😢I had made the promise I would never allow him to suffer, so he could be happy until the end.

🌈 I took him to have his favorite food, puppy ice cream

🌈 He walked the whole park and had his favorite fountain water

🌈 We went on a car ride, which was his absolute favorite thing to do and gave many kisses and found comfort against my chest 💕

🌈 I held him with all the love I have in me and sang his favorite song… 🎵“you are my sunshine, my only sunshine…please don’t take, my Cooper away” 🎵

I called Lap of Love and scheduled an appointment for that afternoon. I wanted him to cross the rainbow comfortably at his own home, lying down on his favorite pillow in my lap. I whispered to him over and over again:

“Momma loves you so much, and it is okay baby….everything is going to be okay. Now you can rest and breath again, and no more medicine time my baby”

And this is how Cooper slept for the last time – right there, while he was in his favorite place in the whole world, in momma’s arm, and with his brother Pingo next to him.

Helping Cooper cross the rainbow bridge was both the hardest thing to do, and the greatest gift. He transitioned surrounded by love and family ❤️… singing to him, holding him, telling him how much he is loved. We were with him until the end, he was not alone.

I loved Cooper the way I have never loved anyone else before. My pain is unbearable right now…but the size of my pain is just a reflection of the size of my love for Cooper. 💞💔😢

“When you adopt a dog, you have a lot of very good days and one very bad day.” 

W. Bruce Cameron, author of A Dog’s Purpose, A Dog’s Journey, and A Dog’s Way Home

5 Lessons I have learned (still learning) when my dog died…

Well…since this blog is about travel and also well-being lifestyle, I would like to write this list. First of all, as a reminder to myself, and to use as a mantra and to read it anytime I need some encouragement.

Also, I want to share with you and make you feel you are not alone:

1. Be kind to yourself

I don’t think anything could have prepared me for that moment, or the searing grief that followed.

I believe Cooper lives on in our hearts and memories. Cooper brought so much joy in his life, and memories of him bring smiles, laughs and tears. Our little angel will be missed forever 🐕 🪽

I would give 10 years of my life to have my Cooper for 10 more years. But I know he will be forever in my heart and soul ❤️….it is time to heal, without any rush…

2. Grieving is exhausting

I have always been an “energizer bunny”. I always worked out twice a day, 6 days a week, walked my dogs twice a day, work my corporate job, and blog on weekends and night time. Now I feel exhausted from the time I get up, to the time I go to bed. I feel that I only open my eyes in the morning with the purpose to let the tears roll down my face.

I spend my days in pajamas, and I only fall asleep at night because I have to take a Xanax (I hate medication, and I normally never take them), but this is the only way I can sleep a few hours. I lost my appetite, and I went from having four healthy meals a day down to one. I am having a hard time even drinking water; this is how much the grieving has taken from me.

Losing a companion and my routine all at once, could throw anyone into a tailspin. The pain is suffocating!

3. Guilt is Heavy

I knew it would be difficult, but I had no idea it would be this tough! When I found out that Cooper was seriously sick and he was having heart failure, I knew that I would have to make the toughest decision of my life.

That cold and dark Sunday night, when I realized he was having a hard time breathing, and the medication was no longer working, I knew it was time. At first I had a panic attack crying and screaming “No, no, no…” knowing I had made up my mind, but my heart was screaming, “No, don’t do it!”.

When the Veterinarian arrived at my house, I fell to my knees and pleaded with her to leave. But with a gentle voice, she informed me that my dog’s heart was weak and it was the right time to say goodbye.

I held onto Cooper tightly and continued to sob, asking her one last time if she could check his heart again, hoping he may have improved and that she could come back another day.

Even though I made the decision to stop his pain and suffering, I was still in denial and sometimes I catch myself saying that I did not have the right to decide to end his pain and suffering when I have decided. I still wonder if I had give him another day if he would get better.

4. You will become Unmoored

After Cooper’s passing, I have found myself wandering into the space he used to occupy, both physically and emotionally. To honor his memory, I have set up a memorial in my living room, complete with pictures, his favorite toys, his collar, his clay paw ornament and his ashes.

Each morning, I light a candle in this space. Here is where I go to cry and talk to him, and where I hold Pingo and tell him stories of his beloved brother.

5. I hope it will get better…

I hope I will be able to come back here, and update this section with “I am getting better”…but for now, I will hold onto this paragraph, with the hope that this will get better.

I loved Cooper, and in giving a scared, shy, traumatized and abused puppy a home, protection and unconditional love, he loved me back, and together our lives bloomed. The loss of that bond and joy is what makes my pain so acute.

And this is the reason, that at the right time, I will be able to surf the internet again looking for another brother (or sister) for Pingo, and do it all over again.

The mission to provide home, love and care for another angel should continue, because a small act of kindness has the power to change lives! And this is what keeps us alive!

🌈❤️ In loving memory of Cooper de Duper

“Our dogs may only be with us for a faction of our lives, but to them, we are with them for their whole lives. Giving them the best possible life that we can, will mean the world to them.”

Dog beach at the Honeymoon Island Caladesi Island State Park in Florida

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6 thoughts on “Life and Love with Cooper: Losing my beloved dog!”

  1. I am so sorry for your loss. It must have taken a lot of kleenex to write this. I know it took me a lot of kleenex just reading it. I hope your pain lessens.

  2. This one made me cry!
    He was a special dog, whenever I think of him, I’ll remember his walking in circles⭕️😂.
    Each day gets easier, and one day, that tight squeeze in your heart will feel a little loser, until one day you wake up, and you feel somewhat ok. And so it goes… you’ll smile a little more, and the memories will bring more smiles than tears.
    It takes time, so allow yourself that time

  3. Paula you have brilliantly captured the joys and exhausting journey to heal after such a loss .Like any deep wound, it must be healed from the bottom up. It must be treated with determination and care, never covered up and ignored. A wise man told me once, ” Grief is a pay me now or pay me later with lots of interest.”
    I am sure your readers will benefit from this very personal journey to a some day renewed joy. They and I are grateful for your depth of honest revealing of your determination to heal while patiently honoring the painful process of deep grief.”

  4. Thanks Juju – yes, he was a very special little one, with so many “different” talents, such as walking in circles…ha and he trying to have our drinks by the pool. I miss Cooper more than words can describe, and I will continue to think of him as my little baby, the momma’s boy and my funny little Cooper de Duper.

  5. Thanks Carol, and yes, it took me a lot of kleenex to go over this writing, and my life without him. What a huge impact this little puppy created in my life…wow! How I miss him so deeply.

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