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A face only a mother could love

Photo of Cosmo looking at the camera with everything but her face unfocused and darkened. Text reads Cosmo 2006-2022.

Years ago, we took Cosmo on a float trip. As another canoe passed ours, a woman called out “That dog has a face only a mother could love!” They weren’t completely wrong: she did look rather bedraggled at the time. She wasn’t a huge fan of the trip in general, to be honest. It wasn’t the most relaxing time, for sure. At one point, our boat flipped and I ended up standing thigh-deep in the river with Cosmo’s harness in one hand and the strap of the kid’s lifejacket in the other. To this day, I have no memory of the moments between sitting in the canoe and finding myself planted on the riverbed with a death grip on them. 

We adopted Cozzie when the kid was around 2 1/2 and she was about a year and a half old herself. Having recently bought a house with a good-sized yard, we had begun talking about getting a second dog. Goofy was getting up there in years and he never really took to the kid. I grew up with dogs myself and wanted my kid to have the same opportunity. As we were planning on a short trip in the spring, the thought was that we would start looking for a pup after we got back.

Life never goes the way you plan.

At the time, I was a member of our local Freecycle group. Other folks sometimes listed pets on there, but they usually got snapped up almost immediately, so I didn’t pay a lot of attention to those posts. Until I saw the same dog listed twice. And then a third time. We weren’t at the point of looking yet, but I began to worry about this dog. The family was moving and couldn’t take her. So we agreed to take a look.

She was full of energy, though, and immediately got along with the Goof as well as the kiddo. So she stayed. And I’ll be damned if she wasn’t the sweetest fucking dog.

The kid at age 4 with Cosmo on the back deck.

When the family first brought her over, they were like “Wait. This place is familiar.” Turned out they had been to our house before to take some soil off our hands. They needed said dirt to fill the holes in their backyard. Because they were moving. And their dog had dug the shit out of their yard. The same dog that was now going to have access to my yard. Yeah – I should have kept the dirt. But if I had to pick one or the other, I’d take Cosmo in a heartbeat. It was almost like she was supposed to be our pup.

Groomed Cosmo looking to the side, showing off her mohawk.

Like many people, we tend to develop entire lists of nicknames for our critters. Cosmo was Trogdor, The Trog, Trogador Spartacus, Cozziemoto, and Land Sausage, among others. In recent years, we had also begun calling her Old Lady Pants and Lumpy Space Princess – the latter due to the cluster of lipomas she developed on her belly. When we took her in to have her groomed, we’d tell them to leave a strip of hair along her skull. This was, naturally, her Cosmohawk.

Cozzie was the best kiddo companion we could have asked for. She was never too rough with him and not once did she snap at him or threaten him in any way. And she loved to play; couldn’t get enough of it. We had this king-sized sheet that we called the “green blanket” and we would cover ourselves up in it and call the dog. Cosmo would root around until she found her way in and the kid would laugh and laugh and laugh. She would play tug and fetch with her toys, but she also loved to play ball. When we would toss a ball up or bounce it off a wall, Cosmo would try to get to it first and bounce it off her nose. And the bubbles – she and our kiddo both adored chasing bubbles. Thankfully, though, he was not as inclined to catch them in his mouth as the dog.

Cosmo lying on the floor with a squirrel plush toy between her front legs.

Until her vision started to go, Cozz loved chasing the light from a flashlight. We’d turn off the lights and shine it around and she’d go after it over and over. None of our cats have ever been much for lasers, but Cosmo filled in quite well. 

Young Cosmo in the backyard, her fur shaggy and wild.

Before we started getting her professionally groomed, Cosmo resembled nothing more than a muppet. One of my friends saw a picture of her and said he couldn’t tell which end was which. People would often ask us what kind of a dog she was and we’d either shrug or call her our “Irish Wolf Mutt.” Eventually we decided to have one of those doggy DNA tests done. It came back with an almost even split between German Shorthaired Pointer and Schnauzer, with a small percentage of Poodle thrown in. It made a lot of sense, once we knew what to look for. Her face was very Schnauzer while she had the spots from the Pointer on her chest. Her fur was wiry and wavy and she didn’t really shed at all. 

Closeup of the fur around Cosmo's eye.

To me, one of the coolest things about Cosmo’s coloring was the fur around her eyes. It was speckled brown and white and very much reminded me of the patterns in the feathers on some owls. As she got older, the white became more prevalent, of course. And she developed a decent amount of gray around her muzzle.

But she never lost her weasel face. Which is something that was amazing to see, but difficult to describe. Basically, when she was playing, Coz would often look at us with this expression that cracked us up: mouth open, eyes wide, lips curled just so – we started calling it her “weasel face” for whatever reason and that stuck. And when Cosmo was weaseling, we’d do it right back to her, which only doubled her excitement.

Even at 16, Cosmo often didn’t act her age. I imagine some of that can be attributed to her “bionic” knees. She’d had a tightrope surgery done back in 2016 and, as we’d been warned, a year later the other knee went, necessitating surgery on that leg as well. Her recovery from both surgeries was remarkable, and those knees served her well even in her final months as she jumped around and played with Starbuck. 

Speaking of Starbuck, Cosmo adjusted incredibly well to her new sibling. After we lost the Goof back in 2011, she was an only dog surrounded by cats for years. Then we brought Starbuck home. She is easily the most challenging dog I’ve ever dealt with. Thankfully, she loves other animals, though her food insecurity created issues. Cosmo was a casual eater: we’d dump food in her bowl in the morning and she crunch on it throughout the day whenever she felt the urge. It was immediately apparent that this practice would not work with Starbuck in the house.

Cosmo wearing an e-collar and holding a chew bone in her mouth.

Rather than eating throughout the day, Cosmo had to get used to two distinct feeding times. And she quickly learned to eat all of her food, because Starbuck would inhale anything left in the bowl. She would also vacuum up anything that hit the floor. Treats and snacks were handed out in turns, first Cosmo, then Buckles. Never the other way around, lest Buck think her sister got something she did not. And that was completely unacceptable. 

Starbuck and Cosmo lying side-by-side on the bed. Cali is perched behind Cosmo.

Attention worked the same way for a long time, except the order was reversed. Starbuck would get her pets, then we’d tell her it was “Cosmo’s turn.” Having only the most passing acquaintance with patience, Starbuck would step back for a few seconds before shoving in again, trying to push her sister out of the way. Even with all that, Cozzie adored Starbuck, and the feeling was obviously mutual. 

Two things always belonged to Cosmo: cuddling and ice. As much as Starbuck loves attention, she does not like to be cuddled. At the first hint of snuggling up to her, she gets up and leaves. Cosmo, however, was a huge fan. When my brother lived with us–and later when he’d babysit the kiddo–we would often come home to find him napping with Cosmo as the little spoon. Whenever I would do yoga or stretch after exercising, she would be right there to “help,” putting her face in mine and settling down against me. 

The other Cosmo-only activity was the ice tax. This was a more recent addition to our habits. The ice maker on our fridge went out and our freezer is the drawer type, which isn’t ideal for ice cube trays. At least not with my family in and out of it all day. So we decided to grab a countertop ice machine. Unlike our late ice maker, this one creates bullet-shaped cubes. And it turned out Cosmo loved them. So much so that she would follow us out to the kitchen when we went to fill up our drinks and wait for us to give her a piece of ice. Thus, the practice of paying the “ice tax” was born.

I could go on forever. Cosmo was with us for nearly 15 years–almost my kid’s entire life. The longer I write about her, the more I think of to say. So I’ll wrap this up. I hope I’ve given you a sense of our girl and what she meant to us. What she means to us. We will love her always and she will be deeply, deeply missed.

Cosmo lying on the carpet with her head against the bottom of an office chair.


Categories: general musing

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Stormy Lane McKnight

Writer of trashy queer superhero romance, smutty sci-fi, and other things that are gay af. Disaster enby and all around bisexual wrecking ball.