Tag Archives: Cooper

Good Old Cooper

May God endow you with pain.              Baba Farid, Sufi poet

JoAnne (wife/editor)  “What are you writing about this month?”
Me “I thought I’d write about Cooper.”
JoAnne  “You have already written at least three columns about him…”
Me “Do you know how many entire books have been written about Winston Churchill, Stephen Foster, and Sacajawea?”

JoAnne (a bit exasperated and recognizing she has again fallen into an exchange where logic is useless.  Nevertheless she continues gamely) “They were famous people. Cooper is a dog.”

Me (exchanging a conspiratorial wink with the behemoth at my feet) “That,” I say, pausing for emphasis, “Is what he wants you to believe.”

*                    *                *               *                 *                  *                  *                    *

Cooper was a wedding present my daughter Rachael and son-in-law Daniel gave to each other almost eleven years ago.  Cooper is an over-sized yellow Lab who comes across as an oafish, hale fellow well met, ready to ask about “the missus” and your golf game.  A tail thumping Rotarian glad hander, who will grab your clothing and pull you to the ground to rub his belly.  At dinner parties he settles down after the meet and greet and plays the perfect guest.  Careful not to take the host’s favorite chair, he avoids politics and religion and does more listening than talking.  He seems to blend into the woodwork.  It is not until dessert is about to be served that the host realizes that an entire pumpkin pie that was on a high counter is missing.

Cooper is a trickster, perhaps in the coyote or Sufi tradition.  He has been pulling stunts like this for more than a decade.  Traveling with Daniel, he adjusts seamlessly to months of fast-paced downtown living in a Toronto high-rise.  Charming the doorman, he is off, walking without a leash through the financial district.  He could be just another securities trader concerned about the downturn in the China market.  What gives him away is not that he is a dog, but that he is not on a cell phone.  He knows that a cold wet nose to the back of a knee can redirect a chatting, oblivious business person and keep things moving.

Daniel and I believe Cooper is a prankster, far smarter than he appears.  In repose he is a Zen-like cipher, a Rorschach test.  We love to speculate on his past.  He often acts the part of a tweedy, befuddled, long tenured classics professor oblivious to the toilet paper stuck to his foot.  We are convinced this is just his cover.  Was he C.I.A.?  I am not sure where that rumor started.  Did he prep at Hotchkiss and get recruited to be a helper dog before washing out?  Was he once a companion to an elderly man who was finally unable to care for him?  He gets very excited when he sees very senior citizens.  He still pees like a racehorse in one spot as if he used to receive very few walks and had to make the most of every outing.

“Coopie” was already an old soul when Rachael and Daniel found him in a shelter in the San Fernando Valley.  This would lend credence to him having been in The Company and then discarded.  While all the other dogs barked and pleaded to be noticed, Cooper slept undisturbed as if he knew the kids were coming for him.  He ambled off just hours before facing “the green mile.”  He has been family ever since.

That is what is making his present condition so gut wrenching.  Cooper is probably about fourteen and has led a full if circumspect life.  His eyes are clear, and his appetite legendary.  His back legs are now too weak to support him.  After a few steps he likely tumbles over.  He remains good natured and nonplussed by his worsening condition.

After fall his tail thumps loudly, signalling that poltergeists have again tripped him up.  He rises with aid, his dignity and sense of humor intact.  Doctors have ruled out hip dysplasia and arthritis.  He baffled the neurologist; his X-rays, CAT scan, and MRI were unremarkable.  He has received laser treatments, acupuncture, and is on more drugs than Michael Jackson.  Cooper has a rear harness that allows us to take some of the weight off of his back end.

The veterinarians say he does not seem to be in pain.   Still, it is like watching the once graceful Willie Mays attempt to play centerfield for the Mets at forty-two.  No one wanted to cut the future Hall of Famer.  If you squinted just right for a play, he was still the “Say Hey Kid.”  Fans cheered mostly from relief every time he made it back to the bench alive.  “Coopie” still takes great joy in eating and a good nap.  He is “still in there” and we cannot let go.

When informed an injured athlete is “day to day,” Keith Olbermann will add, “Listen, we’re all day to day.”

Tom H. Cook is a formerly local writer.  This was an incredibly difficult story to share.  For happier Cooper columns and others visit sanduponthewaters.net. 

tom and cooper dog

Toronto Visit

Toronto is like New York, as run by the Swiss.

—Peter Ustinov

“We’re just back from Tokelau.  Jack prepped with “Freddie” at Choate a hundred years ago. Anyway, Freddie’s the Royal Imperial Emperor now.  We told him not to make a fuss, but apparently he stayed some executions, closed the banks and schools, and put on this amusing little festival for us.  The kids enjoyed it.  And you, are you still out in the West somewhere?”

—Imaginary voice of a globetrotting Kenwood matron

 It is particularly difficult for me to write about travel, knowing the sophistication of the Hill and Lake Press readership.  That many of you do not make it to the back page is some solace, but it is still intimidating. I must adopt the proper world weary, bemused, detached tone of a seasoned travel writer.  Toronto was a gnarly, way cool, itchin’ time, and I cannot wait to chill there again as it is awesome to the max!!!

My son-in-law, Daniel Gillies, is working in Toronto for a few months on Saving Hope, a medical drama for NBC.  He brought the family’s yellow lab, Cooper, for company.  With a place to stay and “Coopie-Coopie” for a tour guide, we walked most of the city.  Having a large dog brands me as more likely a local, rather than an L.A. tourist.

We were pleased to learn that dogs are permitted on subways, trains, and city buses in off-peak hours.  In Toronto patio is a verb.  In the summer weather, people love to patio outside with a meal and drink.  Cooper enjoys a bowl of water just the other side of the railing.  The city feel is European right down to the smoking on the street.   Very few people fit my antiquated stereotype of square jawed mounties and blonde farmers’ daughters from Saskatoon.  Toronto is the largest city in Canada and fifth largest in North America.  One half of the population was not born in Canada.

Toronto is multicultural, racially diverse, and in a big hurry.  The downtown seems to stay up late.  Cooper and I saw hundreds of mostly 20 to 30-somethings out after midnight.  Seeing as how Toronto is a sophisticated and cosmopolitan cultural center, Cooper and I fit right in.  What you rarely see are law enforcement officers.  It appears to be a city that polices itself.  It does not hurt to have a 75 pound lab with you, but I never felt intimidated on any of our walks.

“The Beaches” is an Uptown-like neighborhood with shops, a boardwalk, swimming areas, and a well defined dog beach, all fronting Lake Ontario.  Like Target Field, the Blue Jays’ retractable roof stadium is great for baseball, and it is right downtown.  On Daniel’s day off the three of us went to Kensington, a hip neighborhood right next to Chinatown.  Toronto has a Minneapolis feel with parks and greenery everywhere.  The city is vibrant, almost despite local government officials.

Torontan’s seem to be amused rather than incensed by their own political scandal.  Mayor Rob Ford was once arrested for threatening his wife.  He famously warned the city that the Asians are taking over.  Currently he is in the news for trying to buy and annex city park land adjacent his home.   He is an obese man, well over 300 pounds, who looks like he could swallow Rush Limbaugh.  Months ago Ford vowed to lose at least 50 pounds.  Ballyhooed as a charity fund raiser, there was promise of twice-weekly weigh-ins at City Hall.  He appears to have gone AWOL and gained weight, not only abandoning the project, but ceasing to come into his office for any reason.

 Toronto, a doggone good city.

Tom H. Cook is back in the States plotting his next trip, a return to the Twin Cities in the fall.

 

 

 

 

Dogs Outnumber the People

Generally it makes sense to write about a family holiday event after it happens, if at all.   Crazy Uncle Louie face down making snow angels on the shag carpet.  Teetotaling Aunt Bessie accidentally getting into the spiked punch and using her false teeth as castanets, or the kids making a surprise skating rink by damming up and flooding the garage.  This is good stuff you cannot make up.  A few humorous anecdotes, a bit of wit and wisdom, an encompassing comment on the universality of humankind, and wishes of peace and prosperity in the new year.  These columns practically write themselves.

My family and friends are less colorful.  These are nice folks, and I love them all, but I cannot remember any of them doing anything zany enough for me to write about.  This year may be different, as there are a few added ingredients.  The “perfect storm” analogy has become so cliched it is used to explain school board election results, a pot luck with only potato salads, or an entire HR department getting matching tattoos.

Still, while it may not be a storm, or close to perfect, my doppler radar indicates this may be a memorable holiday.  I have always been one to surprise JoAnne with extra people for dinner because I thought the resultant mix would provide either kumbaya warmth or degenerate into an uncomfortable evening of back biting and name calling.  As a fan of chaos, I am looking forward to this holiday season.

I am writing now because I will probably be involved in home repair, or at the very least, carpet cleaning and will certainly not be in a reflective mood by this time next month.  If all goes according to plan, we will have eight dogs beginning the third week of December and through New Year’s Day.

The “cousins” are coming!  They are daughter Rachael’s three rather large and very friendly dogs.  She and her husband Daniel are wisely leaving the country and we get the kids.  Our boxer and border collie (Cowboy and Hannah) love to romp through our very small house with their cousin.  Henry and Jane are a sweet puggle and border collie pair that come over most days as they live nearby with their mom, a close friend.

These seven know each other well, but the piece de resistance will be Sadie, a chocolate lab from Minneapolis who will be the surprise guest of honor.  Our dear friends Jay and Cheryl have just retired (Cheryl from the U of M) and are coming to stay with us.  They are driving Miss Sadie.  Our son Ben and daughter-in-law Erin have real lives and will sadly arrive dogless.  A few brave human friends are invited, but much of the time we will balance on the tipping point with the dogs outnumbering the people, which is fine with us.

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Tom H. Cook is a sometimes writer who lives on a busy street in Redondo Beach, where firetrucks are not uncommon.   AAAARROOOOO!   

 

 

Hannah and Cooper

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.

 

 

 

Animal Wrangler

Caution:  Proceed only if you are a fan of dogs and or old situation comedies.

I cannot wait to file my 2006 income tax returns.  I am in no hurry to part with the money, particularly given some of the things the current administration is spending it on, but I finally have an interesting answer to put in the space reserved for occupation.  I am an animal wrangler.  Alas, I am not one of the highly paid professionals that work on movie sets. In fact I am not paid at all, but it is where I spend much of my time and meager talents.

When we moved from Minnesota in Clampett family style, we brought Stella the insane boxer, who is best remembered for breaking my nose in a sledding accident in Lowry Hill (see HLP March, 1998).  Moving to California, the formerly allergy-plagued, ravenously hungry, Prednisone-dependent dog went cold turkey, and was reborn.  Shedding the demons that plagued her, she has emerged a mellow, well-behaved, loving, and mature pet.  Taking advantage of the climate and a fenced-in back yard, Stella moved outdoors.  Against our better judgment we adopted Cowboy, a rescued boxer, to be Stella’s (un) stable mate.

Last summer our daughter married Daniel, a wonderful young New Zealander.   I was pleasantly surprised that while he had no strong feelings about the designated hitter rule, or why Pete Rose did not belong in the Hall of Fame, we did share an enthusiasm for animals.  During their engagement, Daniel spent a lot of time playing with Stella and Cowboy.  I figured that he was just being polite and that wrestling with the dogs was easier than listening to me talk about American politics.  Still I could not help but be impressed with my future son-in-law’s rapport with Cowboy who, in California-speak, exhibited serious trust issues.  Only Daniel could lure Cowboy out of hiding and get him to play.

JoAnne and I were nevertheless surprised when the newly married couple announced they were planning to add to their family.  Within a month of the wedding, they had adopted Sunny Bear, a Chow/Shepherd/Lab mix.  Sunny is a sprite, a wholly benign but mischievous spirit who immediately won over Cowboy and Stella.  A month ago the kids again returned from the shelter, this time with a portly, jolly, full-grown yellow lab they named Cooper.

Because the kids travel a lot, we frequently have all four dogs.  We are fortunate to have a decent sized yard and a dog door, but still there are challenges.  Cowboy, like Radar O’Reilly, can sense Sunny’s arrival.  The buzz and subsequent hysteria she unleashes (no pun) creates a fervor usually reserved for aging rock stars or banana republic dictators.  Sunny quickly gets caught up in the madness and responds by leaping wildly and licking everyone in sight.  Soon all three dogs are rolling around and speaking in tongues.

Suddenly the revelry is interrupted as Cooper appears.  Cowboy is Barney Fife to Stella’s calmer Sheriff Andy Taylor.  To Cowboy, Cooper is Lee Harvey Oswald.  JoAnne and I need to escort him passed the barking blur.  There is chaos, snarling, and threats.  Relations are getting better, but we need to make moves that Boris Spassky would envy in order to give everyone bathroom breaks and meals.  When the doorbell rings all bets are off.  Each dog responds as if the Spanish Inquisition has made a house call.

All this reminds me of a favorite moment in the old “News Radio” episode in which eccentric billionaire and station owner Jimmy James (Steven Root) is bankrolling and starring in a vanity project, a film purporting to tell The Jimmy James Story.  The station manager asks how the filming is going.  Jimmy responds that so far they have three hours of him feeding his dogs. “Three hours of you feeding dogs!?” exclaims an incredulous and skeptical Dave.  Jimmy responds matter-of-factly, “I got a lotta dogs.”

Our lives are busy and fulfilling, and the only way to make them better would be to add you, my friends and the great folks from the neighborhood that will always be our home.

 

Tom H. Cook remains in exile in Redondo Beach, CA, despite the lure of the new Walker and “coming” improvements to the path on Lake of the Isles.  Watch for Sunny and Cooper’s parents on the TNT miniseries “Into The West” this June and July.