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Remembering My Boy Cokie “Roberts”

Remembering My Boy Cokie “Roberts”

If you are a long time subscriber of the Changing Course newsletter than you will no doubt recall this early photo of Cokie and me that appeared in each issue.

We were both a lot younger then!

Cokie was a fixture at the “Work at What You Love” workshop/retreats that I used to hold in the living room of my former home in Montague Massachusetts.

Mostly he just hung out while the participants were busy making plans for how to make a living with a j-o-b.

Other times he preferred to share the teacher’s chair and actively participate in the discussion.

But I’ll let Cokie tell you in his own way, what he loved most about these gatherings…

He was just a year and half when I took him home from a no-kill shelter. The staff there had named him Pokie.

I suppose it was because whereas every other dog would run at the sight of food, Cokie would take his oh-so-sweet time making his way to his dish.

You’d have to really be a dog lover to watch this next video. With that warning, here’s Cokie NOT rushing to his dish.

In fact he was almost never in a rush. Unless that is, there was a squirrel involved. Then he was, I used to tell him, faster than a greyhound!

I wasn’t crazy about the name “Pokie.” At the same time I also didn’t want to confuse him with an entirely new one. So I settled on Cokie.

Despite being a boy, just for fun I added “Roberts” onto his name in honor of a longtime favorite NPR correspondent, Cokie Roberts.

I must admit I did take adolescent humor in the annual call from the vet’s office reminding me about using best vacuum cleaner for pet hair is the best way to please bring in a stool sample from Cokie Roberts. Although I’ve never shared this with Ms. Roberts, I like to think she’d be amused.

Cokie offered many life lessons – like during our morning “delicious selection of treats” ritual

When I first got Cokie there were no cameras in cell phones. In fact, there were no cell phones!

I have some earlier photos of him packed away somewhere.

But finding them and then figuring out how to use my new scanner? Well, that’s just more than my brain can handle today.

Instead here are a few favorites from the last 7 years…

Waiting for the vet… It was not his favorite place (understatement) yet I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Diamond and the team at Valley Veterinary.


He’d much rather be in his bed…


Preferably dreaming…

Or sledding with the dog sitter (who knew!)


Or snuggling on the couch…


I used to always tell Cokie he was “smarter and braver than Lassie.” You decide…

Good Boy! He got it right!

Like any self-bosser, Cokie worked really hard!


Yet Cokie still found time to hang out with his many friends.

This is him with his girlfriend Megan. (He always liked older women.)

In fact, the minute I said her name, Cokie would immediately cock his head trying to understand… Is she here? Are we going there? Where’s Megan?!


And waiting at the door with his hiking pal Mercie.

Cokie even loved cats.

In fact a neighbor’s cat used to rub up against him purring and licking his ears.

Apparently mistaking the cat’s “advances” Cokie tried to have “relations” with her.

When I asked my vet if this was normal behavior in dogs he answered with an emphatic “No.”


Cokie’s first toy was a monkey.

So after that all toys were known as monkeys. He had a cow monkey, a giraffe monkey, a bear monkey…


Some years before she passed away my mother admired this porcelain dog she saw in a store in Vermont. So my sister Susan surprised her with it.

Though my mother never got to meet Cokie, the resemblance to my future dog is remarkable – even the same red collar!

My dad recently gave me the statue. At first I couldn’t bear to see it. It was too soon. Today his look-alike sits in my office. In the spring I may put it on his grave.


Finally, two of my favorite photos: Basking in the sun on the porch at the old house in Montague.


I guess like his “Mom,” Cokie understood that life is all about taking the long view.


Thanks for letting me share these thoughts and images of Cokie.

Mostly, thank you for letting me share him with all of you for the past 14 years. You rock.

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There are 29 comments. Add yours.

  1. Farhana

    Valerie: Thank you for sharing what you went through. I am so sorry for the loss of Cokie. However, it is encouraging to read your grandmother lived 94 good years. Hope the good memories will help push the pain away and bring back the smiles.

  2. I am so sorry to learn about Cokie. I do remember him well as I have been following you since 1998. My thoughts are with you now.

  3. Brenda

    So very sorry for your loss. Losing a friend is always tough, but when they have four legs & fur….it cuts even deeper. I have a 13 year old “Best Friend” & I am grateful for every day I still have him with me. Healing thoughts being sent to you. So glad you shared in your e-mail.

  4. Stephanie

    Thank you, Valerie, for sharing the story of Cokie. I am very sorry for your loss. In my experience the loss of a beloved pet leaves a hole in life quite unlike any other. Take care of yourself.

  5. Barry Stevens

    Well now I’ve teared up. Reading about your feelings of having Cokie put to sleep too early brought back memories of one of my dogs…Gracie. Blind, couldn’t hear very well, incontinence at times, having issues getting around but always came and slept by me when I would say (loudly) “lets go to bed”. I have regrets too of having Gracie put to sleep, too soon. Just a few more days or weeks…if only. But I know Cokie loved you just as Gracie loved me. And neither are suffering (in ways that we humans can understand). I do hope that all dogs go to heaven…

  6. Barb van Wickland

    Awww, Val, it made me so sad to read this. I can relate as I’ve lost 3 dogs and countless cats over the years. And I was saddened to read the part about your grandmother as well. In August of 2014, I lost my dad (aged 96). I’m glad you decided to share this news because it helps us all to connect with one another and to share our connection with loving thoughts. How fortunate Cokie was to have had a long, wonderful life in your loving care!

  7. Steven Krzak

    Valerie, losing a pet is undeniably heartbreaking. Thank you for taking the time and having the courage to openly express your heartache to us. It’s abundantly clear that you loved and cared about Cokie very much. Some decisions are difficult but necessary to make. It may not seem like it…it may never seem like it…but you did the right thing. My heartfelt condolences to you and may happy memories of dear Cokie replace the sadness in your heart.

  8. Terri

    Valerie, Thanks for sharing about Cokie. We had our kitty get ill before Christmas and called a vet to come to the house to assist her in her journey. Interestingly, about 3 am the morning of the arrival, she wanted treats, food, attention. More energy than she’d had the previous week. I questioned our decision, but really thought about it and that little she had wouldn’t sustain her body and previous weeks problems. I have a friend who is an animal communicator. She was aware of our decision and communicated with kitty that evening. She, the kitty, wanted her to let us know how thankful she was that we were having a vet assist with her crossing the Rainbow Bridge. She was ready to move on.

    We had another kitty not very old have emergency issue, cancer we didn’t know about and had to let him also go across the Rainbow Bridge. This time my friend had a message for me from him, “hey mom, don’t worry about me, it’s sunny here and there’s a lot of friends to play with!”.

    My friend said our pets know when it’s their time to go. They hold no grudges, they don’t think like humans. It’s usually us that doesn’t want to let go. Wow, brought up tears to write this. I know all my babies/pets will be waiting for me on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge when my time comes. What a gloriously wonderful thought! All those missed hugs and kisses. Blessings and prayers with you.

  9. Dear Valerie –
    Watching your videos with Cokie and reading what you say about this stellar little furry person reminds me that it is a huge risk to take an animal to your heart and to your life, but one that you wouldn’t miss for the world. There’s just no replacement for the love and companionship they provide. I hope that in time your heart will heal enough to share your love and affection with another of Cokie’s brethren, and how lucky you both will be. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, it was very brave and what a wonderful way to honor Cokie.

  10. William Shaw

    My condolences on the loss of your beloved Cokie. I have been where you are with the loss of my own animal companion, Parker, several years ago. Thank you for sharing this with your followers. Only time will heal the pain you currently feel but the love and the memories will live forever. As sure as I am that there is a God in Heaven, you will be reunited with your loved one someday.

  11. Hannah Rose

    They ask nothing more than to be fed and loved, are uncomplicated, and original, to boot. Their innocence and playfulness strikes a chord with us that no human relationship ever could. We’ can be grateful, as I know you are, that our Maker put us in a special relationship with our four-legged companions.

    Once in awhile it happens you don’t know what happened to your pet. No evidence anywhere of mishap.

    Two years ago I decided that I had a choice about the unexplained loss of a wonderful pet, who was a nine-year habit with me, an extension of myself. I could either wallow in grief, or I could draw on the Faith that God, who made our animal friends, and who made us, then put us together, can do the same again. I didn’t make that up to make myself feel better about separation. I based it on Scripture. It is no different than human separation in that regard.

    I had watched my mother, in the late 60s, refuse to wallow in self-pity when my brother was killed in Vietnam. She rested on her faith that she would see him again in Eternity. And surely that has happened, in the intervening years.

    We had many family pets who were just the most wonderful, loving friends you could ever hope to meet, and their lives had all ended. Love cannot stop the loss.

    But here’s something else I learned about that time, back in the 60s–that love is stronger than death. I can’t explain how that is, and I’m not suggesting anyone can call up their deceased animal or loved one.

    But it comes back to faith in God. He is Love, He created love, and He can be trusted to re-create in Love.

    It took a couple more decades for me to attach a particular Scripture to the part of creation that is apart from humans. When I got hold of that, I started telling my wonderful pets that this life is temporary, but the next is permanent, and we will walk through tall grass together, again.

    Here is what it boils down to: this life is a preparation for the next.

    I am now hearing from a friend with a ten-year-old pet daily. She loves him, and values every little thing about their time together. But she is already sick with worry about the day that will surely come. I have told her that we have to practice giving our beloved pets back to their Maker while they are still with us–and mean it.

    It is one of the hardest things we will ever do, but it is part of learning to trust our Maker in every area of our lives, with every thing we love. What we have in this life is loaned to us, not our possession. When we grasp that, it puts daily life in a different perspective.

    The reality is we were built for permanence, but live in a finite world.

    That forces us to get sure of what we believe, and Who we put our trust in.

    The separation from a loved pet cans break is hard alright, and you can feel as if your insides are going to come right out of you, in the grieving process. However, when we know about God’s provision for the future, hope remains. There is a looking forward to reconnecting that is based on Scripture, not wishful thinking.

    I hope I have not discouraged anyone; seeking only to uplift! 🙂

  12. Catherine McAfee

    Sorry to hear about Cokie’s passing! Blessings to you for healing and peace!

  13. Jan

    Oh Valerie…I’m so sorry for your loss of Cokie. I always loved to see him in your newsletter. What a wonderful tribute you have honoured him with! I have my own little dog who has just turned 13. I can’t bear to think ahead to what you’ve already gone through. Also sorry to hear about all of the other losses you’ve had in your life. Life is not easy. It’s probably healthier to share our troubles with friends…makes us feel less alone on this journey. With gratitude to both you and little Cokie! You have both brought sunshine into other people’s lives.

  14. Susan Fraser

    Oh my gosh, Valerie. I have sooo much emotion and sooo much i could say. Right now, I just wanna cry with you. What wonderful, sweet tributes to both Cokie and to your beloved grandmother. Having lost a sweet dog just a few days ago… I can REALLY relate to your feelings and experiences. Can I offer you another view on making those horrific decisions? (We’ve made them multiple times over the years for our furry babies.) So far, we’ve made them later than would’ve been kindest for our companion animals. (And in this most recent case, not at all.) It’s so hard to do. And, I just read about an animal communicator who says that animals (like people) will hang on longer (and suffer more) because they know their humans can’t bear to part with them. I do believe that happened to the sweetie we just lost. He knew *I* wasn’t ready, so he hung on longer for me. And in retrospect, Tom and I both see that he had been suffering much more than we realized. Even in his last 15 or 20 minutes, we didn’t really get it. I can see now that he was trying to stay longer for me. His last act of love and loyalty to me. And, of course, we both feel like we failed him when we didn’t recognize what was actually happening till very late in the game… maybe his last 5 minutes. I can’t tell you how awful (and honored) I feel. And now, we have another older dog who’s health is slowly failing. This one we will have to make a decision on before too too long. His quality of life is good, not great. It used to be great. We don’t want to make the same mistakes of waiting too long. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Cokie was a pretty non-conformist dog! I love his big eyes watching the camera and not caring if dinner is served…!! 🙂 Much love to you. xoxo

  15. Chris

    I’m SO sorry for your loss! What a wonderful tribute! Over the years I’ve seen Cokie in e-mails, on your blog for years what a lucky little pup to have been rescued by YOU and vise versa! May you find peace in knowing you gave your furry friend the best life ever. Rest in Peace Cokie.
    Blessings to you Valerie.

  16. Marjori Ollson

    Valerie, I’m very sorry to hear of Cokie’s passing. We are so blessed when other creatures designate us as their chosen one. Rarely a day goes by without thinking of all the wonderful animals who allowed me to care for them, I miss them more as time rolls on. Thank you for sharing your sadness. MO

  17. Doc

    I feel your loss as well…I had two that went that way, and it’s never easy.

    A note about websites and their owners & visitors: Mots of the time–in fact, 99% of the time–none of us ever get to see and experience the personalities just beyond the webpage being viewed. That there IS a live human being acting and reacting someplace back there–and not some robot that puts up narrative and text. We all have our personal lives to attend to, and unless one is on FaceBook (which I abhor for that very reason), we lose connection with the personal touch.

    Far better to react immediately to a voice, or a set of eyes, or a passing touch.

    I think most of us readers would want to be there for consolation instead of the cold interface or front door of a computer monitor.

    In THAT respect, I thank you for reminding me that I am still human after all these technological changes in my life.

    Like I’ve said, I’ve been there–I lost my dog at the warm hands of a comforting vet, who had me walk to a back room–complete with low-level organ music and crosses on the wall–as he brought my dog in on a small bed for onelast goodbye. It’s hard to stifle that moment as I write this now, but know, of course, there are others out here in monitor-land that can empathize, and that you remain a part of our human family.

    Again, thank you for stepping away from the cold monitor, and becoming an integral part of our own lives.

    You are part of the “us” in our own little chorus of pet owners

  18. Steph

    He was a lovely dog and he was so lucky to have such a loving, happy home. Our pets are members of our family and so it does leave a huge hole in our lives when they leave us. It’s lovely that you have so many happy memories to treasure of you and Cokie’s time together xx

  19. Valerie– Thank you for sharing your deeply personal and painful moments with us. That’s hard to do, but healthy. We’re a community, after all, and we should support each other. Very best to you and yours, Diana

  20. Angie K

    Oh Valerie. I’m so sorry for your loss.
    The loss of a pet is like nothing else. Thanks for sharing with us.

  21. Barb Johnson

    What a beautiful post Valerie. You shared your heart with us. Thank you.

    Don’t even think you did it too soon. Our story is about our adorable little white poodle, Bunny. She was almost 18 when it appeared she had a stroke one Sunday afternoon. We held her and after a while, she seemed okay.

    But daily she began to go downhill. We let her go for four months because we couldn’t bear to part with her. But then there was a day when we knew we hat to do the right thing, no matter how hard it was .

    Best to you, Barb.

  22. What a beautiful tribute to Cokie. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

    There is nothing quite like the sweet, unconditional love our pets give us. Having furry friends join our families is truly a gift! As a life-long “pet person” I truly understand the sadness of saying goodbye to a beloved part of the family. It hurts, no doubt about it. Please know that having been through what you’ve recently experienced (sadly several times), the pain does eventually give way to smiles at the wonderful memories of our extraordinary companions.

    Treasure Cokie’s memory. He was a true blessing and gift on your life’s journey.

  23. Nancy Beckus

    Oh Valerie! I was so sad when I read your blog about Cokie “Roberts”! And I am doubly saddened as my dear, darling Lulu (15 years old this December) was put to sleep on December 27. I can so appreciate your sadness. I felt so numb. I talked to her all day as I worked from home. You won’t remember, but I wrote you about a year and a half ago. I was miserable at my job and wanted to move toward being a freelance editor and writer. You were so helpful and empathic. Everyone said don’t quit without something to go to! And I wasn’t going to, but… oh well. One day I just said I can’t do this anymore. Fortunately, my husband earns enough for me to build up my freelance work. I’m telling you this because this past year I have been working from home (love it!!) and Lulu has been my constant companion. I feel so lucky I could spend so much time with her. She was the best girl! Thank you for sharing this painful episode in your life! We’ll never forget our dear companions! The pain may be a little less, but it will always be there. Sending you peace and knowing that you have many, many wonderful memories of your sweet doggie!

    Very sincerely,
    Nancy Beckus

  24. I am sad to hear about Cokie. Losing him is like losung your best friend. Hold on to the good memories. Thank you for sharing.

  25. Gail

    Aww Valerie
    I am so sorry to hear this news and I know you miss him deeply. Even meeting Cokie in his later years, he had such a personality and was fun to have around, observing our group’s discussions.
    This is truly a lovely memorial in his honour and while I have no doubt it is difficult now, it is something to warm the heart and provide great memories into the future.
    Gail McH

  26. Hi Valerie— In March, it will be two years since we had to put our cat, Oreo, to sleep. The onset of his painful condition was sudden, and came in the middle of the night. Suddenly, at 4 am, bleary-eyed, we found ourselves without our beloved companion. I used to call him “my buddy,” and the last words I said to him were, “you’ll always be my buddy.” The next day, I spent $25 to get plates on my car that said, MY BUD-E. It was the only thing that brought a sile to my face that week. Somehow, it kept him with me at all times, and let the world know how much I loved him. He was only seven, and I’d counted on having him as a companion when my kids were off and grown (one’s in college and one going in September).
    One day last spring, I sniffed the air, smiled, and said, “I think it’s time for a cat.” It just happened. Now we have a brother and sister who we adore. Not quite like that first baby, but we cherish them.

  27. Dear Valerie,
    Thank you for sharing your deepest feelings about your life. I remember seeing you and Cokie at the dog park near the Northampton Gardens several years ago and what a love he was. Tom and I had our cat, Cleo, for 15 years as well and was such a part of our family. What’s amazing and wonderful is how our animals bring such love, joy, and kindness into our hearts and keep us in the moment of fun!

    THANK YOU for being there for me almost 20 years ago when you saw the potential in me that I was unable to see in myself…I am grateful for the opportunity you presented me and will cherish your kindness forever! Love, Bonnie

  28. Jack

    Hello Valerie

    I have been so blessed by your openness to share something so personal with all of us. Am equally amazed at the outpouring of empathy for you.

    I have experienced separation from one pet once because we couldn’t keep them anymore when we moved into a block of flats. and a few years ago again because she was over 14 years.

    Across the miles and different cultures we are the same . Thanks for sharing your heart . From Uganda

  29. Kimberly

    I’m sorry for your loss; grateful for you openness — but mostly grateful you had each other. I still miss my former pets, none of them has ever replaced (in my heart) the ones he or she preceded but each has added his or her own memories to the rich tapestry that is sharing one’s life with a beloved pet with his or her own temperament, loves, dislikes, and quirks. I wish you peace and joy.


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