Cooper has been nominated for this year’s American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards. Please consider voting for him here. You can vote once per day.
If you were to see Cooper the Pit Bull with children, you’d have no idea of the trauma he endured at the hands of his former owner. The little white and tan therapy dog can sense when a person needs comfort, and without hesitation, he rushes over to them, gently resting his body on theirs.
Cooper can empathize with children and adults with special needs because he has gone through hell and come out the other side. In June of 2014, he arrived at Southgate Veterinarian Clinic in Thomasville, NC with his nails and even some toes torn off, the flesh on his legs ripped apart to reveal the bones beneath.
Cooper’s abuser, who has to this day not been identified or found, likely tied him to the back of a truck and proceeded to drag him over a long distance. Not only the skin but also the bone itself had been eroded over the course of the merciless ride.
With support from the Davidson County Animal Shelter in partnership with Ginger’s Fund, a non-profit devoted to saving the lives of animal abuse survivors, Cooper spent five long months in intensive care. Courtney O’Neill, a Maryland-based nurse and rescue advocate, followed his journey with bated breath, sending donations and care packages in hope that doctors would be able to save Cooper’s life.
In October, Courtney made the five-plus hour journey to pick Cooper up and bring him into her home. The staff at Ginger’s Fund wept as the dog made his way on three legs into her lap, and settled there, as if he finally understood he was safe.
After the trip home, Cooper was understandably drained and tired, but within minutes, he settled onto the couch with her dog Sam. “He knew he belonged,” reports Courtney, adding that Sam tended to Cooper’s still-healing wounds, licking first his eyes and ears and then his injured leg. Courtney made booties and braces and other items to facilitate Cooper’s recovery, and slowly but surely, he gained the energy to play and go for fun runs.
Cooper has a submissive personality, as is common with abuse survivors, but after about six months, his vibrant and unbreakable spirit shone through. One sunny day, Courtney was visiting her local fitness center’s childcare area when dozens of children stopped their lunch and rushed out to greet the dog.
In that moment, she says:
“Cooper was in heaven. He’s like a magnet for children.”
Cooper passed his therapy training certifications and received his American Kennel Club Good Citizen Award with ease and grace, and these days he and Courtney can be found at the local library, reading with kids. He is a member of the KPETS team of therapy animals, and he works with everyone from assisted living residents to college students.
At the library, the children always ask about when Cooper is coming to visit. He gets just as excited as they do, and when he sees someone who needs his attention, he begins to shake with enthusiasm, peering up at them with tenderness and understanding.
Courtney remembers one time when Cooper dashed over to visit a girl with Asperger’s Syndrome. She was non-verbal, and her mother spoke no English. Still, Cooper plopped down next to her until Courtney joined them with a copy of Good Dog, Carl.
At first, both the mother and child were fearful of the dog, but slowly the little girl edged closer to Cooper and stroked his soft white fur as Courtney turned the pages of the book. Cooper, Courtney, the mother, and the child stayed there for two hours as the rest of the visitors filtered out, and when they got up to leave, the mother simply embraced Courtney in thanks.
This is what Cooper is meant to do, and Courtney credits him with making her the best person she can be. It took a dog to show her the depth of her own humanity, and for this dog, and all the people who rallied to save him, she will be forever grateful. Mankind, she admits, has the capacity for great evil, but we also have the power for inestimable kindness and love.
You can follow Cooper’s journey at Super Cooper- the dog with nine lives on Facebook, where Courtney also spreads awareness about other dogs in similar situations who need our help. Please also consider donating to Ginger’s Fund, without whom Cooper might not be alive today.
Featured image via Super Cooper – the dog with nine lives/Facebook