Had I waited a bit longer to name Cooper, I might have called him Shadow.
This dog has been glued to my hip since the first day I fed him outside my studio at The Hambidge Center. Now that he’s living with me in upstate New York, he’s on my heels whenever I get up from the chair in my home office. And I mean every time I get up. Literally.
You 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 update. My big red dog is adjusting fine. He responds now to his new name. And he gets cuter by the day.
He has his issues, of course, like most rescued dogs. His new vet says he won’t let me out of his sight because he’s coping with a lot of changes, and I’m the only thing he can count on. And who knows what he went through before I adopted him.
The vet in Georgia had estimated Cooper’s age at seven to nine years, but our Albany vet put him between ten and eleven. He has a couple of health problems related to age, including arthritis in his back legs and a tumor on his testicle. Cooper was never fixed as a young pup, so you can guess what fun lies in store for him during the next few months! The vet wants to wait until he’s adjusted to his new environment to go ahead with the procedure, but says it should take care of the tumor.
Here’s my guess on Cooper’s past: He was an outdoor dog, maybe a farm dog, not often on a leash. He certainly didn’t spend much time inside a house. His favorite toy is a stick — nothin’ fancy. He’s afraid of our stairs, and refuses to climb them, which means I’ve been sleeping downstairs with him in our guest bedroom. He rarely barks, but when he does, it’s usually at men, so I’m thinking he had a mean man in his life somewhere along the line. (His bark is so coarse he sounds like a seal.) He also barks at trucks, so maybe he was dumped out of one? He’s housebroken (thank goodness), has a fabulous personality, and — this is unusual for a golden — doesn’t shed.
As my dad said recently, isn’t it amazing that a dog who probably was treated poorly — he was dumped, after all — could still be so sweet?
While Cooper is always looking for attention and hates to leave my side, in many ways I think he and I are perfect examples of — what’s that saying — people are like their dogs? Or the other way around?
I like to think I’m pretty laid back, and Cooper is, too. He doesn’t need to be on a leash to pee in the backyard or accompany me to the mailbox. I know he’ll stay by my side. Loud noises like the lawn mower don’t freak him out like they did our last dog. And he’s chill around most other dogs.
So yes, Cooper is adjusting. But how am I adjusting to Cooper?
Little by little, I’m coming to grips with the fact that I’m now responsible for someone other than myself. This isn’t easy for me. As you know, I’m the kind of girl who leaves her job and her apartment to travel around the world. You can’t exactly bring a dog along for that ride.
But I’m slowly figuring out how Cooper fits into my life. Every morning, he sticks his wet nose up onto my mattress, checking to see if I’m awake. If I make the slightest movement, if I even sniffle, he starts wagging his tail and jumping around, as excited as a child on Christmas. “It’s a new day!” I imagine him saying. “Yay! Get up and enjoy this awesome day! So many fun things await you! What a great day!”
And you know what? It’s kinda nice to wake up to someone who’s super excited to see me, always looking forward to starting the day. Because of that wagging tail and those dog kisses, I get out of bed a little quicker. If Cooper thinks today is going to be fabulous, hey, maybe it will be.