Monday, September 27, 2010

"My little dog, a heartbeat at my feet." - Edith Wharton

Last December, Jason and I adopted Cooper from Craigslist. He is a beautiful 3 year old English Springer Spaniel, but when we met him, he would not stop barking at us! He was abused by his former owners, and he hated men. It took him a half an hour to stop growling at us long enough to take a milk bone! His original owners had gotten divorced, and the wife couldn't afford to keep Cooper. So she gave them to a nice couple that thought they could keep him, until their landlord added a no-pets policy to their new lease! So they posted an ad for him on Craigslist. When we went to look at Cooper, this family really didn't want to give him up, but they wanted Cooper to have a forever home. I knew as soon as I saw Cooper's picture that Jason would love him. I had wanted a German Shepherd, but Jason wanted a Welsh Springer Spaniel. (It turns out, there are only something like 500 Welsh Springer Spaniels in the United States!) And I never thought a grown-up dog could look so much like a puppy, but Cooper definitely has that baby face. And it was his baby face that won us over. After about an hour, he was rolling over for a belly rub. We took him home that night.

I have no idea how we got so lucky with Cooper. Normally, when rescuing a pet from a shelter, there is a standard interview process and plenty of time to get to know the dog you're adopting. Not so with Cooper. We sat with him for about an hour before we took him home, and most of that time was spent trying to convince him we weren't going to beat him up! But that was almost a year ago. Now, Cooper only very occasionally gives a little grumble when approached by a man. Other than that, he's all smiles. And he was a little overweight when we got him, but feeding him less was a good thing- it cost us less in dog food! And we love taking trips to the Bark Park and running the agility course, which keeps Coop in tip-top shape. He's a permanent part of our family.

I think every old house needs an old dog to keep it safe and homey. Anytime someone comes onto our yard, Cooper is at the window, ready to let us know! More than once, Cooper has alerted the neighbors to someone prowling around their cars. We live in about a half a mile wide strip of suburb nestled quaintly between a very high income community and an old industrial town. It's good, because we have low taxes, great neighbors, and unique, beautiful homes, but it's bad because we tend to get bad people coming through the neighborhood at night looking for stuff to steal. It seems that all the best old houses are in not the best of neighborhoods- but all the more reason to adopt a dog and add the extra measure of security! Cooper is a great guard dog. My neighbors hear him barking at our door every time the mailman comes, and they always come out to check on our house if Cooper is barking and it isn't mail time. I have a friend house-sit when we are out of town, and I feel totally confident that she and Cooper can hold down the fort while we are away. I don't think I'll ever board him, because it is better for him and for our house if he's at home fulfilling his role as guard dog!

And of course, there is nothing more homey than sitting in your living room at night, watching a movie while your dog sleeps on the hearth, little legs kicking as he "chases rabbits". I love my dog. Our many walks throughout the day keep us in touch with the neighbors, the groundsmen at the local park, even the local police. Everyone knows Cooper, and his little cow spots. They stop to pet him as they get into their cars to go to work. They take a break from working on their own old houses just to get Cooper a milk bone. They take a break from pulling weeds in the garden at the park to scratch his ears. He is a good dog, and you might think he's lucky we found him, but we are the lucky ones. He is the best addition we ever made to our old new house. Older than the wood and the stone, the wavy glass in the windows, even older than the cobblestones we keep digging up in our flowerbed- is this ancient symbiotic relationship between dogs and men. This trust that we will keep each other safe and warm and fed. Every day when my husband comes home, Cooper bounces around joyfully as if he's coming home from the war. I'll never know how we got so lucky, but we did, and we are both so eternally grateful to be able to give such an awesome animal a home!

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