Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cooper can have my cake -- and my love, too

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It happens all the time.

I'll be innocently wandering around at a football game, a concert, in the mall or at the grocery store when, suddenly and without warning, someone will shout at me.

They always shout the same thing, namely: "HEY, DOUG, HOW'S COOPER?"

It is always a guy, a big dorky grin on his face, doing the shouting.

For the record, Cooper is our main dog, a long-eared, bleary-eyed, drooling, sandbag-shaped basset hound with a brain the size of a walnut and an appetite that makes a great white shark seem like a finicky preschooler.

Women tend to prefer our secondary dogs -- Zoe, a long-haired miniature wiener dog, and Mr. X, a tangle of white fur I assumed was some sort of experimental sheep but have recently learned is, in fact, something called a maltichon, a cross between a Maltese and a Bichon Frise.

I personally believe women are drawn to small, furry dogs like these because, along with making excellent pets, they can also be used as makeup applicators or throw pillows.

But, as I alluded to earlier, guys of my particular gender are drawn to Cooper. This is because Cooper is a guy's guy.

Cooper is a master of all the main guy activities -- remaining motionless on a couch for long periods of time, passing gas on a moment's notice, coupled with the unique male ability to stare into the middle distance while simultaneously thinking about absolutely nothing.

But Cooper's real gift is tracking down food. To the untrained eye, he can be splayed on a couch, giving every indication of being dead, when, two rooms away, someone will rip open a bag of potato chips, a sound that activates Cooper's primitive lizard brain and causes him to spring into action.

This is amazing, considering not too long ago Cooper was paralyzed with arthritis and could only move around with the aid of a doggy wheelchair or a member of our family waddling behind him and using a towel as a sling to support his barely functioning hindquarters.

The good news is he's able to move around on his own now, although he resembles a semi-trailer on an icy highway, his rogue rear end sliding around out of control.

The bad news is he maintains the ability to knock a garbage container off its protective perch on top of the kitchen table, eat what he pleases, then strew the rest around the house, making it appear we've been ransacked by trash-eating vandals.

Which brings us to last week when, just for fun, I decided to turn 56 and my wife, She Who Must Not Be Named, brought home a delicious banana-flavoured birthday cake to mark the occasion. The cake was placed in the fridge for what we assumed was safekeeping.

Not long after, my wife, shrieking with blind rage, burst into our bedroom, her hands wrapped around a now-empty cardboard box with a smattering of crumbs and globs of banana-flavoured icing sticking to its mangled sides.

"LOOK WHAT YOUR (VERY BAD WORD) DOG DID?" my wife bellowed, visibly outraged at the pastry's demise.

I personally was impressed he'd managed to open the fridge while operating in stealth mode. For appearances sake, however, I scowled at Cooper, but then we curled up on the couch and spent a few hours watching TV.

The point is, though my wife will disagree, Cooper is doing just fine. He's working through some behavioural issues and he emits the fragrant aroma of garbage, but underneath it all there's a good heart. And just the smallest hint of bananas.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 1, 2012 A2

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