Saying 'goodbye' to a beloved fur baby

Sydney Bristow Cohn (April 27, 2003 to Sept. 20, 2016)

By Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor

The Highlander


The decision to put my dog down was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. My wife Betty came to my office Monday, Sept. 19, and told me that Sydney had been coughing and struggling to rest all night. That morning, she had coughed up some blood and things looked very bleak for her health.

Sydney, after all, was more than 13 years old. She suffered from cardiomegaly (an enlarged heart) and congestive heart failure. Just about six weeks ago, we had to rush her to Austin to the 24-hour emergency clinic because she was having a hard time breathing.

I didn't want to be responsible for her death. I had gotten her when she was just 10 weeks old. My later ex-wife, kids and I had driven to a breeder's house in Simms, near New Boston in Northeast Texas, and Sydney was the puppy who came to us and laid down in my hand.
When my ex-wife and I split, I kept Sydney and I was the one who trained her to be an inside dog. That meant intense crate training sessions with lots of walks during the day, even though I was publisher of two weekly newspapers in Grand Saline and Edgewood, in Van Zandt County. I was putting in 75 hours of work or more per week, but I still took the time to train Sydney and she became my closest companion, especially during the week when my kids could not be with me.

Having Sydney gave me purpose and kept me going through some of the worst days of my life as I lost my marriage and later my stepdaughter Sarah, who was killed in a car wreck in November 2005.

When I met Betty, I was worried about how Sydney would adjust, since she was used to sleeping in the bed with me and having my world revolve almost as much around her as it did my kids or my job. There was nothing to worry about, though, as Sydney took to Betty instantly and accepted her as her new mama. The bond they forged was nearly as strong as the one Sydney had with me.

I always knew that eventually the day would come when I had to say goodbye to my beloved Yorkie-poo, but I didn't think the day would be so soon. I didn't want her last days to be ones with horrible pain, so I made the call Monday morning that we were going to put Sydney down on Wednesday, Sept. 21. Betty and I would both be there to tell her how much we loved her and to tell her to look for the Rainbow Bridge.

When I went home for lunch Monday, we fed Sydney some of her favorite foods — chips, cheese and ravioli. You should have seen how she was pushing the paper bowl in circles around the floor as she was licking it with relish, trying to savor every bite of ravioli and sauce. When she lifted her head up, the fur around her mouth was tinted orange from the sauce and we laughed heartily. The kittens were getting in on the fun, too, getting some cheese as well as they watched their “big sister” have a meal fit for a queen.

After work Monday, I brought Sydney outside with me as I grilled hamburgers and she watched me. When we came inside, she laid next to me in my chair as we watched the TV investigation into the death of JonBenet Ramsey on CBS. Then we went back to the bedroom to go to sleep.

At about 2 a.m., I could tell Sydney was restless and could not sleep and she appeared to be coughing worse than I ever heard her. At 3 a.m., she was sitting by her food and water and looked glassy-eyed and her panting was almost out of control. The end was coming quicker than I was ready for and I felt I was letting her down.

I woke up Betty and we picked up Sydney and put her into bed with us and wrapped her in our arms to love on her. Sydney looked at Betty and seemed to smile as if everything was okay and then shortly after 4 a.m., Sydney Bristow Cohn (April 27, 2003 to Sept. 20, 2016) breathed her last breath and slipped the surly bonds of earth.

She had died in the place she was the happiest in the world – being in bed with her mama and daddy – surrounded by love after a day that was all about her. It was as if she knew the decision to put her down had weighed so heavy on my heart that she decided it was time for her to leave, to spare me some of the p

We lovingly wrapped her in a shroud made from one of our best sheets and hugged her, kissed her, told her we loved her. I went outside with my stepson Sean and some of our friends and dug a grave for Sydney in the back yard, near the back fence and under a tree in a spot she had enjoyed since we we moved into the house three months ago.

We held a funeral for Sydney at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20, giving her eulogies and then playing Billy Joel's “Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)” in her memory. We then buried her with her plastic bone we called her “baby.”

Sydney was more than just my pet; she was one of my children because I treated her with the love and respect and discipline that a father has for his child. She was a friend to anyone she met and loved to bear her teeth in a huge smile to people to show how much she liked them. Her favorite thing to do, besides go outside and roam the yard, was to lay down against me and sleep while I looked at my laptop or watched the Longhorns on TV.

She was one of a kind and I will miss her until the day I can be reunited with her by the Rainbow Bridge. Thank you for loving me, Sydney, and please know that you were loved wholeheartedly by all of us. Rest in peace, my little one.

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