On July 19th, prior to the big summer seafood adventure, we celebrated a pretty big day around here – Copperfield’s 7th (observed) birthday. Birthday celebrations this year included melted peanut butter ice cream the evening of his birthday and a taste of lobster in Georgetown, ME.
Since he was a stray dog from the mean streets of Jersey, his exact birthday will always be a mystery. Instead, we instead celebrate the day I brought him home. Five years ago, my friend Lyn found a cute little pup tied up in New Brunswick on her way home from work. At the time, I was the go-to-dog sitter for Lyn and her partner Kate, and Lyn knew I’d been thinking about adopting a dog of my own for a while. She gave me a call and asked me if I wanted to foster this guy:
Who could say no to that face?! On his first night in his new home, he hopped into my bed, snuggled up next to me, and fell asleep instantly. I knew immediately that I was smitten, and that if he belonged to someone who was actually looking for him, it’d be hard to give him up. After making calls to all the local vets and shelters, it didn’t see like anyone wanted him back. It was fortunate for me, since I’d already decided he’d be my pup for the rest of his days. It was fortunate for him, too, as it was pretty clear that whoever lost him hadn’t been too kind. Naming the stray pup was a challenging task, and it took about 2 weeks to settle on Copperfield. These days, he goes by a variety of names including, but not limited to: Cop, Monkey, Monkey Face, Monchhichi, Monster, The Beast, CoFo, Poochacho, Schmoperfield, Fields of Copper, The Chairman, Cloverfield, and Fawn Face.
Over the past 5 years, Cop has been a constant in my life through new jobs, new homes, new relationships, and new adventures. There are zillions of quotes about dogs and plenty of memoirs as to all the things humans learn from their relationships with man’s best friend. In reflecting on the last few years, here’s what my furry partner in crime has taught me.
- A dog makes a house a home. Obviously, this is true of pretty much anyone you love – kids, partners, pets, etc. Having spent our first 3 years together in an NYU dorm with undergraduate students, though, there was something really special about having a pup around. Cop quickly became a communal pet, and his face was all over posters and flyers advertising events in the hall. Years later, I still have former students who ask about him, and Cop gets a flood of birthday wishes from them each year.
- Nothing says I love you like a good snuggle, and there’s never a bad time for a good nap. This concept, I think, needs no elaboration.
- Sometimes you do things you don’t want to for people that you care about. Relationships are about compromise. I’ve promised Cop that he’ll never have to wear a Halloween costume. In return, he’s promised not to bite my face off whenever I think he should wear a hat or pose for holiday photos. See? Compromise.
- You’re happier when you’re active. Getting Cop more exercise was one of the reasons I first started running. The first time we ever went jogging, I struggled to catch my breath after one trip around the block. Three years later, I ran a marathon, and I attribute a good chunk of this to having Cop as my number one running buddy. While he may require more bathroom breaks than your average running partner, he’s up for a jog in any weather, and he never complains about “having to run.”
- Things that are generally embarrassing to other people don’t matter to dogs. This includes taking pictures of yourself after long runs (above) and having to wear eye patches in public when you get random eye infections (below). Thanks, Cop, for never judging me.
- Sharing may not always be fun, but it’s unavoidable. Sometimes that other pit bull at the dog run wants your tennis ball. Sometimes you’ve got to move over to make room on the couch. Sometimes you have to share walk time , or, worse yet, share your human with another dog. These things might be annoying, but they aren’t worth fighting over.
- You can’t always be top dog. On the off chance that you *do* decide any of the aforementioned should be fought over, be prepared for the fact that eventually, you’re going to lose. This will result in your dog-cousin Shorty taking a bit out of
crimeyour thigh. Also, there are times in life that require grooming and/or wearing cones. Deal with it – it can’t last forever.
- Take joy in the simple things in life. Perhaps one of the greatest things about the canine outlook is that there are soooo many things that are the greatest. You’re home? This is the best day ever! We’re going for a walk? This is the best day ever! You’re feeding me? Seriously, THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER!
- It’s good to be missed. See that face below? It happens each time I walk out the door. It’s a bit heart wrenching, but you get used to it. (And really, someone’s got to go to work to bring home the kibble.) The flip side of the equation is the fact that every time I come home – whether I’ve been gone for two weeks or 30 seconds – Cop’s mile-a-minute tail wag lets me know much I’ve been missed.
- Life is better with a pup by your side. It’s not that I prefer canine company to humans. It’s that I know full well that life with Cop has made me a better human companion.
So, in honor of Cop’s belated birthday, I have a favor to ask of you – if you’re lucky enough to have a pooch by your side while reading this, give them a scratch behind the ears and thank them for what they give you. They may not understand the words, but they’ll know what you mean. And, tell me in a comment – what’s the number one lesson you’ve learned from your pup?