Today marks your estimated 2nd birthday. The other two occasions I’ve spent with you (your first birthday, and your adopt-aversary) were special, but this birthday tugs at my heart strings a little more.
You’ve been there with me through broken friendships, failed romantic relationships, a cross-country move, and an (almost) tragic car wreck. Even before all of that, you overcame struggles being born into a hoarding house and atrocious conditions. After the humane society rescued you, I came along, a first-time dog owner who had no clue how to raise a puppy. However, your gentle nature and soulful eyes were just what I needed during a time in my life where I was fighting to soften my hardened heart.
The day of the accident changed your and I’s relationship forever. I remember holding my breath as the truck was rolling, never thinking to look over to see you. The truth is, I don’t know when you were ejected from the truck, or if you jumped out when we stopped rolling. What I do know is that I’ve never felt a deeper panic than I did when I looked in the seat next to me and you weren’t there. It took me 5 seconds to slip out of my seat belt since I was already hanging out of the truck because my door was ripped off. I ran across the street without looking for other cars and spotted a flash of white.
It was you. I was screaming your name at the top of my lungs, but you were so scared that you just kept running. I ran after you as long as I could, until I collapsed from my injuries. A stranger who had stopped, picked me up, all I remember is she was a woman with red hair. I asked her to run after you, that’s the only thing I could say “please go get my dog”, “where’s my dog”. She asked if I was injured and I just kept saying “someone needs to go get my dog”. She finally told me someone went to go look for him so I would calm down. They put me in the ambulance and as I started to lose consciousness, I couldn’t stop thinking about where you were.
You were the only thing I could think about, I couldn’t stop crying at the hospital and my story made every nurse I came in contact with cry and pray. After being released, I insisted on coming to look for you. I was high as a kite on pain meds but I had to go look for you. They made me get back in the truck and go home. By this time, people who love you had stepped in when I couldn’t.
After being admitted to the hospital again, the only thing I wanted to do was to come find you. But a group of loved ones and strangers stepped up. Cooper you had complete strangers looking for you because that’s how special you are. You had people in other states calling lists of local vets and rescues and fielding this whole process. I was monitoring the Facebook feed from Central Texas Lost & Found Pets, when someone said they had spotted you. The fact that someone had seen you alive made my heart jump, I know because I was hooked up to machines in a hospital bed. A stranger immediately went out to go look for you to no avail. But at least I knew you were still alive.
I was released from the hospital at 10pm that night, and didn’t sleep at all. After morphine, muscle relaxers, and who’s knows what other meds, I spent that night in a half-awake haze and I cried because that was the first night since I’d had you that I didn’t know if you were safe. I awoke needing to get out to look for you, but no one would take me. My brain was hazy and my body hurt but when I got that call, I felt nothing but total clarity. I had laser focus and nothing was going to stop me from finding you.
You had been seen and someone was coming to get me so I could come get you. I’ve never felt to relieved in my entire life. You didn’t know it, but I was coming for you, no matter what I had to do. I didn’t even have time to put on a bra or grab a hair tie. I was chilly and misty and I hadn’t even eaten breakfast. I grabbed the first clothes I could find and jumped in our friend’s car because damnit, I had to come bring my boy home.
God only knows how you ended up on that Army base. God only knows how I was able to find someone that let me onto the base. And it was a miracle that so many people on base showed up to chase after you. You were panicked and didn’t even hear me screaming for you. I was trying to get you to focus on me but you were out of your mind with fear. You ran right past me and that was the first time I heard a scream escape my throat that I didn’t recognize. That wasn’t me, it was pure guttural pain and panic that came out of my mouth, and it terrified me. I collapsed and cried when someone picked me up and put me in a truck to drive after you. I needed a few minutes to physically recover since I had been chasing you for at least 30 minutes, so we followed you in the truck. You probably thought you were in trouble or that we were going to hurt you, you were so scared.
All of a sudden you ran over a little hill and I got out of the truck to chase you again. I scanned the area and then looked down, you had jumped into a water reservoir and started swimming. I panicked because you’d only never been swimming once, and you weren’t very good at it. I ripped off my vest and was going to jump in when the woman I was with told me “NO!”. She told me to wait for you at the other side of the reservoir. This was a big moment Coop. Once it was only me at the other side, your eyes locked in with mine and when I called your name, your ears perked up unevenly (like they always do), and I knew you knew. Mom was here to save you.
You were laser-focused and swam harder towards me. Then I realized you couldn’t get out, you couldn’t get traction on the hard and steep plastic banks. I went in without a second thought, I grabbed onto you and screamed “HELP”. This was the second time I heard a voice that wasn’t mine. It was coming out of my mouth but the terror and panic in that voice was foreign to me, it would haunt my dreams for months to come. I screamed and I cried until I realized that that woman was standing at the bank telling me to calm down and that she called for help. You were cold and shaking, and I could feel all of your ribs from you being dehydrated and hungry but I had you in my arms and I wasn’t going to let go.
There were a couple of times I lost my footing, and your shaking body tried to give out but I just kept telling you “it’s OK” and you held on. You even wagged your tail and licked my face in that cold, dirty water. You are a fighter Coop, you always have been. The fire trucks and fire fighter’s showed up to pull us out and that’s when I finally looked up. There was a team of about 20 people who had showed up to chase you down. I broke down right then and there. They pulled you out first, and me out second. We sat in the fire truck and I cried. I couldn’t stop saying “thank you”, I was so overcome with emotions that I was completely out of control and you were just exhausted.
Everyone cried, your story touched an exponential amount of people. Once I got you home, I fed you and gave you a bath and cuddled you while you slept. This was the first time you let me cuddle you while you slept for a solid 2 hours. I just couldn’t let go of you. Your story even caught local news attention because of total strangers (who I’ll never be able to thank enough) who helped me find you.
You never really had dreams before the accident, and now sometimes they’re violent. You growl and run and even bark sometimes. Maybe it’s me being paranoid but I always wake you up and snuggle with you, just in case you’re dreaming of being chased by coyotes or almost getting hit by a car. Sometimes you even look up at me and snuggle in closer, like you know I’ll always be there to save you (I will).
But Cooper, it wasn’t just your rescue that brought us closer. The amount of joy you have after such a traumatic event has inspired me. It has shown me every single day that no matter what crazy shit you’ve gone through, no matter how much you have fought in life and survived, that joy is always an option.
You are not scared or shy. You are sociable and trusting and delight in simply chasing a tennis ball. You obey and always do as I ask, and you’ve taught me more about love and life than most people learn in a lifetime. Even when you are nervous, you look at me and when I say “it’s ok”, you instantly calm down and smile again. I am a better person because you trust me that deeply and I owe you every loving and authentic moment of your life.
I have no shame in writing this letter to you, Cooper James, because you represent every great part of me. I aspire to be the person you think I am every damn day, I owe you that. Because of you I am better, and I’ll never be able to thank you enough for it.
Happy Birthday, Cooper James.
Your Dog Mom