A Hambidge Love Story

I wrote a lot at Hambidge, an artist’s residency in Georgia. I made friends. I reflected on where to go from here. But something else happened that I haven’t yet told you about: I fell in love.

With a dog.

Hambidge puppy.

Hambidge puppy.

I first noticed him, raggedy, soaked and trotting by my studio, during the rains that hit Georgia starting my third week there. The Hambidge Center gets a lot of strays, Debbie, the office manager, told me. Every few days, I’d see the big red dog go by. Sometimes he’d stop near the trees in front of my studio and take a nap. One morning, I saw Ron, the maintenance guy, checking him for a collar. He didn’t have one.

“He’s been wandering around here for days,” I said. “Mind if I feed him? That means he might stick around.”

“Yeah, feed the poor guy,” Ron said. “His ribs are sticking out.”

Let me interject here with my pet history. My family always had a big dog when I was growing up — first a mutt, then a golden retriever. But I’ve been adamantly opposed to having a dog as an adult, at least until I have a family. I don’t want the responsibility. I want to go to happy hour after work, not home to feed the dog.

Back to the stray. He looked like a golden. He was friendly, like he’d been a pet. He inhaled the dog food I bought for him at Piggly Wiggly’s (behind a guy in fatigues who purchased smoked foul). And after he ate, probably the first time he’d had a real meal in at least a week, he lay there for the rest of the afternoon with his paws around his bowl.

Chillin' under a Hambidge studio.

Chillin' under a Hambidge studio.

Then the dog starts following me around. To dinner, waiting outside the Rock House while we ate, then following me home. Sleeping outside my studio. One morning, I ran to the gristmill, a mile and a half down the road, and when I turned around to jog back, I found him a few yards behind me, breathing hard, his tongue hanging halfway to the ground.

That was when I started thinking about taking him home.

I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to commit to a dog. But my parents lost their golden two years ago, and they’ve been thinking about getting another. Since I’m living with them, we could share the responsibility of taking care of this guy.

“What if he’s a lost pet?” I asked Debbie. “What if someone’s missing him?”

“He was dumped here,” she reassured me. “He’s an old dog. If you wanted to keep track of your dog, wouldn’t you put a collar on him?”

Cooper, the Hambidge dog.

Cooper, the Hambidge dog.

Over the next week, we picked all the burrs out of his fur and cut the matted mud from his hind legs. One of the other artists helped me give him a bath. (Boy, did he smell.) I bought him a collar, so he looked loved. Debbie and I took him to the vet. I fed him twice a day, and he started playing more, picking up sticks outside my studio, rolling on his back so I could rub his belly.

When I left Hambidge, I took him with me.

We’re calling him Cooper.

Lexi & Cooper, during a hike on Hambidge trails.

Lexi & Cooper, during a hike on Hambidge trails.

More: Here’s an UPDATE on Cooper.

And my dilemma, whether to bring Cooper with me to DC.

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31 Responses

  1. What a great story with a happy ending!

    I LOVE dogs – as evidenced by the 3 yellow labs we have at our house. In my opinion dogs are the embodiment of what “unconditional love” is all about.

    I hope you and your family have many wonderful, happy years with Cooper.

  2. How could you not fall in love with that dog? He looks absolutely adorable, even if he was smelly and dirty. I can’t wait to get a dog, but I have a cat right now and a really small house so I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon. Enjoy Cooper!

  3. Bless you, Alexis. There’s a special place in heaven for anyone who cares for lost animals. And may there be the opposite for those who hurt or abandom them.

    Galen

    By the way, in that last photo, you BOTH look pretty happy.

  4. What a handsome boy! Every girl needs a dog. I am so glad you kept him!

  5. Congrats on your new pal, Lexi. Dogs are the best. I don’t know what I’d do without our two. And Cooper looks like an absolute sweetheart.

  6. Cooper looks like such a happy dog! Congrats on your new best friend πŸ™‚

  7. Lex!!! You are an amazing person. I agree, how could anyone leave a friendly dog like that behind? He is so lucky to have found you! Loved the article πŸ™‚

  8. what a beautiful love story. talk about making an already unforgettable experience stay with you forever! Cooper is a lucky dog. and did you know that this is National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month?

  9. Awwwww… Congrats on your new pal, Lexi – he’s adorable!

  10. I am so happy for you!

  11. What a beautiful dog, Alexis! He reminds me of Lucky, the Golden who appeared in my author photo for Mood Swing. We also had a female Golden, Shawna, while my daughter was growing up. They’re marvellous dogs – best of luck with him.

    On Facebook earlier, after reading all the comments about “how beautiful he is,” I assumed he was a guy. But then of course he is!
    Julie Lomoe’s Musings Mysterioso
    http://julielomoe.wordpress.com

  12. I love to read love stories with happy endings! He’s a cutie.

  13. Yay! Cooper has a new home πŸ™‚

  14. This almost made me cry. I’m such a sap. But so happy for you guys!

  15. You both look happy in that last pic. Looks like you both found a good friend. Thanks for sharing such a sweet story.

  16. Awesome. Love your heart and the telling. Kornflake sends a happy woof. He was all stinky when found out in country too.

  17. What a nice story with a great ending.

  18. Oh I am so happy for you and especially for Cooper…he hit the jack pot and hoped your love and kindess were meant just for him! I can’t wait to meet him, Lex! What a special trip for you in more ways than one. ❀

  19. Most older dogs are not adopted, so it’s wonderful that you found room in your heart and home for Cooper. I’m sure the time you have together will be wonderful. He looks so sweet, I can’t imagine anyone abandoning him, that’s heartbreaking. I can’t wait to meet him!

  20. I am crying! What a great story, Lex! You are such a good person for taking him and giving him the love he needs! What a lucky dog to have such an amazing new owner πŸ™‚ Have fun with your new best friend!

  21. Lexi,
    great story! Sincerely heart-warming. Helps me remember why I believe in Dog. Thanks.

  22. This is like the happiest thing ever Lexi!! …That last picture of you two together made me tear up!

  23. I am so happy for you. It was so good talking to you tonight, your dog looks great and Im sure he is happy to have a home! We have to find a way to spend some time together, if nothing else at least to exchange pictures…not all of us are cool enough to have our own websites. not all who wander are lost and Id rather be happy than rich any day. Good luck with the book

  24. dogs are the BEST BEST BEST BEST. welcome home, cooper!

  25. My husband and I had a beautiful golden girl, Shannon, back when my now- 17 year old daughter, Sarah, was just 3 or so. We hope to get another dog eventually , which would make life interesting for my cat Sophie. πŸ˜‰

    Congrats on adopting such a beautiful canine! Welcome, Cooper! πŸ™‚

  26. Loved your courting Cooper blog. My canine colleagues are Kash and Abbey. They’re giant Turkish Akbash, and they’re an important part of my writing routine. They know when I need a break even before I do! I hope Cooper will make more guest appearances on your site.

  27. […] all offered so much positive feedback when I wrote about how I had adopted Cooper, a stray dog, during my writer’s residency in Georgia, that I figured I should give you an […]

  28. Cooper is adorable and I really enjoyed this ‘love’ story!

    Thanks for posting it at the carnival!

  29. Nothing like a dog to return affection, loyalty and love. Great story (and post).

  30. he is very cute

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