I remember tucking puppy Cooper into my sweater because he’d get cold and start squeaking. He weighed six pounds. That’s how much Ripley weighs now.
Cooper used to curl up against my stomach while I worked. He’d nestle his tiny face under my arm, I’d scoot in my desk chair, and type away while he dozed like a little kangaroo.
If he thought he could fit, he’d try the same today.
I remember waking up at all hours of the night because puppy Cooper needed to go out or had already had an accident.
I remember falling asleep while listening for the tiniest signs from the crate next to my bed. Poor puppy Cooper. That first year of his life spent in a cone, itching himself to pieces, and ill a lot of the time. And, yet, he played with his brothers, tore up the house playing solo, played in the yard and the kiddie pool, walked and ran and did all the puppy things, despite it all.
We nailed down his health issues, have him on the right food and the right medication, we manage his supplements well, and now he’s squarely a healthy “grown up” at 7. But he does the same today: runs and jumps and plays, skitters, tears up the house (though that’s more metaphorical than literal these days)… and then he cuddles in bed with me and the kitties when it’s time to settle, thankfully without all the overnight waking.
I remember thinking puppy Cooper can learn anything!
He stretched my training abilities to the limit back then because he learned everything immediately. What took Lucas a couple days and Emmett (sweet Emmett) a few weeks to learn, Cooper mastered in a session. He picked up a ton of stuff–some manners, household routines–from watching his brothers. It turned me into a lazy trainer with him because I took it for granted that he’d just figure stuff out.
Now? He picks and chooses. I know this is a controversial topic in the dog training world: Can a dog truly be obstinate? In other words, can a dog know the command, know what you want exactly, but choose to do something differently? Most argue that, well, the dog doesn’t really know the command that well. This is a complex discussion I’m distilling for simplicity, but here’s what I know about Cooper:
He listens with perfect, crystal-clear hearing. He executes with varying degrees of creativity. And if you say in a mock-horrified tone, “Cooper! I’m shocked!” or something similar to express disbelief, he will gaze up into your face, spend a second figuring out if you’re serious or not, and if you can pull off the serious expression, he quickly does the thing exactly as you asked him to do in the first place.
Drives me nuts. (But at the same time I love and adore him for it!)
All this is coming full circle now that Violet is eating solid food. (I totally had a point!! It just took me this long to get to it!!)
He always went to his bed in the corner of the kitchen when we were eating, more as a matter of good manners than anything else.
Now? With his food allergies it’s becoming imperative that he parks his bum on that bed during meal times, but…
He waits until I go to the fridge to get something. He pops up out of his bed, gobbles all the tiny bits of food she drops, then dashes back to his bed before (he thinks) I notice.
Or, Violet snatches up a handful of something–yesterday it was peas–and leans all the way under the table to hand him pieces while giggling her face off. And dear Cooper pops up, goes under the table, and ever so gently takes the proffered peas out of her chubby little fingers.
I really, really, really don’t want him to have any of those flare-ups from all those years ago that kept us up at night, kept him in a cone all day every day, and–most importantly–kept him from enjoying life at top speed.
So, back to the drawing board.
Clearly the bed in the corner is no good because it’s a mere three feet from where Violet sits in her Bumbo graciously doling out food to the animals. (The other day I went to fill her sippy cup, and I turned back to see her hand feeding Newt fistfuls of tofu…)
Obviously we’re going to work with Violet on not feeding the animals. That’s of course part of the plan, but at this point in her development, training Cooper is the faster solution.
I’m torn, too, because part of me thinks… well, it’s just peas. She’s mobile and handsy and falls on him a million times a day no matter how closely I keep an eye on them, so if she feeds him maybe it’ll solidify his positive feelings towards her. But then I can’t change the rules on them both when she’s eating, say, chicken. It would feel so arbitrary to them. Neither Violet nor Cooper would understand.
I remember worrying in those first few months about Cooper with Violet. I remember hoping that he’d take to her (he did) and that he wouldn’t feel neglected or pushed aside (we’ve tried to keep everything the same for him). I remember worrying about him adjusting to all of it.
I couldn’t even fathom–nearly a year ago–that I’d be worrying about Violet feeding Cooper something that would send his body into a tailspin because I honestly couldn’t imagine her sitting in a chair feeding herself!! Just like way back when I tucked Cooper into my sweater to work each day I couldn’t imagine him being healthy and well and training for a half marathon with John.
I remember facing each of Cooper’s challenges along the way and thinking… when will we solve this one?
And we’ve solved them all (mostly…), so I know this will be solved, too.
In the meantime, what is your dinnertime routine with your pup? Do they go to a specific place? Do you all eat together on the couch? Any best practices that work for you and your family?