I’ve never been an animal person. I respect animals. I think many of them are beautiful and I know that several of them have very high levels of intelligence. I’ve just never felt the need to have one … and especially not in the house. I know people whose pets are like their children. And that’s great for them. It was just never my thing.
During the summer of 2017 I underwent major surgery that was followed by a six-to-eight-week period of convalescence. That same summer, Molly, the dog that belongs to one of our friends, had a litter of puppies. They were cute as can be – three-quarter beagle and one-quarter Jack Russell terrier. In fact, our friend was weaning the puppies from their mother and looking for good homes for them around the same time I came home from the hospital. I began receiving text messages with pictures and videos of these little puppies. And c’mon. We all know there’s nothing cuter than a litter of little furry puppies crawling all over each other, frolicking in a pile.
On some legally-prescribed high-powered narcotics at the time – the kind that are bound to affect one’s judgment – I caved and that is how we came to be the owners of a sweet little rambunctious bundle of energy. His original name was Fuzzy Frank but we wanted to select our own name for him. I suggested Hamilton, as in Alexander Hamilton who had recently experienced a huge surge in popularity thanks to the Broadway musical. However, our daughter wanted to name him Cooper after Sheldon Cooper, one of the beloved characters on The Big Bang Theory, one of our TV shows. She prevailed and that’s okay. He’s much more of a Cooper than a Hamilton anyway.
Cooper spent a little time indoors until he got old enough to put outside, which was the intent all along, that he would be an outdoor dog. And he was an outdoor dog for his first four years. But then Winter Storm Uri viciously arrived in February 2021 and we brought him inside. After having him inside for the better part of a week, we discovered how much we enjoyed his presence and how much he had become part of our family instead of something outside that was always hungry for attention.
It seemed as if everything changed overnight. He quickly learned the rules and respected them. He knows he is not allowed on the furniture or in the bedrooms. Once he truly integrated, he became less needy and we all fell into an easy rhythm, spending time together and enjoying each other’s company until time to put him in his kennel at night when we go to bed.
This past fall, he suddenly became very ill and wasn’t himself at all. We were worried that we would lose him and we went through a somber three to four-week period. A trip to the vet yielded test results that weren’t good, although we did come home with a plethora of meds for him. We really felt his days were numbered.
Around this same time, I read an article about Bobi, a purebred Rafeiro do Alentejo, a breed of Portuguese dog that has an average life expectancy of some 10-14 years, that died in October at the age of 31 years and 165 days old. Bobi lived on a farm in the village of Conqueiros in Portugal with his owner, Leonel Costa, and four cats. He was born on May 11, 1992, when his owner was just 8 years old. Bobi holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s oldest dog ever, having claimed the title from Bluey, an Australian cattle dog, who died in 1939 at the age of 29 and had held the record for almost a century. In an interview earlier this year, Costa told the Associated Press that Bobi’s secret to a long life was good food, fresh air and lots of love. I couldn’t imagine the anguish Costa must have felt after having loved Bobi for nearly 32 years.
Not long after that, to our great relief, Cooper mysteriously got well and became himself again. And while I’m not doubting the efficacy of his meds or the professional and loving care he received from Dr. Darden, our veterinarian, I know deep down that Cooper should not have survived, not based on the results of his blood work that we all saw with our own eyes.
Around the time we were commiserating about our poor dog’s future or lack thereof, a series of cute dog videos began showing up in the feed on my social media and very uncharacteristically, I began watching them and enjoying them. I am now one of 202,000 people who follow talesofdogsonline on Instagram. I highly recommend it. The videos make me happy and make me laugh, so much so that I don’t always realize how much I’m into it. Not long ago I overheard my husband inquiring about my laughter with our daughter and she responded, “I think she’s watching dog videos again.”
During this time of thanksgiving, of course I’m thankful for my family, our friends, our health, our home, our jobs and the comfortable lives we live. However, I’m especially thankful this year for Cooper, for his role in our family, his unconditional love and the things that he continues to teach us.