I wanted a Cooper dog. Rachael and Daniel, my daughter and son-in-law, have a yellow lab mix they rescued two years ago. Cooper’s past is a mystery. He is somewhere between three and seventeen years old and is a jolly, flatulent, eighty-five pound couch potato. A friend to all, he is the sedentary, overweight football-watching uncle I never had. Cooper makes himself at home wherever he is. At our house he assumes his position on the most comfortable and expensive piece of furniture and only stirs at 7:00 AM and 5:00 PM to inhale a meal.
Like cries of “Norm!” on Cheers, calling “Coopie!” is almost an involuntary reaction when the big guy comes for a visit. He drags you by your shirt or pants leg and like Joan Rivers insists that you “taullk” and catch up on petting him and singing his praises. He particularly loves the Sesame Street song C is for Cookie when “Coopie” is substituted for “cookie.” After the tummy-scratching (his) and arm licking (yours), Cooper settles back to watch the other dogs and people tussle and carry on.
After the death of Stella the once-insane boxer, we were looking for a companion for Cowboy, the grieving widower boxer. Rachael and Daniel have an unerring skill of rescuing wonderful dogs. (Either that or there are thousands of great dogs being put down each year. I choose to believe the former.) And so, before we left on our big Tahiti-Australia-New Zealand adventure (HLP 3/07), we told the kids that if they chanced upon a great Cooper-like dog in the month we were away, to go ahead and adopt her if they did not mind providing the care until we returned.
Since we draw the line at two dogs per family, vacancies are as rare as Supreme Court seats. Careful consideration would have to be given. The position available was for a full size female dog, and for the first time, a non-boxer would be eligible. This was based on how much we loved Cooper and Sunny, the kids’ other dog, a delightful chow and collie mix. My preference was for a large, overstuffed, sweet companion I could grow old with that would appreciate long naps and short walks.
Before we had taken off our shoes, been probed and had our passports stamped at LAX, the kids called and said they had found a dog! As patriarch I retain the power of veto, but JoAnne and Rachael and Daniel would have the necessary three votes for a ¾ override, a power which they exercise frequently see (T. Cook v Thai Restaurant, 2002), or (T. Cook v Wedding Guest List, 2003). Aware of the precedent and the fact that the furry bundle was already in their car and networking a powerbase of her own, I chose to be magnanimous, build consensus and demonstrate flexibility, unlike some leaders I could name.
We are entering our third month with “Hannah” a year old Australian shepherd-border collie mix. I would have written about her sooner, but this is the first opportunity I have had to catch my breath. I believe Hannah is smarter than a fifth grader, and certainly light years ahead of all of our boxers. She’s about 16 months old. Found last summer in West Hollywood, she was taken in and housed for seven months at a veterinary clinic and shelter. I mention her history only because she appears to have suffered no ill effects from her life on the streets or her long kenneled confinement. She loves everyone.
She is a voracious learner and explorer, raising questions about what is under certain shrubbery and how fast our aging cat can run. These are questions that our long line of boxers never contemplated, let alone acted upon. Hannah bonded with JoAnne and me immediately. Her deep eye contact suggests she may have had some EST training. She is so inquisitive it can be exhausting attempting to stump her with any task easier than long division.
She is our Hannah Banana the world’s squiggliest palindrome, and she lives to please us. Alas, this is not in the pipe and slippers, Smithers to Mr. Burns, or Radar O’Reilly to Colonel Blake manner. Hannah looks into my eyes as if to say, “Except for the power of speech and opposable thumbs, I am your equal. Let’s go out and play. It will do you good.” So my dreams of a placid retirement have been shattered by a dog that will likely outlive me. She is determined that we get out and share activities, rummaging through dumpsters (for me) and herding dogs at the local dog park, an inborn passion she cannot resist.
Hannah is like having a young girlfriend, but rather than requiring a comb-over and a new wardrobe, she continually challenges me to amuse and teach her. I believe she is capable of learning anything short of Three Card Monty. The weak link in this is me learning dog commands and conveying them to her. We bought The Dog Whisper, but neither of us (i.e. neither Hannah nor I) has read beyond the first chapter. As much as I would have enjoyed drinking beer and watching TV with “Son of Cooper,” little Hannah has me out at the dog park every day. She is an absolute treasure. She has stolen my heart and probably strengthened it.
Tom H. Cook would like to shamelessly plug his son-in-law’s film, which he shot in Panama. The first six minutes are viewable on YouTube. Type in “Wait for Me” and then “Panama” or “Daniel Gillies”. Rachael has a cameo at the beginning.