Give me a loyal pup and a handful of people and there isn’t much else I need. Other than dog food. And a decent cup of coffee.
Sixteen years ago, I received a photo of a palm-sized black fluffball with a white star on his chest. Born in Belize, he was the love product of a one-year-old male Havanese and a nine-month-old female Havanese. Their owners happened to travel a lot and delayed a critical appointment for momma-pup. Swept off her paws by her amorous boyfriend while the supervising adults were away, she soon found herself in trouble.
And so, an adorable Havanese puppy was born March 2006. My sister-in-law’s husband insisted they had more than enough dogs. He must have said it with a degree of certainty because after staging the perfect marketing photo on a white, sandy beach, she asked if I was interested. An inane question. At the time, there was just one obstacle between me and my newest love. And so, I begged. Then, I hinted to my teenaged daughters to beg. A month later, I was driving home from the airport with the little fluffball on my lap.
We all fell in love. Did you know that the Havanese is among the smartest of small-dog breeds? We named him Cooper. I swear he was potty-trained within two days. He’s brilliant. Now, at 16, he is vision-challenged, nearly-deaf, missing a few teeth, and struggles to remember the way back to the house in my small yard.
Still, he is the love of God incarnate to me and my daughters.
This accidental little dog has cared for us well every day of the past sixteen years. Coop has modeled grace. When an estranged husband walked through the door after several weeks away, Cooper loved him anyway, dissolving into a pile of squeals as if no time had passed. Cooper has taught us devotion. When tears spilled over and nights were long, Coop gently kissed the tips of our noses and snuggled close into the curve of our bellies as we fell asleep. He has been with us in the dark, and he has celebrated our rising into the light. He has wagged his black plume of a tail and cheered us on, no matter the day.
Loved ones have come and gone. Graduation open houses, marriages, and baby showers have occurred. The girls have moved out, back in, and out again. A spouse has left. A matriarch has gone to glory. New family members have arrived. We have moved to new homes and cities, and still the fluffy pup winsomely lifts his hopeful gaze, wags his fluffy tail, and dances whenever the door opens.
This week was his sixteenth birthday. His eyes are cloudy, and his joints ache. And still, he rejoices in us. How good is God to give us such a gift?
Jill English is an avid encourager of humans and lover of words. She is most at home out-of-doors, and in particular, while walking any beach. Her most magical moments involve being Grammy to two remarkable grandchildren, and Mom to their lucky parents. As a discerner of call in higher theological education, her favorite conversations involve connecting the sacred dots of everyday life and faith. Jill lives in Grand Rapids, MI with two small, elderly pups.