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My gallant therapy dog Cooper, a Shepherd-Husky mix, and yours truly have been helping one another grow older ever since we adopted him from a Chesapeake, Ohio, couple who’d fished him and his sister out of a creek. Ungallant human types had pitched the 12-week-old pups into that creek to drown. The rescuing couple adopted the other pup, and named her Josie.

Cooper, meanwhile, has logged nine years of offering his tawny and white fur for ruffing at Huntington’s Hospice House on the Ohio River. And I have been privileged to accompany him and play second fiddle to his star status in those quarters.

The pandemic, of course, sidelined us (and other therapy dogs and minders) from that ministry. Now a very arthritic Cooper and his only slightly less arthritic “daddy” have aged out of that volunteer slot. We both miss it terribly.

I’m just back from refilling Cooper’s joint medication at Petco. And just a day ago I refilled one of two medications he takes for his congestive heart failure condition, which may one day soon enough prove fatal. His two meds are Furosemide and Enalapril.

Paula has added to Cooper’s med mix two powerful dietary supplements.

Cooper, at 14 ½, also struggles with a liver condition. His vet, Anna Scarberry at Guyan Animal Hospital on U.S. 60 East, has prescribed milk thistle for that. It all adds up to quite a chunk of change. Cooper is worth every cent of it.

Just why do I claim Cooper is so special? First and foremost, he’s a “people dog.” Cooper has never met a stranger. He’ll bark at you only if you’re new and lugging some odd kind of equipment, such as a plumber carrying his toolbox or a heating and air conditioning guy walking in with hoses and other parts.

Otherwise, you are immediately accepted and may reach down to pet him without even the ritual of letting him smell your fist.

Cooper is also great with children of all ages. At Hospice they have a kiddies’ play room, and if I took him there, two or three toddlers would start hanging all over Cooper’s back. He would not growl or even try to shake them off.

Next, Cooper is loyal to a fault. When I change rooms at home, he’s likely to follow. At night he sleeps on our bedroom rug on my side of the bed. Getting up at night for the bathroom I have to be careful not to trip over him.

If I’m fighting shoulder or leg itches and need to decamp to the living room sofa to prevent waking Paula with my twists and turns, Cooper will get up and follow me there. And when I’m away from home for a long spell, he will greet me enthusiastically as I open the door.

He and I walk about 1.5 miles a day in the neighborhood, among three or four different jaunts. Up and down hills too. Needed exercise for us both, joint challenged as we are.

The husky in Cooper nonetheless hears “the call of the wild.” With many prayers, we’ve gotten him back twice from his adventures, one a ten-day absence, the other an incredible four weeks away. Thanks to God and to kind strangers who helped get our beloved Cooper back to his loving home.

John Patrick Grace is celebrating a quarter century in the Huntington area. A former Associated Press reporter, editor and foreign correspondent, he now edits books and teaches the Life Writing Class.

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