LEILA FADEL, HOST:
This weekend, we're remembering loved ones who passed away in 2019 who lived exceptional lives out of the spotlight.
JODI FREEDMAN: He was kind of unbridled. He just wanted to go and run and play. And I was so happy to do that. I'm kind of a big, sloppy dog myself.
FADEL: Yes, Jodi Freedman of Oakland, Calif. wrote us about a dog - a muscular black Lab named Cody.
FREEDMAN: He could sit next to you, and he could jump without a run and clear almost your head. I often wonder if he would have been a happier dog protecting from the wolves or whatever you do as a farm, kind of, guard dog. But that's not the life he was given, right? He was a rescue from a shelter at about six months, and so he was given suburbia life.
FADEL: Cody was her partner Renee's dog. For Freedman, who was raised by a single mom, he became something she'd never really had before, a male guardian.
FREEDMAN: Maybe there was like a PE teacher at school or a coach or something like that. But there was always an element of fear, you know, kind of authoritarian, almost tyrannical feeling to it. You better do it my way or the highway. And Cody wasn't like that. He was our sentry. He protected us, but he did it in such a loving way that it was a great role model for me.
FADEL: Freedman says she challenged herself to be more like Cody - his strength and humility, his kindness and patience. The years added up, and Cody spent his final months lying quietly by the front door of their home. Then one day...
FREEDMAN: He indicated with his head he wanted to go on a walk. So I put him on the leash, and he, like, trotted to the front gate. And I thought, wow, OK, let's do it. And he, like, bound out of the front gate, like the young Cody - like, ah, there's a squirrel out there. He's mine. Life is good, I'm going to get him. Let's go. Let's enjoy this, you know?
And so out we went and, you know, bursting up the hill. And there was this moment where he just looked at me and he's like, I could bolt. I could fly. And then we came in the gate, and that was the last time he stood up. You know, but it's very, very clear that he was showing me like, this is how I want to be remembered, and it's OK.
FADEL: Cody was 18 years old when he died - a good boy all the way to the end.
FREEDMAN: I don't think a dog has ever taught me how to mature and how to be a better person, not just in life, but really how you want to be remembered and if we have any say or control over that, how you want to leave this life. And I want to do right by him, and I hope that I do.
(SOUNDBITE OF BRUCE COCKBURN'S "EASTER")
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