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Diamond Diary by Kevin Cooney

Feb. 3, 2005

It's a Dog's Life...

Things are always hectic this time of year...opening day is around the corner, we have a big fundraising dinner Feb. 26th, and we just celebrated our Alumni Weekend. When it gets that way I envy the life of a dog. They lie around all day, play with family members, get fed, walked, and bathed. In most cases they get, and give unconditional love. Not too shabby!

Seven years ago, my wife, Mary Beth, and I were four months into the support of a pregnant woman in the Tampa area. She was single and not in a position to keep this unplanned baby. In a private adoption, the mother selects the adoptive parents from a group presented to her by the adoption attorney. If you get selected, you are responsible for all expenses the woman incurs over the course of the pregnancy. This includes rent, food, clothing, pre-natal medical, etc. It adds up, but at the end, the baby is adopted, and you start a new family life.

Two days before Christmas, our attorney called and said the contract was being voided because the young woman had failed a drug test. She was positive for marijuana and cocaine.

Mary Beth got the call as she was preparing for a two day trip. She was a flight attendant for American Airlines. This was pretty tough news for a woman who had gone through two years of hoping to start a family, and spending six weeks waiting to be selected as an adoptive parent, then four months of waiting and praying things would go as planned.

Now MB had to get on a plane and deal with happy passengers flying home for Christmas and their loved ones. We've never discussed it, but that must have been a tough trip to work.

Meanwhile back in Boca, my sons Jim and Jeff were down to spend Christmas with us. As we finished up some last minute shopping, they both felt we should get MB a dog. She lived on a farm and really loves animals. It was tempting, but with both of us sometimes traveling at the same time, I wasn't sure it would work. Plus, husbands are bad enough shoppers, a dog as a surprise gift was risky. I also wasn't sure about her frame of mind.

Just before dinner, Jeff decided he needed batteries for a gift he was giving Jim, so he and I drove over to Kmart.

As we pulled in the lot, Jeff screamed, "DOOOGGGS!!!"

The Humane Society had about six dogs and some cats out front, hoping for some Christmas adoptions. Jeff wouldn't let up on me. I said we'd look at them, but I didn't think it was a good idea.

There were three dogs tied together. Two of them were barking and jumping at everyone passing by them. One big white dog just sat between them and watched. I said to Jeff that the white one was my kind of dog.

Her name was Misty. I took her for a walk and she was real easy on the leash and took care of business around the corner. Jeff was jumping up and down begging me to adopt her. But what would be MB's reaction to a surprise new family member, especially one whose care would fall mostly in her lap?

We brought her home.

Christmas Eve...Jim and Jeff, sound asleep while I lay awake praying I made the right decision!

Suddenly, I heard a strange loud noise. I entered the family room to find our new dog lying on her back in front of the Christmas tree, snoring to beat the band!

Christmas day came, and the plan was to have Jeff keep the dog in his room when MB got home. He'd then bring her out and we'd all look for a happy reaction. But I forgot to remove the dog food and the leash from the kitchen, so the surprise was shot, but MB didn't throw anything at me.

The dog was a keeper. Her name would be Katie. It was a name we wanted for a daughter.

Katie filled a void for a short time, then, we got a call from our attorney. A couple realized they couldn't keep their baby who was due in May.

We were back in the waiting game.

Four months later Maggie came home to meet Katie.

Katie loved coming to our baseball games. She would sense it was time to go as she saw Mary Beth get ready each night. The grass hill down the left field line became our family area. I could see them from our dugout and it always brought a smile to my face.

The Humane Society had rescued Katie in the Jupiter area. She had been found wandering, very sick, full of mange, and pregnant. After being nursed back to health, they guessed she was a White Shepherd. When her coat finally came in with us we had a beautiful Samoyed.

Katie took all Maggie, and then, Luke could give her. She was like a big stuffed bear. She traveled great making the trip to Tennessee like a trooper. She toured New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and was loved by all that met her.

The last few years got tougher on her. She had two shotgun pellets in her hip, souvenirs of her life on the run, and had a disk problem in her back. But she never seemed in pain, and we still loved her.

The past month, Katie's back legs got worse. It got to the point where we had to hold her back end up so she could walk or stand.

She took a turn for the worse yesterday and our vet encouraged us to let him put her down.

This morning was tough.

The circumstances that brought Katie to us always made her more than a dog to me.

She was a link from my first family to my second. Jeff's insistence on her adoption eased some pain for us and brought us seven years of happiness. Katie and my wife had a special bond.

Mary Beth stayed with her and Dr.Phillips to the end. I waited in the parking lot and remembered the joy of having Katie chase me around the outfield and wrestling with her on the Bermuda grass she loved so much.

Driving home from the Vet's, we passed a funeral procession of cars.

I know she was just a dog, and those people have a greater loss, I'm a grown man.

But I'll miss her. KC

PS I'm sorry this is so personal, but it helps.



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