AKA: Coop; The Almighty Cooper
As quietly as she can, Maureen uses the flashlight on her mobile phone to scan the floor near her side of the bed. One of the furry, wheat colored frog legs moves. The tail wags slowly. It is all she can see from above. Maureen is happy she remembered to navigate this terrain at 2:41 a.m. “I’ll be right back, Coop.” The tail’s pace quickens. She steps around the half body sticking out - the rest is tucked tightly underneath the bed. It’s where he loves to sleep at night – as close to Mom Maureen as possible.
Initially, they were to bring home a female to help off-set the number of males in the house. But it was Cooper who won their hearts. Maureen gathered the eight-week old fur ball in her arms. “Welcome to our family, Cooper.”
He sat quietly on her lap on the ride home. The four boys in the back of the car were overcome with joy. Except the twins, Brennen and Duncan, who were still nervous about living with a dog – even if it was a puppy. Thankfully, it didn’t take long before their worry melted into adoration. The older boys, Connor and Spencer, were fast to dabble in puppy training and play. But it was Mom who would always be the pack leader.
That first summer, was The Season of Cooper. The boys frolicked endlessly in their fenced backyard. They guardedly chased Cooper; they let Cooper chase them; and futilely tried to teach him to catch. It was then that Cooper fell in love with his neon green tennis ball, but only after it had safely landed on the ground. He would gleefully hunt the ball and sprint like a deer – airborne, as if in slow motion - until he – and it - succumbed to gravity. But the “catch” thing didn’t…well, catch on. Catch the ball in his mouth? Not so much. Catch a Frisbee in his mouth? Nope. He’ll gladly leave that to the Labs and Retrievers. But once he secures that green gob between his paws and gets it in his jaws, he’ll have his own way with it. Until it’s time to chase one of his brothers who has snatched it up, right from under him. Connor will run to the far end of the yard and toss the well-loved green ball to Duncan. Around and around they go, playing “keep away” until everyone cascades to the ground in delight. The boys catch their breath and Cooper lies next to them waiting patiently. Spencer scratches Cooper’s head while Brennen slyly grabs the tennis ball. Cooper is confused: do I want lovin’ or chasin’? With four boys, there’s always plenty of time - and desire - for both.
As soon as he was tall enough, Cooper claimed the stairs to the lower level of the house, his own. While any one – or all – of the boys in the household watch sports or action movies, Cooper parks on the third step. The family may call it the bleacher seats, but Cooper calls it inspired placement. From his perch, he has perfect proximity to all the bustle of his brothers and is close enough to leap to them should anyone want to play. During those highly competitive video game wars, Cooper rues the day he was born without opposable thumbs. But he knows he has a higher calling. His chosen position on the staircase means he is also half way to Maureen’s side should she need him. Or, if anyone might try to hug her. No can do. Maureen is Cooper’s Mom! PDA – public or private, is prohibited. Like a speeding bullet, Cooper is at her side, wedging his nose between the villain and his mom, barking until they stop. It is, after all, fierce competition for Mom’s attention – with five other males in the house.
When the family sits down for a meal, Cooper also adjourns to the dining room. He never begs for human food or even passively waits, should something drop to the floor. Instead, he calmly sits under the table. He adores the clanging of serving dishes, updates on everyone’s daily news, and the teasing and laughter that is sure to ensue. This is his family. And to each member, Cooper is just as important as everyone else.
Both part of his breed and part of his love for the six people in the house, Cooper grew into a mighty fine security dog. This home is his castle and this is his family; it is his job to protect. In the living room, his large beige bed rests between the windows facing the street and the fireplace. Should any passer-by wander near, he gives a full-throttle bellow – a warning bark. The bay window is low enough for him to secure its ledge in one fast step. There, he has a panoramic view. He’s mighty fond of the non-stop parade of bunnies that taunt him with every hop. But because of his gentle nature, Cooper would never actually hurt the rabbits; he thinks they’re simply playing their own version of “keep away.”
Bright and alert, Cooper is of course first to tell his family of a visitor who approaches the house. Inside the door, the guest receives the signal from Cooper that it is now time to give him pets on his head. Once his crown is fluffed visitors and family migrate to the living room with Cooper in the middle of the huddle. After he’s again made the rounds to secure more scratches from everyone, he lies on the floor, grabs his green rubber bone, and begins a symphony of squeaks and silly growls. Finally, Mom softly implores Cooper to “lie-down.” He drops his bone and dives head first into his large, beige bed. Overcome with “we have guests” delight, he digs faux-ferociously into his bed, barking wildly, with his butt and wagging tail high in the air. Suddenly he stops. His head drops on its left side, with his inquiring face to the crowd. “You see me?” his partly hidden eyes beckon. Laughter bursts from his adoring audience and his tail quivers, sending a ripple of energy back down to his front paws which again dig madly. Finally, he glances out the front window one more time. All clear. His forty pounds drop and he folds onto his left side. His green tennis ball is safely between his elbows and chest. He drifts haphazardly in and out of a light snooze; eyes closed but ears on high alert.
At the end of their visit, as guests begin to bid adieu, Cooper initiates a different low grumble at the front door. His head gently bumps a thigh or his nose caresses a gloved hand. Dad feels a need to clarify Cooper’s behavior, in part because it explains the situation and also because those with a good sense of humor will understand the joke. “He gets a biscuit when someone leaves and he doesn’t bark. He can’t wait for our guests to leave.” Everyone laughs but Cooper is serious about a swift exit.
But nothing is as exciting for Cooper as going for a ride in the car and thrusting his nose into the cool, forceful air. Nothing except when the destination is a park…a walk…a hike! With his humans! Although they may not readily recognize it, Cooper is holding his head high; he is actually showing off his family to anyone who might glance or sniff their way. And if a bitch or boxer happens by - all the better! After all, he is The Almighty Cooper! Just ask the AKC.
Back at home, Cooper takes inventory in all of the bedrooms. Connor has now moved to his own apartment, but fortunately for Cooper, his scent lingers in corners and closets where only he can smell his brother. His other brothers are in their bedrooms. He hops onto Duncan’s bed, nuzzling next to him on the soft comforter. Then he visits Brennen who affectionately gives Cooper brisk rubs up and down his back. When he finally reaches Spencer, his brother has fallen asleep. Cooper sniffs his hand and returns to Duncan for a few Zs himself.
Later that night, after dinner and homework, Maureen walks the perimeter of the inside of the house, turning out lights and double checking the locks on the doors. Cooper strolls closely beside her, should she need him.
Finally, she crawls into bed; Dad has already turned out his light. Cooper sits on the floor next to Maureen, looking at her with devoted eyes. With both hands, she rubs his head, massaging and tossing his ears back and forth. “You’re a perfect boy, Cooper. Good night.” She kisses him on his forehead, turns out the lamp, and pulls the covers to her chin.
Cooper hunches down and wriggles into the tight squeeze under the bed. As usual, his frog legs and tail don’t quite make it all the way underneath. He sighs slightly and closes his eyes. “I love you, too.”