Yesterday, Coop, you turned seven.
How that’s possible… I still can’t wrap my mind around it…
But, it’s true, and here we are. Today, you are a seven-year-old pup. “Middle aged.”
I say “middle aged” in quotes because you, my dear Cooper, did not get the #adulting memo. Or, maybe it’s that you’re taking the phrase, “age is nothing but a number,” in its most literal sense. You are a wild child at heart, and hitting this middle age hasn’t slowed you down one bit.
In fact, now that you’re in this phase of life, we have to slow you down. We’re being so careful with your muscles and joints because there is nothing you love more than going full-out, full-tilt top speed. We’ve started you on a joint supplement regimen and are trying to lift you in and out of the car instead of letting you hop up and down, which you’re not super happy about, but you go along with it with your usual stoicism.
There are a few immutable facts about you, Coop. The athleticism, sure. Also, your brilliance. You’re the smartest pup we’ve ever known, which has gotten you into a lot of trouble over the years, but it’s pushed us to become better dog trainers. I learned so much from Emmett and Lucas, of course, and you’ve just opened up a whole new world for me on how to partner with a dog.
In a lot of ways, this is one of the harder letters I’ve written to you because it’s the first one where you’ve been alone.
Not, of course, alone alone. You’re not all by yourself, not even a little.
You are always with me. You adore Violet. You love John. You and Newt even have a really special, really funny friendship.
But, you’re still more alone than you’ve ever been. You’re alone without any brothers.
This is the first time in your life you’ve been without at least one, most often two, and–for a short while–three, dogs around you at all times. We had no idea what this would be like for you, Cooper, and we worried and fretted and thought of all sorts of accommodations to make sure that even if you felt alone, you never felt lonely.
Well, as in almost all things, you rose to the occasion. In some respects, you’re thriving as the “only” dog.
You love having all our attention. With only one dog to manage, you get to go more places with us more often, more than ever before. And some of your less-desirable behavior quirks are starting to get worked out. You get the best spot on the couch and at the foot of the bed. You get to go on all the walks, no more trading off.
But we can see how much you miss having a dog around. You try so hard to get the neighbor’s dog to play along the fence line (even though, to me, he sounds kinda like a jerk… you seem to dig him…), and you go bananas whenever you get to see Otto or Cady.
I think that’s part of the reason why I struggled with this letter, to be honest. Most often, these letters recap the last year, all the highs and lows and progress. Your last year has been one of upheaval. The ground was never steady, and sometimes you got lost in the fray of Emmett’s declining health and the adoption process John and I were working through.
Losing Emmett was so hard for all of us, and we’re still finding our equilibrium. And Violet, while the most wonderfully amazing thing to ever happen, is still hard because a new baby affects sleep and schedules and routines.
Oh, but you love Violet. Since the first day she came home, you’ve been smitten. You check on her and lick her cheek. You lay by her when she does tummy time, and when we get home from running errands, the first thing you do is run over to her carrier to check on her… wagging your tail and sniffing her all over.
You’ve been amazing since the moment you laid eyes on her.
But I stick on the question: Do you need another dog to be your happiest?
I don’t know the answer. I do know that we’re not ready to add another pup right now. But when I watch you get so excited to play with another dog, there’s no question it tugs at my heart.
So, your last year, Cooper… well, I don’t have anything really to document. No training progress. No goals we were working toward or behaviors we were working on. No big trips or adventures. We were all just getting through the day.
And, the thing is, I had you right by my side every single step of the way. You have not once left my side. In fact, you’re here right now, dozing in the dog bed right next to my desk.
Among those immutable facts about you, Coop, is this one: You are the most reliable, loyal friend a girl could ever ask for.
I’m so lucky to have you right here with me, and I promise to do a better job this year, your eighth, making sure you have fun, making sure you’re challenged, and making sure you’re happy–whatever that looks like.
Happy birthday, dear Cooper.
And just remember: No matter how old you get, you will always, always be my Baby Bean.