|Cooper's first week with us - August 2010|
She warned us that he had been 'marking' everything - now I knew what this meant, but I don't think I really KNEW what this meant. When we got home with Cooper, we had one of those 'what have I done?' moments (but thankfully Justin was home this time so we were in it together). It became very clear that this dog was never inside a home and most likely had very little, if any, interaction with people. He urinated on EVERYTHING, and he literally acted like a wild animal. That is the best and only way to describe his mannerisms. When we let him out in the backyard, he was a wild horse in a cage. He ran along the edge of the fence, just running back and forth and along the edge as if he were caged and needed to find a way out. He had a 'wild' look in his eye and though it was not one I was afraid of, it was one of a wild animal. Cooper marked everything in our home and the first week (if not longer), we had to keep him on a leash at all times. This included sleeping with him on a leash (holding the leash the entire night) so that we would know if he woke up and needed to go potty. Otherwise he would mark anything and everything he came near. The first few months with Cooper were very difficult as we learned about one another and he tried to learn about being a 'domesticated dog'. We also found out that Cooper was heartworm positive and we would have to get our first dog through heartworm treatments. This was scary to us and reading on the internet did not help our fears of whether we could even keep him calm because he was so wild and ran in circles almost all the time. In addition, he was very fearful and anytime we would try to pet him, he would be laying on the ground in fear. The first time he saw a tennis ball thrown he was a pancake on the ground. He was so fearful and out of his element.
Cooper thought being in the fenced backyard was like being a caged animal, we quickly learned that putting him in a crate would be very dangerous for him. He went CRAZY, now I don't mean he cried, barked and pawed to get out. He completely went crazy bouncing around -- and he got out somehow while we were gone. The dog was Houdini. I have no clue to this day how he got out of the crate but the door was open and he was out. Along with that, he chewed up a good amount of carpet in that room trying to escape. Okay, plan B - we had a plan B, right?! We tried everything - zip tying it, easing him into it, putting treats and all kinds of pleasant things, etc. It became very clear that being in a crate was dangerous for Cooper, he was going to injure himself if we continued to force it.
I'm going to back track a little - after realizing what a wild animal Cooper was I had many talks with the rescue lady about his behaviors and she was concerned. Very concerned. From the rescue perspective, he had a lot of red flags and strikes against him. He was heartworm positive (which is extremely expensive to treat), he would need to be neutered, he marked everything, he was not social and literally ran around like a crazy dog outside, he could not be crated and at this point, he could not be left alone either due to his marking. She said he was not adoptable in this state. People came to the rescue looking for well adjusted and 'typical' sweet, social Golden Retrievers. We had a very serious conversation about Cooper's future.
Growing up on a farm, I was no stranger to animals and having several animals in my short lifetime that we had to have put to sleep (due to illness, old age, etc.), this was nothing new to me either. I'm not one to be overly emotional or squeamish with it comes to this, thankfully (though I probably have gotten much more emotional about it through my rescue days and learning what I know now about shelters). We saw something in Cooper - we knew that he should not suffer this fate because he was inexperienced with life and did not know love or the good things in life. We were dedicated to showing him those things and helping him. I told her that I saw something in him and just needed some time. She told me I had a few short weeks to make a decision because he needed to be treated as soon as possible, but that they did not have funds to just treat him if he was not going to be an adoptable dog through rescue. We knew we had to get with it - we worked day and night with him. We were fortunate to have Brooklyn, we knew that she would help tremendously because she is an amazing foster sister. She's very good about being the leader and showing the ropes with patience. In the next weeks, we saw a major change in Cooper. His eyes softened and he became more lovable. He stopped running in circles as much and we had successfully house trained him. He was becoming a dog. The only problem he had left was his separation anxiety. He had chewed up our entire house it seemed. This was extremely frustrating, but we did not give up. Cooper learned with time (and I mean lots of time) that we would come back for him and his favorite spot became on our bed next to the front window, he felt safe there and he could see us when we came home. He would lay on the bed looking out the window the ENTIRE time we were gone and would be down to greet us when we walked through the door. He and Brooklyn became best buddies. We knew we had saved his life.
In the months to come, he was treated for heartworms, neutered, and was still working on manners. We learned that he was a little picky about his friends and did not like every dog he met, but did like most other dogs. Cooper quickly found his way into our hearts and we knew he was very special. He became a true 'magnet dog'.
He had several applications, but we knew it would take a special person for Cooper and nobody seemed to have exactly what we were looking for, for his forever home. Cooper ended up being with us for 9 months. We had many talks about it being so long and he was certain to think he was already home. He fit in perfect with us at this point and we had so much invested in him. However, we decided that if we were going to continue to foster, we needed a dog that would get along with any other dogs, no question. We decided it would not be fair to keep him and we just still weren't ready to commit to another dog. Cooper found the most perfect forever home for him - it was a young couple that reminded us so much of ourselves. We knew they would love, spoil, and show him the life he so deserved (and we worked so hard to make sure he got). We couldn't have found a more perfect home for him, though I would be lying if even to this day, there have been tears shed over Cooper and how much we still love him. Cooper is a true rescue story and we're so blessed to have the experiences (and headaches) that he gave us. We would not be the home we are today without him and we learned so much from him.
After a 'difficult' foster dog, we were shocked that we were even more excited after this one than the last to get started again and our next foster dog could not get there soon enough :)
Please adopt a shelter pet and spay/ neuter your pets, this is a life changing decision - 'rescuing one dog may not change the world, but for that one dog, the world will be changed forever'