My dog was a three-year-old stray when I adopted him from a shelter. It is hard to believe he will soon be eleven. Cooper will always be a puppy to me, and forever have a piece of my heart. Taking a chance on a shelter dog was well worth it. My pup is now showing me the many ways older dogs are just as amazing as their younger counterparts.
Finding the right shelter dog to adopt
Nearly eight years ago, I was perusing animal shelters in search of a furry friend. I had no interest in taking on a pooch over four years of age, and four was pushing it for me. Being into the hiking trails, I wanted an active, young adult dog. Not to mention I wanted plenty of years with the first dog I would own by myself.
Yet, during my search, I noticed the many senior dogs at the SPCA that touched my heart.
I recall looking into the soulful eyes of a sweet chocolate lab who so desperately wanted out of his kennel, and an older yet spunky dog named “Trixie” because she knew so many tricks. I will never forget the cutest seven-year-old dog with her foster human. The man said she was utterly heartbroken her family had decided she no longer fit their lifestyle.
There is no doubt, I passed by real gems that day. I left that animal shelter wishing I had significant land to adopt a dozen beautiful dogs, of all ages. Two months later, I found Cooper at the local animal control. He had come in as a non-neutered male stray without any tags and a lot of foxtails.
A Rough First Night
After adopting this handsome spaniel, we had a long drive home in the dark November rush hour. Cooper laid down, quiet as can be, in the back of my SUV with his post-surgical cone around his neck. Only when we got home did I realize his cone was too big and seemed to add to his post-neutering discomfort.
I took my new family member to Pet Food Express only to see it was closed. Luckily, the employees saw Cooper through the glass door and took pity on us. A kind young woman let us inside. It took three of us to get a correctly fitting cone on Cooper. Fortunately, one of the employees grew up on a ranch, and knew how to wrestle calves – that is how much Cooper fought us, it took “a professional!”
Figuring Out a Stray’s Background
My new dog was in a strange, new environment with a new owner. To add to our rocky evening, I discovered Cooper was crate-phobic. Putting treats and a toy in his crate with a soft blanket made no difference. When I gently scooted him in, his paw got twisted. He gave me a look and growled. Not a good start. I was a new dog owner, and I was failing.
Eventually, Cooper fell asleep…in my bed! The next morning, “Cooper the Trooper” was in a playful mood. We went for a walk, met my friends’ German Shepherd, and had play time. We soon started training. Learning basic commands was easy for this treat-incentivised guy.
My Shelter Dog Rescued Me
I received something far more significant than a hiking companion. In fact, the trails were the least of it. I gained a loyal and loving friend. It was a truly challenging time in my life. While I may have technically rescued Cooper, I believe it was Cooper who saved me.
Without realizing it, much of my stress and insomnia I bad been experiencing had waned. This four-legged family member needed my free time, attention and care. My dog got me outside of myself.
Good Years Together
We’ve had good years, including Cooper gradually accepting my now husband as a “pack member.” A good test for any suitor!
My pup’s adorable red freckles on his nose are starting to fade. Our brisk walks have become leisurely strolls. He gets a bit grumpy at times. But, when he sees a squirrel, I am reminded there is still a puppy inside of him.
What has remained true is his big heart, cuddles, smiles and tail wags, loyalty, protective instinct, and pure joyfulness over the simple things in life – rolling around in the grass, literally stopping to smell the roses, enjoying a breeze, and snuggling in between his people for movie night.
This pup taught me shelter dogs are diamonds, and how gratifying an older dog can be; they are indeed as capable of love, loyalty, safeguarding, and affection as any younger dog. Plus, we are all getting older!
Cooper likes being an only dog (He gets jealous, which my husband knows better than anyone.) But perhaps when we have a bigger home, we will make room for a senior dog. So long as Cooper keeps his place next to me at the foot of our bed, I think he will be OK!
Photo 1: Dreamstime
Photo 2: SprightlySpruce.com iPhone