It’s pretty fitting that Cooper’s post is a day late.
So many of you kind souls have asked how Coop’s doing with all that’s going on. In some ways, he’s amazing–doing better than I ever could have thought he could do. Home alone for short periods? Nailed it. Doggy daycare without a brother with him? Nailed it. The big one: Boarding for a weekend all by himself? Nailed it! Hiking without his brothers? Eh, I wouldn’t say “nailed it,” but he did alright.
I’m proud of him, and I think these past few months have given him the opportunity to find his own voice, so to speak.
That said, it hasn’t been all achievements and strides for this little bean.
Here’s the thing about Cooper: He is extremely bright. Honestly, he’s probably a bit too smart for us. He reads us perfectly, and he often uses that to his advantage. He’s a pro at reading our faces, and we test him sometimes but he never fails. He’s also very sensitive to every sensory detail around him. I think those two facts about his personality–his intelligent and his sensitivity–combine to make him reactive and to make him into a little Velcro strip on my pant leg.
When he reacts to anything, it’s a meltdown. On our walk today, a deer ran across the street, and he started yelping and crying and barking and flailing so loudly that the people at the playground far, far on the other side of the park stopped playing to turn and look to see who was killing a dog in the middle of the street.
All that said, here’s where the problem has been: Immediately after Lucas came home from his amputation, Cooper and Emmett started to get in fights. Not, like, snipes during a game of bite-face that gets too rough. Not corrections, either, like Emmett used to do when Coop was a puppy. All-out, up on their hindlegs fights that don’t fizzle on their own–we have to pull them apart. No real injuries, thank goodness, which shows they’re inhibiting themselves at least a bit, but definite clumps of missing fur and a bitten tongue here and there.
It’s not often. I think since April, they’ve been in a total of maybe six? And, frankly, we haven’t been looking at them at the moment of ignition, so Emmett could be doing something? Though that seems unlikely. Oddly, the fights have all been at meal-time. I say “oddly” because these dogs have never, ever, ever been resource guarders among each other. Never. They can take toys from each other. They snatch up bits of treat crumbles right out of each other’s mouths. We have never had a resource-guarding issue before. Could it be coincidence that this has happened at meal time? Maybe. Someone suggested that Cooper’s maybe unsure of his place now that both big boys are sick, but I don’t subscribe to pack theory and I sort of feel like his role as the spoiled baby hasn’t changed. Who knows.
You know by now that I can’t let problems go unsolved, so we’re working to mitigate future problems. We instituted “on your mat” with one on either side of the island while we prep bowls. Because Cooper is so smart, he knew exactly where he needed to go by the second meal of working on this. Emmett, well, it’s been a few months, and he’s still not entirely sure where his mat is. He usually gets close–like, in a down about six inches from the actual mat–but he doesn’t really have it. That’s okay; Cooper does, which ensures they’re still separated.
That is the only problem he’s had, though it’s a doozy. He’s gotten totally used to walking with us without a brother with him. “Cooper’s turn!” we shout as we get ready to take him for a walk or a hike or something special. He starts wagging and runs over to wait for his leash. On his doggy daycare day, he pops out of bed, raring to go even without Lucas.
I honestly think he’s just internalizing all the stress he can sense in the air, you know? He knows something’s up, but he doesn’t understand it. So he lashes out when the stress builds up. We’re running with him more (I still hate it… when does this get easier?!) and giving him puzzles to work on and extra attention when the bigs are sleeping the day away. And it’s not like this is a daily or even weekly thing. It’s just odd and upsetting.
So, that’s the Cooper update! It’s really 90% great and only this little bit bad, but of course that’s what I’m fixated on. Overall, though, I’m super proud of the little bean. He’s come out of his shell in many ways already, and I know the more we practice getting him to be confident on his own, the better he’ll do!