I’m an accidental dog owner. Cooper found me six months ago in the woods of my writer’s residency in Georgia, when he was a starving, matted stray. I didn’t adopt him because I wanted a dog. I adopted him because he needed a home, and I knew what would happen to him if I didn’t. The other artists called him Lucky.
Now, six months later, I love him. Well, really I loved him as soon as we started driving home to New York from Georgia, when he stuck his head out the back window of the car and let the cold wind hit his face for so long that his eyes watered. Cooper’s a sweet dog.
But I’m preparing to move to D.C. And I can’t decide whether to bring him with me.
Do I want to bring him? Yes. But this problem is more complicated than what I want. Having Cooper in a city, while I’m working a full-time job and living (hopefully) by myself, would seriously cramp my lifestyle and my bank account. It might cramp Cooper’s, too. (His lifestyle, not his bank account — I haven’t become that kind of dog owner.)
My parents have offered to keep Cooper here in upstate New York. (I’ve been living with them for the last year while writing my book.) Their offer is mostly to help me, and I’d feel somewhat guilty leaving my responsibility with them, but that’s another story. Here, Cooper would have a big yard to play in, a house that he’s grown accustomed to and my parents, who love him almost as much as I do. This was my original plan when I brought Cooper home; I was hoping he’d become my parents’ dog, since their golden had died a few years earlier.
But Cooper hasn’t grown attached to my parents. He’s attached to me. He’s been at my hip since the day I first fed him at the artists’ residency. Apparently this is normal for rescued dogs, especially ones as old as Cooper; the vet guessed he’s at least 10. I’ve tried repeatedly to get him to bond with my parents. When I’m out, they try to lure him into the family room to watch television with them. But he just sleeps in my room, waiting for me to come home.
This dog has already been ditched (at least) once. I don’t want him to feel ditched again! Even if I leave him in my parents’ loving home. I keep imagining him waiting in my room for me after I’ve moved. Waiting… and waiting… and waiting…
But having Cooper in D.C. would be a big compromise for me. I won’t be working at home like I am now. I’d have to go home to take him out after work instead of going directly to the gym or happy hour. Journalism is not a nine-to-five job, which means I’d have to hire someone to take him out on days when I don’t leave work at a decent hour. (If I had a spouse to share this responsibility with, it might be easier. But it’s just me.) If I wanted to go away on a weekend, I’d have to find someone to take care of him.
It would also be expensive. I’m not talking about food or vet visits. I don’t believe in keeping a big dog in a tiny city apartment, so I’d need a place with a small backyard or a nearby park, which would be expensive. So expensive that I might have to get a roommate. And live far away from the city center, instead of the neighborhood of my choice. I’d need to bring my car — and pay for insurance and possibly a parking spot — instead of selling it, because you can’t transport a dog on the metro.
Essentially, I’d be giving up my me-focused lifestyle for my dog. Which is why I didn’t want a dog to begin with.
Of course, I also have to think about what’s good for Cooper. Is it better to leave him in this suburban neighborhood, not uproot him again, and risk him feeling like I abandoned him? Or should I bring him with me to a new place where he’ll always have to be on a leash but will have his “rescuer” at his side?
What might trump all of this is that I’m not sure I can bear to leave him. As inconvenient as it would be for me to have this dog in a city, I love him. Even as I’m typing this post, Cooper’s cracking me up, sticking his head into an empty bone box on the floor:
So that’s my dilemma. What’s better for me? And what’s better for Cooper? Should I bring him or leave him?
Y’all have followed the Cooper story since the day I brought him home. What do you think?