Cooper was destined to come home with me before I ever met him. After awakening from a dream in which I had gone to the local SPCA to adopt a second dog, I told my boyfriend, DJ, that we had to do exactly that. He convinced me that I was crazy - "You travel too much." "You can't afford it." "Sasha will be jealous." (Sasha was my 10 year old Rottweiler who passed away last year.) I accepted the reality of his words and opted to enjoy the beautiful day and my first weekend home all month by taking a walk along historic Magazine Street in New Orleans instead of fulfilling my doggie dreams.

Not long after we began our walk, we came upon Petcetera, a local Pet Boutique in New Orleans, and the nice folks from St. Frances Animal Sanctuary clustered outside. My puppy radar went off as soon as I saw the metal grate that appeared to be filled with small animals. I ran across the street, remembering my dream the whole time. Cooper (or Tommy as he was called then) immediately caught my eye. I reached out to pick him up and he couldn't have been happier to accommodate me. Having been bottle fed since he was 1 week old as a result of his mother's untimely death, he was used to being held and handled. He simply sat in my arms, only moving to give me the occasional kiss on the face. I was hooked! His Jack Russell smarts showed early on when he leaned over to kiss DJ too, thus creating an ally that has lasted to this day. After learning more about the first 2 1/2 months of his life, about the likelihood of his Jack Russell and Golden Retriever roots and many more puppy kisses, I filled out the paperwork and welcomed the newest member of the family home.

One of my primary concerns at first was to make sure he got along with Sasha, the self-crowned Queen of the house. Cooper seemed to be calm, submissive and pensive so I thought he would be the perfect companion for her dominant attitude. In fact, "Cooper" was picked as a name because he was cute and little like the "Mini-Cooper" car and because he seemed to have the quiet thoughtfulness of Gary Cooper in the old Western movies. Well, they got along well from the start but the sweet submissive puppy who was the reserved one of his litter quickly asserted the other side of his breeding - the Jack Russell Terror! He would often go into wild runs of abandon through the house, jumping over furniture, running under tables and kidnapping anything that crossed his path. He wanted to lick Sasha constantly - which proved quite annoying to her. He preferred the Senior Feast to his rich, yummy puppy food which Sasha was all to eager to finish for him. Whatever toy Sasha selected, Cooper decided he must have it - and since he didn't feel the slightest bit intimidated by her at 3 times his size, he proceeded to try to take the object of his momentary affection from her and a vocal tug-of-war match would ensue. Cooper soon decided to nip at Sasha's legs - which went over about as well as the licking. My house had quickly become a war zone but I adjusted and realized that watching the two of them was better than cable TV! Not to mention, Sasha was more active and more playful than I had seen her in a couple of years.

Cooper also made it clear early on that whatever crate training he may have learned at the shelter was a faint memory so we?d better make room in the bed - preferably so he can put his head on the pillow between DJ and I. So I made room in the bed, mastered potty training principles, joined a local doggie daycare, came up with tricks to get them to eat their own food and in the process, overcame all the "realities" that had kept me from taking this step sooner. Yes I may have doubled my pet budget to accommodate the pitter patter of four new paws and lost a few nights of sleep but it all seemed to work out okay in the end. Cooper quickly became the King to Sasha's Queen and they ruled happily together. He entertained us with his penchant for dirty laundry and his insistence on carrying a lacy thong panty around the house with him. He also tried to share with us his desire to write by commandeering every pen and pencil he could find. And DJ became so attached to Cooper that he was ashamed to admit that he tried to talk me out of adopting him.

It?s now been two years since Cooper was welcomed into the family. In that time, we?ve been through a lot together. I know I couldn?t have made it through Sasha?s death in February of 2005 without Cooper around to help pull me out of my sadness. And Cooper was right by my side throughout the evacuation from New Orleans the day before Hurricane Katrina and our subsequent moves to Birmingham, AL and then Key West, FL, where we remain to this day. While I may still be adjusting to the Island Lifestyle ? Cooper is already an Island Dog. He loves to swim in the surf at Dog Beach, and enjoys his ?walkabouts? with DJ from one end of the Island to the other. He?s outgrown much of his puppy mischievousness, but he still has retained that adorable puppy face that makes you want to hug him whenever you see him. This face, along with his warm demeanor prevent him from ever meeting a stranger. I feel sad whenever I think of his mother dying and him being separated from his littermates but I know I couldn?t part with him ? and I don't think he'd ask to go back if he could talk. (Correction ? if I could understand!) I won't jump to the conclusion that my dream on the day we met suggests any psychic powers on my part - just that someone out there knew that I needed Cooper to become part of my life, regardless of how impractical it seemed at the time. Cooper does what so many rescued mix-breeds like him do every day - bring joy and love and impracticality to those lucky enough to take them home.