“Christmas Cookie” and her brothers and sisters, purebred registered English Cocker Spaniels, were born Dec. 19, 1996. Cookie’s beautiful long ears and long neck, were black and Bill Kellytan and her registration papers describe her coloring as a Blue Roan. Her coat was long and silky, the sign of a purebred. She was sometimes stubborn and always spirited and generally only had food and fun on her mind.

A very good friend and her husband, who breed, raise and sell champion English Cocker Spaniels, gave my wife the dog. As a 3-month-old pup, Cookie had a slight deformity of the larynx and they would not sell her for breeding purposes. Her brothers and sisters, as well as all her forbearers, were registered and pedigreed show dogs with the blue ribbons to prove it. As a puppy she was cute, and she became a more beautiful dog as time went by.

Cookie was meek and mild, always lovingly loyal and playful, especially to her mistress, my wife Ginny. Cookie’s name was officially Christmas Cookie as she was born near Christmas. Her name was shortened to Cookie and I applied my own nickname, the Cooker, because of her constant hunger for food. Interestingly, the so-called larynx deformity was never a problem to the dog after she reached her 1-year birthday. It disappeared completely.

As time went by, Cookie became one of the family and traveled everywhere with us. We had a summer cottage in northern Wisconsin and Cookie loved the north woods and the freedom and exploring it afforded her.

Cookie, the Kelly family's English Cocker Spanel who died in 2008, always had food or fun on her mind, according to Bill Kelly. (Submitted photo courtesy Bill Kelly)She got excited when she saw us packing to leave for the cottage and would wait by the door of our home and whine to go each weekend. When we sold the cottage in 2001 and moved to south Florida for retirement and warmer climes in the winter, Cookie was included in our plans. We left in the late fall and returned to Wisconsin in mid-April. We loved the warm Florida winters and didn’t miss the snow and ice of the north country, at all.

Cookie adapted rapidly. She had never experienced any real snowy or cold winters and, until 2006, she was as the native Floridians call us, just one more of the “snow birds.” We had many trips back and forth.  

Cookie got used to motels and car travel, was well behaved and loved traveling. We’d spend two nights in motels each way, and most will take small to medium sized pets that are well behaved, but once we found one that didn’t allow pets.

We put Cookie in the front seat of the truck with a scarf around her head and ears and when checking in, we told the desk clerk she was my maiden aunt. We asked for two double beds and my wife smuggled her in through the back entrance. We’ve got the pictures to prove it — head scarf and all.

We had a grand time in Florida and we entered Cookie in every amateur dog show, most of which she won. She behaved like a ham actor from Broadway, a real prima donna – after all, she was of champion blue ribbon stock.

By 2007, Cookie started to show her age, had put on weight due to many snacks and the start of cataracts in both her eyes. Still somewhat active however, the dog adapted to the winter of 2007-2008 in Wisconsin pretty well.

In the meantime my wife had contracted Alzheimer’s disease and was confined to a nursing home in October 2007; she still resides there. Cookie had suffered, greatly, also, with the loss of Ginny ­– her friend, mistress, and loved one.

Ginny was nowhere to be found in our home and Cookie looked all over for her. She stood guard at the windows, looking and waiting day after day.

From October 2007 to May 8, 2008, Cookie was not the same dog she was when Ginny was at home. The cataracts were almost total now and her general health was marginal. She had many ear, eye and nasal infections that plagued her in the severe Wisconsin, winters. Besides, she missed her Ginny, terribly.

She had one brief visit to see Ginny, but the dog did not remember her mistress and shied away. Her manners suffered badly, especially her toilet training. She wouldn’t mind. She begged constantly for food at all hours of the day and night. She became almost unmanageable by late April 2008.

Ginny’s doctor gave me permission for Ginny to try another visit with Cookie at the nursing home. At the beginning, the encounter was somewhat strained and Cookie didn’t know or remember Ginny. In just a short time, the dog seemed excited and recognized Ginny all at once. They became inseparable after that and it was difficult to leave. Cookie didn’t want to go home when our visiting time was over. We agreed Cookie would visit more often. The doctor and the nursing home staff had also thought it was good for my wife to visit with the dog. I don’t know if it helped the dog any, but it gave my wife much happiness.

By the first week of May 2008, Cookie was not acting like her self, drinking excessive amounts of water and fitfully sleeping most of the day and prowling all night.

On the night of May 6 and the morning of the 7th, she suffered a slight stroke in her sleep. Her breathing became labored and she had trouble standing and would not eat or drink. By the early morning of May 7, it was the beginning of the end. I rushed her to the vet and she was euthanized. She was suffering badly by then. A full-blown heart attack was in progress and she had trouble breathing and was gasping for air. There was nothing else we could do.  She went to sleep peacefully.

A good and loyal friend was gone. The family agreed she really died of a broken heart.

The end came quickly and painlessly. I stayed with her and held her head until she breathed her last.

(Kelly, a member of Mother of Good Counsel Church, Milwaukee, is a graduate of Saint Francis Minor Seminary, class of 1947.)