Pet Newz

Dear Cooper

My puppy, my heart.

I’m a bit early on this birthday letter to you. A few weeks early, actually, but only because I have the time right now, in this moment, and I may not again in time for your birthday. I’m taking advantage of this gap to honor this big day.

And, boy, is it a big one.

A 10-year-old pit bull mix with his tongue hanging out after a fun hike in the woods

Dear Cooper, later this month, you turn 10.

Ten.

TEN!!!!!

I can’t wrap my mind around this for a couple reasons. How did a decade fly by so quickly? How are you getting old when you’re just a tiny puppy? How can ten years happen in a blink?

Recently, Astrid’s physical therapist met you in person, and she said something like, “What a sweet old guy!”

It floored me because, one, you’re not old (YOU ARE NOT OLD, you hear me?!) and, two, a stranger called you sweet! It just goes to show, Coop, that you are finally growing up. I mean that honestly, too, because you have been a permanent puppy, full of crazy energy and a playful spirit, for the past decade.

Until this year, you showed no signs of ever maturing–and I say that with all the love in my heart. But this year, for this past year, you’ve started to slow your roll. You still have a ton of energy, but instead of running eight miles, you’re good with two. Instead of playing with toys from sunup to sundown, you mix in a couple naps.

You’re calmer, too, about things that used to rile you up and require a ton of management on our part. The therapist, for instance. You were just like, “Oh, hey, lady. You seem cool.” You also kept your cool when a neighbor stopped us to chit chat on our run the other day. Like, you just stood there while she talked. You didn’t bark or jump or tuck your tail. You just waited.

Another thing: the vacuum. You don’t attack it anymore. Ever. Sometimes you even leave the room. On your own. Without gates or treats or calming medicine. You just… leave.

It’s all so very mature of you and so very unexpected, and I am so proud. And also a little sad. But mostly proud.

There’s no other way to put this, Coop, but over the last decade you’ve put us through some serious shit. Health and behavior problems around every turn. Some small, some huge, some dramatic. All eventually solved(ish) with the help of amazing trainers, vets, vet techs, specialists, pet sitters, friends, and family–all willing to give you everything they could to help solve your biggest problems.

Every consultation, every vet visit, every training session, every dollar spent, every everything was worth it a million times over and more. And you’ve paid it back in some of the most miraculous ways.

The one I want to focus on for this big tenth birthday is your role as Big Brother to Violet and Astrid.

An eight-month-old baby girl with hearing aids pats her 10-year-old dog.

Who could’ve guessed how much you love babies?

Certainly not me, yet here we are.

Cooper, you have free run of the whole house. You can pretty much come and go as you please. Yet you consistently choose to be wherever the girls are. You place yourself squarely in their presence, knowing full well you’re likely to be tripped on (Violet) or squealed at (Astrid). You could move. You don’t. It’s lovely.

Violet considers you her brother (and the cats our pets, so it’s a big distinction) and tries to share everything she eats with you. In the past three years, you’ve chewed up a grand total of two kids’ toys and both were essentially dog toys–soft, plastic, squeakers. Newt chews up more of their toys than you ever have (that’s a story for another day but one that warrants telling…)

When the baby cries, you come and stare at me until I fix it.

When Violet plays outside, you go with her.

You follow them around the house, participate in their activities, snuggle them on the floor or couch. You keep close watch over those girls, making sure they’re safe… and you come tattle to me when I need to intervene.

When they go down for the night, you crawl under the covers with me and zonk out, knowing your duties for the day are done and will start again bright and early.

Beyond your responsibilities as the Child Minder, you still have tons of energy. You run two miles most days. You play tug every day. You want me to chase you with a squeaky toy at least a dozen times every afternoon. You are the most fun-loving puppy to ever grace this earth, I think. As long as that fun is within your approved, sanctioned, preferred set of guidelines… to which we all carefully adhere. 🙂 Otherwise, you bark at us.

It’s hard to put in words how beloved you are, Coop. You’re part of every single thing we do as a family, from playing toys with the girls to hiking in the woods to our daily runs to our cabin camping trips. You’re an integral part of all of it. You are so thoroughly loved by all of us.

There’s not much more to say than that: you are loved and you are beloved.

You bring comfort, joy, and steadfastness to this family.

To paraphrase Edith Wharton, you are the heartbeat at the feet of this family.

Happy birthday, my sweet Cooper. May this next year be filled with nothing but things that make you happy… and it looks like that may be the case as this quarantine continues on and on and on, and the only thing you want is to be together. And my god are we lucky for that.

Happy tenth, Coop! And to another 10!

I love you, my little heartbeat.