By Merisa Sherman
He was just a pup when he went on his first adventure, his tiny little body no bigger than my dad’s ski boots. Little Coopie was fascinated, getting himself stuck underneath the heel of my dad’s boot. They learned to ski uphill together, my dad and his dog. Together, they figured out skins don’t only stick to the bottoms of skis but also to dog fur. It was silly to watch the two of them exploring this new mode of transportation, while my dog Vespi and I kept our distance.
That was the first of many adventures for this powder puppy. In those early days, Coop followed Vespi everywhere she would tolerate. For a dog, he had the biggest fear of missing out that I have ever seen. He would hold Vespi’s leash so he would be sure to go wherever she was going.
He had to sniff everything, explore everything … and be covered in all the mud possible. Coop didn’t want to miss a moment of his Vermont Life.
Coop wasn’t even 4 months old when he experienced his first powder day. He still smelled like wood chips. Vespi, Coop and I had skinned up in the dark before the lifts opened and we decided to ski down through the woods. When Vespi and I looked back up the hill from the bottom, we couldn’t see Coopie at all. All we could see was something that looked like a groundhog burrowing underneath the powder. We looked at each other in astonishment as Coop came flying out of the woods and onto the trail. The puppy’s first powder experience was an entire run of over the head powder. Not face shots, just constant powder. Coop was hooked.
In the summer, Coop’s ridiculous fear of seaweed had him collecting rocks in the many local streams. He would dive his face into the water, searching with his paws for that perfectly shiny rock amidst the dull ones. If you ever walked the Killington Golf Course in the spring or fall and saw rocks along the cart path — those were Coopie’s rocks. The look of pride on his face when he would bring you over another rock for his collection was priceless and even last week he was still collecting them — even if he had to ask me to actually take it out of the water for him because he was too weak to pick it up. Because our handsome man, affectionately known as Coopie Poopie Head due to the size of his poops, was diagnosed with kidney failure on the Fourth of July. Not even 11 years old, this loveable golden retriever who never grew up now sat quietly on the shore of the roaring brook just watching the water. Overnight, he became an old man. But he made sure that he got to the river, greeting me at the front door. But he had less and less energy each day and I would be forced to carry him up the hill to go home.
Coop never gave up his love of living here and the freedom that he had. He visited his friends at Furry Child Day Care and somehow still managed to get the tennis ball away from the younger pups. And then afterwards, Coop refused to get into the car and go back home. He had to show me where they would go for their puppy hikes, he had to check his favorite muddy spot one last time.
Less than a week and hours at the riverside later, he was gone. That silly dog who could eat whole bagels in a single bite, the most stubborn dog who would refuse to take only one run on Superstar or Rime early and late season. That typical alpha male that made sure everyone was playing together as a team. A dog who was raised to go on adventures but ended up being my dad’s caregiver during his cancer treatments and then my mom’s companion. A dog who chased a bear away from a little girl and was renamed Coopie Hero Head. A silly puppy who just wanted to be a part of everything and anything — all you had to do was put one finger on his head and he would be the goodest boy ever.
Vermont dogs have the best life. They hike, they swim, they ski and they bike and only rarely does a leash come out. They go everywhere with us and they become our family right for that first puppy cuddle. They are not confined to parks, but have the Green Mountains as their playground. Life is sweeter when traveled with a dog, but it only makes the heartache that much worse. But I wouldn’t want to be a dog anywhere else. Vermont dogs have the best life.
I’ll miss you, Coop. Say hi to Vespi for me.