I had been in living in my newly built house in Pattaya for about a year when I decided I wanted a dog who could keep me company whenever the wife did one of her frequent disappearing tricks. I knew that I shouldn’t buy a puppy from the local market and after some research I tracked down a breeder in Chantaburi, who bred Golden retrievers and also showed them at dog shows. The kennel was advertised in the Thai Kennel club website and the owner was also a vet, so I thought I would get a well-bred, healthy animal.
And so it turned out to be.
In 2005, we made the long journey there one afternoon and the breeder had two goldens for sale, brother and sister, about 4 months old and already house trained.
We decided on the female, as she was more docile and the breeder told me she would be easier to train. She was a beautiful looking animal, and the breeder told me if we didn’t buy her he would ‘show’ her when she was a bit older.
She had a first class pedigree of show champions and her grandfather was a champion from the USA.
I still remember that journey home; she was so terrified that she sat in the rear of the car on the floor and didn’t move a muscle for the entire journey.
The breeder had named her ‘Annie’ but we decided to change her name to Cookie.
Cookie soon settled in and became used to us and before long she was running and jumping around like the baby she was. She slowly grew into a huge animal of 40+ kilos and had a magnificent, long shaggy coat, the like of which I had not seen before on other goldens.
She was so gentle – she wouldn’t hurt a fly and made friends with everyone – Thais and farangs alike – and she absolutely adored children and babies.
Like all goldens, she had boundless energy and would run around our large garden all day long, barking and chasing imagined interlopers, but I am quite sure she was the most useless guard dog ever; if burglars ever broke into our garden, she would simply make friends and lick them all over.
The breeder was right on one thing ; she was easy to train. Actually I’m inclined to believe she trained herself as I was the most useless, impatient trainer you could possibly imagine.
Anyway between us, she learnt how to ‘sit’, and ‘come’, understood, ‘No’ and would walk to heel on the lead. It wasn’t long before I could take her anywhere without a lead and she would always stay obediently by my side and never run away.
She loved everyone she met and she would like nothing better than to play with a ball. Her usual game would be to bring a ball to anyone who happened to be around and drop it in front of them, waiting for the selected person to throw it. She would then chase after it and bring it back to the thrower. If one person became bored of the game she would take the ball to someone else. Cookie could wear out a whole gang of visitors by doing this but she never seemed to tire.
From her earliest days, Cookie and I seemed to have a special bond. She would follow me everywhere and always sit next to me. When I went to work in my office she would sit in the foot well under my desk with me all day long.
In the evenings, if I didn’t go out, I would sit out on the terrace and watch TV and she would sit next to me, occasionally licking my feet or try to put a ball in my lap.
Whenever I went out, she would sit patiently on the drive-way, staring at the front gate, waiting for me to come home, and when I did finally arrive she would welcome me as though she hadn’t seen me in months.
When she was about a year old I decided to take her to Mabprachan Lake to see if she would like to have a swim. As you can imagine, being a retriever, swimming was in her genes and she took to it like a duck to water.
The game was to throw out a small piece of wood as far out into the lake as we could manage and Cookie would jump in after it and swim as fast as she could go out to the centre of the lake and return with the wood in her mouth. When she reached the lake banks, she would emerge and shower everyone within ten feet with one quick shake of her huge, sopping wet coat, and then drop the wood at my feet. She absolutely loved it.
Most afternoons I would take a dip in my pool, and every time I went in, Cookie would immediately come running to the steps of the pool, with a ball in her mouth and then sit on the top step, her feet dangling in the water and she would drop the ball into the pool.
I would swim over, pick up the ball and thrown it into the garden at the top end of the pool and Cookie would take off, retrieve the ball and wait waiting for me next to the deep end with the ball at her feet. I would throw it again, near to the shallow end and once more she would take off and wait for me sitting at the top of the pool steps.
It was a game we must have played hundreds – if not thousands of times through the years. We both got plenty of exercise.
In 2007, my then wife, Dang decided she wanted a ‘lap’ dog as Cookie seemed to devote most of her attention towards me, and somehow or other we ended up with two shih tzus: Somchai and Yoghurt.
Of course the new arrivals were no more devoted to Dang than Cookie was. All that Dang wanted was a plaything, whenever she happened to be in the mood; and when she wasn’t, she would just yell at them to go away.
I wondered how Cookie would react to the new arrivals, but I needn’t have worried. She really is a gentle giant and they soon made friends with each other and Cookie seemed to treat them as her adopted children.
They were such an odd threesome, and when the mood took them they would play their frantic games with each other. They would indulge in horseplay with each other and then suddenly, Cookie would take off, running around the garden at the rate of knots, with Somchai and Yoghurt on her tail. It was so funny to watch.
Whenever Dang and I fought, which was very often, Cookie would always get between us and try to protect me.
My marriage started to deteriorate badly, and we used to have frequent very loud shouting matches in the garden. It was usually very late at night and invariably, we were both quite drunk.
I used to try and get away from her hurtful abuse by running over to sit in the gazebo on the opposite side of the pool to the house, and whenever I did this, Cookie and the two little ones would follow me there.
They knew something was badly wrong. The two shih tzus would jump up onto my lap and Cookie would sit there, licking my feet and guarding me.
I left Dang several times, for varying periods of time, and when I finally returned home – to try again to repair my disastrous marriage – there was Cookie, waiting patiently for me. She would go berserk, jumping up and smothering me with kisses and refusing to leave me alone for a long time.
On one occasion, when I had been away for three months, the maid told me that every single night for those three months, Cookie had sat in the middle of the driveway, looking for me, and refused all entreaties to go and lie down and get some sleep.
Then there was a Christmas at home with my family from England, when my dearest wife decided to go AWOL. It wasn’t a very happy Christmas, but at least Cookie got into the spirit, well maybe not really….
In October 2009, I finally made the big move and left my house and my wife for good. I had no choice but to leave the dogs with Dang and hope that the maid would take care of them, as I knew that she loved them as much as I did
A year later, in 2010, I rented a house in Mabprachan and persuaded Dang to let me take the dogs. She didn’t need much persuading as the maid had long since gone and they were not in good condition and were covered in ticks.
Cookie, of course, went completely overboard when she saw me again, and even the two little ones seemed overjoyed to be back with me. I took them all to the vet and had them cleaned up and ‘de-ticked’. They soon settled in with me in my new home.
A month later, Noo moved in with me and fell hopelessly in love with the three mutts and we had a new happy family.
I would take Cookie and the two little ones for a walk around the lake every evening, and one day, I noticed that she was quite lame.
It seemed that Cookie had succumbed to the dreaded affliction affects so many older golden retrievers – hip dyspepsia. We changed her diet and the vet gave us some pills and we hoped that if not a cure, then at least we could arrest the condition.
Our long walks around the lake were a thing of the past, but we still took her out for a shorter, 10 minute walk around the village every evening and she seemed to be OK with this.
In late 2012, somebody in my neighbourhood was looking for a home for a young male Labrador, and bearing in mind that Cookie wasn’t going to last for too many more years, I decided to take Mickey in as part of our family.
I have already mentioned that Cookie, Somchai and Yogurt made an unlikely threesome, but when Mickey joined our little household they seemed to become a fully-fledged pack, although to this day I never knew who the leader was.
It took Mickey a few weeks to really settle in, and though he was much more boisterous than Cookie ever was, even in her prime, he is really gentle and loving with his fellow pack members. He always seemed to ‘respect Cookie’ as the ‘pack mother’ and would never get in her way or try to walk over her, and often we caught him licking her affectionately.
Incredible though it sound, I think Mickey is little scared of the two shih tzus and like Cookie, he always treats them with the greatest respect. Sometimes they ‘rough house’ together, but it is always the little ones who are the most aggressive.
Over the past year or so, Cookie became less and less active and for most of the time, she just went from one of her favourite sleeping spots to another during the day, and into the bedroom at night to sleep next to my side of the bed. But I always insisted on her taking her evening walk with us to give her some exercise. She wasn’t very mobile but she still loved those evening walks, where she could sniff and explore to heart’s content.
In the late afternoons she would sit outside on the porch and give a little growl whenever she heard someone passing the house. This would be the signal for Mickey to race down to the front gate and bark his head off at whoever was passing. It was so funny; old, infirm Cookie did the growling, and young, fit Mickey did the running and barking.
A couple of years earlier it would have been Cookie who did all the running and barking.
About two months ago Cookie developed a severe limp in one of her front paws, but it didn’t seem to come from the hip. We took her to a vet and he prescribed a load of meds and drew some fluid from the affected leg.
After several visits and loads of meds, Cookie still didn’t seem to be any better so I switched to another clinic that had been recommended to me. This doc took some blood tests and told me that Cookie had a parasite in her blood and wasn’t at all well. He kept her in overnight on a IV and the next day she seemed much better and we took her home.
A week later the vet said Cookie was improving but still far from well and he broke it to me that she had skin cancer. I asked him whether there was anything to be done with the cancer, and he said that we need to get her stronger before we thought about any cancer treatment.
The following week Cookie was much better, and her liver had returned to normal, although she was still limping badly. But cancer had spread all over her body, and there were some nasty suppurating wheals that needed dressing.
The vet told me that if the cancer spread to her organs, then she may have about three months to live, but if not, she could last for as long as three years.
We took her home and started to prepare ourselves mentally for what may be the end in a couple of months or so. I could see that she wasn’t at all well and she wasn’t eating much. She could just about hobble the garden to go to the toilet and then back into the bedroom at night to sleep.
Then, two days after we had seen the vet, she looked to be in a pretty bad state. She refused all her morning food and in the evening, we succeeded in getting her to eat a tiny bit of chicken, only to have her sick it up along with all the pills, both morning and evening doses, ten minutes later.
I managed to help her into the garden in the evening where she did a brief pee and then I half carried her into my bedroom where she flopped down at the end of my bed.
My other three dogs fussed around her and kept licking her. They must have known something was seriously wrong.
Her breathing was laboured and she vomited twice during the night, and my girlfriend stayed with her and cleaned her up each time.
At 6 a.m. she was in bad shape and started retching again. We could see she was dying. She was trying to retch, and after she uttered a last, terrible gasp, she became still. It was 6.15.
At first I didn’t believe she had gone, but Noo assured me it was so
It was one of the worst experiences of my life.
I don’t know how I would have managed without Noo, who remained strong, and cleaned Cookie up before covering her with a cloth. She then contacted a service attached to a local animal hospital that takes deceased dogs away and gives them a proper, Buddhist-style cremation. They came about 4 hours later and took Cookie away. I couldn’t bear to watch. They offered to bring me her bones, but I declined.
Our other three dogs seem to know what has happened and they are all very sad and stay close to us. They had lost their big, silly, loving mother.
Noo tells me that Cookie is now free of pain and is with Noo’s father who died last year – also of cancer.
I wish I could believe this.
Cookie was nine years old when she died. She had a happy life and she was much loved and well cared for. She was a placid, loving dog; I doubt I will find the likes of her again.
Every evening, Mickey goes into the garden and stays for hours, searching and searching for something. He walks round and round the house and puts his paws up on a low garden fence to peer carefully into the flower beds – the flower beds where naughty Cookie used to love to go and dig up plants and roll in the earth.
He is looking, but he can’t find her.
I call him into the house. He walks over to me and lays his head on my lap and I hug him. I look into his deep brown eyes and I know he is hurting – just like the rest of us.
Someone on the Thai Visa forum, kindly posted this little verse in memory of Cookie. I am an atheist, but there are times like these when I like to think that somewhere out there in the vast firmament there is some form of ‘Higher Power’. I hope so.
Don’t grieve too long, for now I’m free.
I’ve followed the path God has set for me.
I ran to Him when I heard His Call.
I swished my tail and left it all.
I could not stay another day,
To bark, to love, to romp or play.
Games left unplanned must stay that way.
I found such peace, it made my day.
My parting has left you with a void.
Please fill it with remembered joy,
A friendship shared, your laugh, a kiss.
Oh yes, these things I too shall miss.
Be not burdened with times of sorrow.
I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.
My life has been full, you’ve given so much,
Your time, your love and gentle touch.
Perhaps my time seemed all too brief.
Don’t lengthen it now with undue grief.
Lift up your head and share with me,
God wanted me, He set me free!
RIP Cookie, my lovely, gentle giant.