I had just arrived home from work. Kalista and I had plans to attend her school carnival that evening – the final day of a busy week that’d included multiple academic and social events and a cheerleading clinic that left me feeling busy since Sunday. To be honest, I just wanted to “get through” this carnival, go home and go to sleep.
I saw the ad on Facebook just as I sat down for the first time since 5:30 that morning. “Free to good home: 10-month-old chocolate lab … ”
All I needed to see. Whatever fatigue I was feeling disappeared as I frantically commented on the post before anyone else. I sounded pathetic, desperate – likely because I was – as I summarized why I needed this dog.
OUR FIRST COOPER DIED suddenly a few months ago. Kalista had been heartbroken. I had, too, as it happened to be at the same time I was going through a breakup. Things hadn’t seemed the same in the time since – the house was too quiet, my heart too calloused and the back yard free of poop land mines.
So I told the man giving away the dog on Facebook I wanted him for my daughter. I did, but that was about 80 percent of it. Twenty percent of me wanted the dog for myself. I just left that part out.
Regardless, as I later learned, something I said on Facebook and during our subsequent phone call told him we were the best for his beloved puppy – which was a good dog, just a little too rambunctious for his circumstances.
The decision was reaffirmed when we went to his house after the school carnival to get the lab and, low and behold, he was already named “Cooper.”
The revelation made Kalista gasp amid the excitement of multiple dogs coming up to greet her after she got out of the car. I hadn’t told her why we were there, just that she had a surprise when we arrived.
THE NEW COOPER seems like twice the size of our first Cooper. He’s literally 175 percent of the former’s body weight. This has led me to make a few adjustments when it comes time for bed or ride in the car. He triggers the seatbelt sensor in the front seat, so he has been riding in the back with Kalista to avoid constant dinging coming from the instrument panel while I drive. I also have to get re-used to noseprints on the windows.
Still, I already feel like we need him more than most families need a dog. Raising a child alone can be consuming and it does get tough to balance the responsibilities of home and work, but I still feel used to doing more. Now I have to run home on my lunch break every day to let Cooper out. Now I need to make sure I leave myself enough time in the morning to let him out, feed him and sit with him on the couch while I drink coffee. Now I need to remember his 8 p.m. treat time or he’ll wine and pace around nervously.
It’s as if I’m used to having two children and only one seems too easy. Way too easy.
Kalista, meanwhile, has already dubbed him her best friend – one who has filled a void left by these last few months. She has expanded the things that made her more self-sufficient and adaptable than most children her age. Cooper is her dog, not someone else’s, and she’s taken on the added responsibility around the house with a sense of pride that makes me pleased. If Cooper does not go with us wherever we go, the first thing she does after taking off her shoes is let him out of his crate and lead him to the back yard to pee.
“Look, Daddy,” she always says. “All I have to do is say ‘go potty’ and he goes instantly.”
I typically do the same thing, no matter where I’m at. It’s rather embarrassing in church and at Walmart.
ADD THIS TO ANOTHER lesson I’ve learned in life. You never feel renewed walking in a trail of footprints, but you can regain some happiness stepping in a few of them. All things happen for a reason. It is not our role to question why. Some aspects of a time can be good, though, and there’s nothing wrong with reliving them.
We often ask “why” when something bad happens. It’s almost instinctive. However, much rarely do we question anything good that transpires.
I’m not the type of guy who wins anything. Being a Bills fan has taught me anything I want in life will have to be acquired legitimately, usually through work and persistence. I do not play the lottery because I know I will not win. If I want a million dollars, I just have to set my mind to making it. If I want a dog, I have to go to the shelter or a breeder and buy one.
When someone posts something on Facebook, subsequently, I don’t respond no matter how much I want it because there always seems to be someone who knows the seller or has another kind of “leg up” that’ll make me the loser of any bid I make.
That’s why, reflecting on how Cooper came into our lives, I cannot help but consider the “why.” Something good happened – something really good to Kalista and me – and it’s amazing that it did. How could I not notice?
It’s a reminder that God controls all things. When times are tough, it brings a certain relief to know only He can make them go away. When times are good, it’s encouraging to remember He made them that way.
I wish I could remember his work at all times and not only when it’s convenient for me. I should really be more thankful.
I am thankful for our new Cooper.