Codger column: Comments on a Cocker Sapien

CHARITY ROBEY PHOTO | Codger at home with Crone (a ka a Lois B. Morris) and Cur (Milo) at their West Neck Road home.
CHARITY ROBEY PHOTO | Codger at home with Crone (a ka a Lois B. Morris) and Cur (Milo) at their West Neck Road home.

Cur is ailing.

The canine cardiologist has confirmed the vet’s diagnoses of pulmonary hypertension and congestive heart failure, which may be slowed but can’t be reversed or cured. Cur may have a year.

Codger has not yet told Cur, although he probably suspects something wrong — all the recent doctor visits, the 12 pills a day (concealed in tasty food), the help he needs getting into the car. The extra hugs.

Cur has always been a promiscuous seeker of affection, even from strangers, but there seems to be an added poignancy to his neediness. Crone does not necessarily agree.

She thinks Codger has always projected human sensibilities onto Cur, especially his own. Codger does not dispute this. He has always considered Cur a Cocker Sapien.

Codger has dealt with the deaths of his father, mother, former wife, best friend and a newborn, yet somehow the impending end of his time with Cur seems more heartrending. What is it with people and their pets?

Of course, somebody did drop Cur off at a South Carolina kill shelter seven years ago. He was saved by Last Chance Animal Rescue, a Hamptons group that posted his photo on its website. Crone spotted the picture — that face! — and called. Incredibly, she found out that the dog was being fostered by Penny Moore, who lives around the corner.

Fate, you think?

Crone had been happily owned by several dogs and cats, but Codger, with far less experience, was reluctant until he actually met the black, white and brown “Snoopy” as he was then called (renamed Milo). He was thought to be between 4 and 7 years old.

On that first short walk from Penny’s hound haven to Crone’s empty kennel, Codger realized that Cur was brave, curious, upbeat, energetic, friendly, yet cool, all attributes that Codger has tried to instill in himself. He believed that Cur could inspire him to be a better human, the companion that such a dog deserved.

Cur was also the first creature of any species who listened to Codger without ever rolling his eyes and who sat beside Codger for hours, silently, while he wrote. Cur made no judgments.

So in this coming tribute year, if they have a year, what can Codger do for Cur?

They will talk, of course, cuddle, try to take more varied walks — Cur likes the occasional smell-a-thons in Greenport and Sag Harbor. There will be treats within the limits of health concerns (watch the salt) and visits with his godmothers, Phyllis Gates and Cathy Kenny, and probably futile attempts to persuade Jules Feiffer that dogs are superior to cats.

But ask what Cur can do for the Island that took him in. He’s not a service dog, not even one of those shady “support” dogs for people who become emotionally distressed by having to stand in line. But Codger can tell that Cur feels a sense of grateful obligation.

He would never, for example, try to use a restroom in The Dory without buying a drink, rent out one of his four beds in the house for less than three nights, walk on Wades Beach between Memorial Day and Labor Day, ask John Cronin if he quit as Town Engineer out of frustration, ask why the $440,000 available for water quality improvements hasn’t been allocated yet or wonder out loud why the town could not have found a way to buy St. Gabriel’s.

One of his favorite walks has been along Burns Avenue, from the kayak landing to North Cartwright and back, but since St. Gabriel’s became Pandion Landing he speeds up while passing the earth-moving equipment digging the heart out of that sweet green meadow. At least five grand new houses will be built, presumably swelling property tax revenues. Maybe that’s why the town didn’t buy the land.

But that’s not an interest of Cur’s. Even on walks in Hay Beach, Ram Island or Dering Harbor, he rarely stops to look at handsome homes unless there are people outside who might want to pet him. He no longer even pretends to chase deer, rabbits and chipmunks that cross his path, if indeed he sees them.

He spends a lot of time smelling the flowers.

Codger is trying to be more mellow, too. Now that he’s a director of the Senior Citizen’s Foundation, Codger has been thinking about old people and their animal companions and how important they are to each other. Maybe Cur could start a little group of volunteers that would take care of a pet on a short-term basis, until the human is well again, perhaps back from the hospital.

So the pet doesn’t have to be sent off to a shelter and hope, often in vain, that someone like Crone falls in love with a face.