A Good Dog Story, Because We Could All Use One Right Now
This is a story about a good dog. A lake dog, to be specific.
His name was Cooper. I introduced the world to him back in 2016 after a family trip to Great Bear Lake in Michigan. We rented a place on the lake and soon met a friendly, wet, muddy golden-Labrador-ish canine who was, to put it mildly, a real presence.
He would show up unannounced, indulge a quick scratch behind the ear or pat on the head then swiftly run into the lake and launch what can best be described as a frontal assault on the water. Paws slapping, mouth chomping and barking — it was a mix of glee and outrage, like he was delighted to see the water while also seeking revenge because the water had killed his family.
The aquatic display was initially jarring, but after a couple of times, it was just Cooper. We looked forward to it, and laughed hysterically each time.
One day we took a canoe out and Cooper swam behind us more than halfway across the lake. We worried he was going to get exhausted and drown, leaving us responsible for the death of a beloved Great Bear Lake celebrity. But he just paddled off to a different shore to chase some birds. He came back by the house later that day to check in and commit unspeakable acts of violence on the water near our dock.
I never figured out who Cooper belonged to — it’s possible “who belonged to Cooper” is more appropriate phrasing — but I came back to Chicago and wrote a workplace-advice column about him, holding the dog’s lake life up as the pinnacle of “enjoying your work.”
That was almost five years ago, and Cooper’s name still comes up regularly around our house. Like all good dogs, he comes back, if not physically then at least in memories.
Earlier this week I got an email from Chris Loher, the son of Cooper’s owner. Turns out the column I wrote found its way to Chris’s dad, Terry Loher, shortly after it published. A neighbor had it framed and Terry hung it on a wall in his house next to a picture of Cooper.
If you caught the past tense I used earlier in this piece, you probably know where this is all heading. Chris wrote: “I received a call last week from Dad that Cooper wasn’t doing so good and had been to the vet a few times because he had lost his drive to even chase a ball. If you know Cooper, you know it’s serious if he’s not chasing a ball. Unfortunately this morning I received another call from Dad again and he had to put Cooper down on Saturday.”
I forgot to mention Cooper would chase anything you threw into the lake and get it and then, using his eyes, plead desperately for you to throw the thing into the lake approximately 543,000 more times.