Do you ever look at your pet and think with a swelling and tight heart that you’re so grateful you have them? That you were meant to have THIS pet because it’s likely with someone else that pet wouldn’t have thrived or maybe even lived? That’s how I feel about Cooper. We did not rescue him from a shelter but wow did we face challenges in raising him. He was a shy guy at 12 weeks old and at our first vet visit he bit the doctor out of pure fear. The vet even suggested we take Cooper back to the breeder because there was something “not right” with him. The vet thought Cooper had aggression issues at 12 weeks old. Needless to say we ended up changing veterinarians.
Cooper is a great example of how we can do the most thorough research and plan accordingly for something and we still end up taking a different or even “wrong” path in the eyes of others; only to later know that you took the right path. As I mentioned, Cooper was a fearful little guy full of energy and love but the world was so scary that he had a hard time trusting it. We did get him from a Labrador breeder and at the time I thought I did thorough interviewing of her and really liked what she had to say though emails and phone call. My husband and I didn’t know anyone with Labradors from whom we could get a referral. When we arrived at the breeder’s place it was filthy (to be kind) and Cooper was sticky with the urine of his litter mates; he had to have a bath before we could even touch him. He acted the opposite of how anyone will tell you a “good” puppy should behave when meeting people. He hid behind the breeder’s legs and showed no curiosity of us, just fear. My heart hurt so badly and in my mind I was like “This is wrong, this isn’t what he should be doing when meeting people. Walk. Away. Now.” But my heart said, “you CANNOT leave him here”! So despite the sound advice from every dog training show on Animal Planet and numerous books and websites on “how to choose a puppy”, we helped bathe Cooper and took him home.
Cooper stole our hearts. Giving him back was NOT an option. Cooper was so energetic and loving that my husband and I knew we could help him. He was ours. I would pack a bag and head to the major home improvement stores armed with treats, paper towels and floor cleaner and ask anyone and everyone if they wanted to feed my dog. I explained he’s a little shy and would give willing participants a treat to coax Cooper to them for affection. Within a month of doing this 2-4 times a week Cooper made leaps and bounds (literally) with his social skills! My mother-in-law might say this worked a bit too well because Cooper is 5 1/2 years old now and he still greets her with jumping kisses and anyone who meets him has a difficult time believing he once was afraid of everyone.
We also quickly discovered Cooper is extremely intelligent, hence why this blog even exists because his antics are so hilarious they need sharing. I used to think Cooper was bull-headed and “tough” which was why he was the way he was. But our current veterinarian (WONDERFUL woman) said he’s actually extremely sensitive and is easily saddened or disappointed. It’s amazing how the right information can give you a whole new insight on someone/something.
Now, I won’t leave out that there were evenings in that first year with Cooper where my husband and I would exhaust ourselves before we could exhaust Cooper. And there were times I broke down and cried out of frustration in not knowing how to handle Cooper’s intelligence and energy and the naughty behaviors that bored dogs come up with. But through careful training, professional consultations and lots of patience and love he has turned out to be a stellar pet!
And even though we now have a human toddler, Cooper still holds the reputation of being the most challenging “kid” that lives in our house. But, he has also grown into the most loving critter, full of intelligence and personality and he is unbelievably great with our son. I cannot imagine what life could have been like for Cooper if someone else had him. In fact, someone else did have him in his first weeks away from the breeder but they returned him and that’s how we were aware of Cooper’s existence at 12 weeks old. Cooper could have easily become a shelter dog…homed and re-homed for “bad” behaviors that were truly just misunderstood until the shelter would have stopped re-homing him (shudder). But what I really can’t imagine is OUR LIFE without HIM. Cooper has brought so much joy to our lives and is the definition of unconditional love for our family. We love you Big Guy!