My little love, I’m awfully late on this post. Your “Gotcha Day” is sort of Halloween–that’s the day we brought you home as a foster–and sort of mid-November when we became foster failures. But, well, I missed it. Them.
I know you don’t care. At least, I assume you don’t. Sure, you’re brilliant, but I don’t think you can read. Can you? You can’t, right? Anyway, these letters have become a way for me to track our progress, and there’s been quite a bit this past year.
Obviously, the big one: You lost your playmate. You and Lucas tackled and pummeled and knocked the crud out of each other every single day since you were about 10 months old. When we lost him, you lost your brother and your best friend. You’ve done incredibly well adjusting to the loss with everything except the play. I mean, you try to get Emmett to play with you. You bop him, and you play bow, and you put your paw on him. But he’s 12. And arthritic. And, more than that, he’s lazy. So, you try, then you give up. You’re pretty good about picking up a toy and playing on your own, but I know it’s not the same. This is something I’m going to work on. I’m going to find you some playmates. It’s just not easy with you because you have a maniacal play-style that not all dogs appreciate, but we’ll figure it out. I promise.
Other than that, having passed your fifth birthday, I can honestly say that I think you’re starting to mellow a bit, Coop. Now, I’m not saying you are mellow. You’re mellowing. A bit. Like, on Thanksgiving, the house was full of people you know and love… plus two strangers. At points in the past, you would’ve zeroed in on those strangers and stared them down or bristled or, sigh, growled. Not this time! You were just kind of like, “Oh, hey, guys! You seem cool! Here’s my butt if you want to scratch it!” You even smiled at them! There seems to be a distinction for you that’s perhaps widening: strangers in the house must be friends since they’re here, but strangers out in the wide world? Still not to be trusted. We’re working-ish on it, but after all these years, I get it. It’s just part of who you are. And that’s okay.
Because the thing is, Cooper, you love. You love wholeheartedly. The people you love are rewarded with smiles and kisses and wags, wags, wags. You snuggle with ferocity, climbing into laps, putting paws on shoulders, touching your nose to cheeks. With people (and dogs and cats) you love, you become a bottomless well of good will and happiness. My mom, for instance, you just stand still, watching her, and wagging your tail back and forth, back and forth. Until she looks at you, then she’s rewarded with a big, toothy grin!
By the way, there are several Coopers at doggy daycare. Your nickname, to distinguish you from the others, is “Cooper Smiles” because that’s what you do when you see the people you love!
Your favorite thing in the whole world still is to snuggle. You climb under the covers to get super warm.
You also strive to always be touching someone. You have to sit on laps or sidle up to Emmett or curl up with Newt. You hate being by yourself and not cuddling. If I’m sitting on the far edge of the couch, and the rest of the couch is open and has pillows and blankets, you will still squish right up to me with your head in my lap.
We’ve also made progress on the food front. I’m going to write an entire post about it, but we’ve finally found you a food you can eat, an honest-to-goodness, healthy, purchased-at-the-store food. It’s a relief, and everyone keeps commenting on how healthy you look! Skinny, of course, but healthy!
The last thing I’ll say, Coop, which makes me laugh and also breaks my heart is that your face is becoming so gray. First it was around your chin and then around your nose; now it’s around your eyes and even spreading onto your cheeks. You’re only five, I know. You still have a long life ahead of you. It makes me laugh because it’s just so you to go prematurely gray. We joke about how much stress you have in your life. How Emmett didn’t have his first gray until he was 10 because he has no idea what stress even is. How all your anxieties are cropping up in soft, little gray furs sprinkled across your face. It’s funny, sure, but it’s also a reminder that you’re no longer my little puppy. You’re still my little baby, of course. You always will be, but, well, things are changing. Evolving. Aging.
This has been one crazy year, my little bean, and you have consistently risen to the occasion–whatever that occasion has been–and surprised us and surpassed our expectations. Despite your neurotic quirks, or maybe because of them, you really are a solid, sweet, though sometimes unpredictable love bug. I know you’re happy here, in the new house, and I can’t wait to see how the next year goes, as you continue to mature and come out of your shell.
Happy (very belated) gotcha day, Coop! We love you forever and ever and then some more!