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Meet Cone Dog: A Retrospective

We found the little treasure below while digging around in search of something else last week. Tom’s dad (the late, great Ivan) tucked it away for us. For a million and one reasons, it made me cry. Here is the tale of Spike (aka The Cone Dog), who was Tom’s best friend when we met all these years ago.

[I’m so sorry. The dime photo is missing as part of the 600 blog photos that vanished. It was a photo of a dime, along with a note from Tom’s dad saying it was found while digging Cone Dog’s grave.]

For this to make any sense at all, I’ll explain that Ivan collected coins, so a real silver dime would have been a treasure to him. He also was the kind of dad, who buried baby birds that died after falling from nests. I’m not sure Ivan would have understood all that is Lilly, but he certainly was ALWAYS very sweet to our past dogs, and they adored him. I credit his love of dogs, with Tom’s tolerance (… even participation) in my dog-obsessed world.

So, here without further ado is the tale of Spike (also known as The Cone Dog).

Tom responded to a newspaper ad for puppies. Cone Dog’s mom was a Doberman and his dad a Great Dane, who to this day Tom says was, “the biggest dog I’ve ever seen.” The baby Cone Dog was recovering from parvo, when Tom brought him home. The awful disease had swept through the litter, which was born on Super Bowl Sunday. Back in those days, treatment wasn’t much, and puppies either toughed it through or they didn’t. Clearly, Cone Dog did.

He grew into a handsome and friendly boy. So much so, that he was dognapped TWICE from his then, somewhat-rural home. Both times, Tom recovered him. The second time involved the police and everything.

Cone Dog grew up in a time without much fencing in the old neighborhood, so he became a fixture at nearby flag-football games, where little boys with hot dogs were an easy mark for a big, black goofy dog. That’s actually, where the nickname Cone Dog comes from. Spike had a penchant for hot dogs, which Tom called Coney Dogs, and it stuck.

A parent once told Tom that Cone Dog actually helped his son’s team win the game by assisting in a tackle. We don’t remember if he tackled the other team’s runner or if he took out a would-be tackler, but it cracks me up to think what parents today would make of a big dog racing onto the field and romping a boy to the ground. But, back then, it was just small town antics of a neighborhood dog … long before any of us heard of “Marley.”

By the time I came along in Tom’s life in 1987, Cone Dog was already a large boy. Tom’s mom always says that Ginko is as big as Spike was, but we just laugh. Ginko (at around 68 pounds) is a fair bit smaller than Cone Dog was. As I recall, Cone Dog outweighed me by about 10-15 pounds.

He was an amazing, mellow boy. He continued to live with Tom’s parents after he moved into my condo, and later into our own suburban house. He simply wasn’t cut out for in-town living, and he had a happy home with Tom’s parents. He would have loved it here at our current house, but he’s been gone for years.

In fact, that’s the part that shook me up the most when we found the dime and hand-written tribute from Ivan. Somewhere in the annals of my mental history, I had forgotten that Cone Dog died the year Tom and I married (1992).

I do, however, recall getting the phone call from Tom’s mom telling us that Cone Dog had passed in the night. He died of bone cancer, which is terribly painful. I learned a tough lesson from his illness. Now, I know that I’d never let a dog get that sick, suffer that much.

BUT, I remember sitting on the picnic table as Tom dug the large grave, next to all the others of the family’s past dogs. Tom’s mom had made cookies, and we sat there crying and eating to survive our sorrow. It would be a nice literary touch, if I could recall what kind of cookies they were, but I don’t.

So, all because we found this dime, I’m swamped in memories of a big black dog, who Tom loved long before he met me. (In fact, while looking for photos of Cone Dog to share, I looked though a bunch of photos of Tom’s prior girlfriends with Cone Dog. Forgive me for not scanning those.)

(We still have the yellow puppy food bowl below.)

cone dog and bowl

We took these photos below after a hike with Cone Dog in Red Rocks Park in Morrison, Colorado, in April 1989, about 3 years before we were married and about 3 1/2 years before he died. As I recall, we drove up in Tom’s Jeep with the top off. Cone Dog simply laid in the back (there was no back seat) on a pile of blankets. I wish you could see just how big he really was as an adult, but I found surprisingly few photos of his whole body.

cone dog and tom


cone dog and rox

One of my favorite memories of Cone Dog is a walk we took in a nearby park. He wanted to swim in the ponds, so I let him, and I can remember tiny fish, like guppies, flocking to him and swimming behind him like an a shimmering cape. I could swear they were nibbling at his feet, but he didn’t seem to care.

I don’t think we ever fully recover from the loss of our wonderful dogs. Even after all these years, I miss that moose.

cone dog bigger 2

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

MyKidsEatSquid - May 5, 2012

He looks like such a big, gentle dog. Love the picture with Tom. I have a similar pic of my bro and his dog–that same look in the eyes–what is it about a dog and his boy? Beautiful post.

Dog-geek - December 1, 2008

Awwww, what a beautiful, sweet tribute to Cone Dog. The enshrined dime and note from Tom’s dad are such a heartwarming (and heartbreaking, I’m sure) touch.

Sharon Liveten - December 1, 2008

Okay, this one made me cry. I love that he found the coin– and preserved it.

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