Short essays by Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., the author of TING AND I: A Memoir of Love, Courage and Devotion, published in September 2011 by Outskirts Press (Parker, CO, USA), available from outskirtspress.com/tingandi, Barnes and Noble [bn.com], and Amazon [amazon.com], in paperback or ebook formats. Please visit us at tingandi.com for more information.
Saturday, June 30, 2018
WHAT EVER HAPPENED...? "Happy and Angel"
a dog that I named “Happy.” She’s a 50-pound Puggle, a Pug-Beagle mix that I
rescued via the Dutchess County, NY, SPCA, which called her a “designer dog,”
as she is larger than your average Puggle. Happy had had other names from
owners before me, but I re-named her “Happy” because I needed to get back to
being happy myself. I figured that if I said that word over and over again,
maybe I would begin to feel happy.
heard recently on a rescued-dog TV show, I saved her life, but she saved mine,
too. I get so much comfort and love from her when I am upset. Happy is
incredibly in tune with me. She picks up on my tone of voice and jumps on my
lap when she hears me talking to someone on the phone who is upsetting me. My
50-pound “lap dog” won’t leave my lap until I calm down. Even when I am sitting
silently, she can sense if I’m having an upsetting thought, and she climbs up
on my lap to console me.
had dogs my entire life, but this dog is truly a blessing. I have a very
difficult time when I’m away from her. When I go out of town, each day I call
the kennels I leave her at every day that I am away, just to make sure she‘s
doing okay. I need to hear that she‘s well. I really don’t know what I’d do
without her. She was a present from God when I needed her most.
have written here somewhere, the latter half of 2009 and the early part of
2010, which was the first year after my brain surgery, I was “high on life.” I
wanted to adopt a dog then, but my doctors told me I wasn’t ready for that
responsibility quite yet. I still had a lot to learn about how to navigate my
life with the brain damage the tumor and the changes due to the operation had
So, I was told in both
2010 and then again in 2011, that I wasn’t prepared to care for an animal yet.
I was very disappointed, but I followed both of my doctors’ advice. But, in
2012, I was told I could start the process of adopting a dog.
One Sunday morning, as I
sat in church and wept quietly over one more thing that had offended me (yes,
that’s how some brain-injured react to offensive remarks), Aiden whispered to
me that he would take me to the Dutchess County SPCA right after church. I
stopped crying and then paid attention to the service.
So – off for the ride we
went. Though I don’t live near that place anymore, I’m attached to it, due to
my first dog adoption there, years before. As I walked around the outside of
the building, where some dogs were in cages, I looked at this one dog staring
at me. Almost as soon as I saw her, a male volunteer came up to us and asked if
we wanted to hear this dog’s story. We agreed, and here it is….
This female dog had lived
with a married couple. The husband, when he became intoxicated, would hit his
wife. This dog watched it more than once. But, one time when this drunk man
came home and smacked his wife, “This dog bit him in the balls.”
As soon as I heard that,
I said, “Let’s get the paperwork started. I want her!”
Originally, I had
intended to adopt a smaller dog, but this particular story struck a chord with
me. I knew I HAD to have this medium-sized dog.
I knew this was the pooch
for me because she had protected that woman. Because hard times fell on this
woman as she divorced that terrible man, she gave this doggie up for adoption.
After that, this same dog was supposed to be adopted by some man who got
transferred by his job to a faraway place, so he couldn’t keep her. And so,
that’s when I came into the picture.
This adorable dog had
heartworm, so she had to be cleared of that first. I had to fill out pages and
pages of paperwork to get approved. I can’t believe how much the system has
changed over the years, because it was easier long ago to adopt a pet. But –
now it’s a safer process for these little animals, and I didn’t mind.
It was official on
November 13, 2012, and so 11/13 has been celebrated as her “birthday” each year
ever since. When I met her, they thought she was three years old, so now she’s
approximately seven years old.
When we celebrated her
first year with me in 2013, I went with Happy to have our picture taken. Please
see how adorable my “Happy-girl” is in the pictures in this book. I love her so
much, and she’s most of the reason my bad behaviors have not led to worse
predicaments. She has calmed me down too many times to count.
Happy – I saved your
life, and you have saved mine!
I had before Happy was also rescued by me via the same organization. His name
there was Prince Charming, but I changed it to Angel because I knew it would be
a little weird if he ran away and my neighbors heard me outside calling, “Prince
Charming, Prince Charming, where are you?”
was a Collie mix, and I had him for many years. To this day, I still miss him
very much, and I have a hard time dealing with the guilt I feel about giving
him away at the end of his life because I could no longer help him.
developed kidney problems at the same time I developed the mysophobia from my
latent brain tumor. Cleaning my carpets was excruciating for me because I was
petrified about the germs left on my hands. I scrubbed over and over but never
could get anything that was soiled to become clean enough for me. The
mysophobia got so intense, I couldn’t even pet Angel anymore.
former boyfriend Jim helped me find someone who could take better care of my
dog than I could. That person cared for Angel until the end.
the veterinarian suggested Angel be put to sleep because he was so ill, Jim
took me to the house where Angel had been staying. I was literally shaking when
I bent over to say good-bye for the last time to my Angel. I told him how sorry
I was that I had no longer been able to be there for him. Little did I know
that it was a brain tumor that had caused this fear of touching my dog.
pictures of Angel around my home, and I try each day to get over the guilt. I
do that by loving Happy with lots of hugs and belly rubs!
As I write this, my
beloved dog, Happy, is undergoing surgery at the local animal hospital. I am
beside myself with fear. Though, as I write this, I am heavily medicated by my
prescribed controlled substance. I’m trying to remain calm. I’m not all that
When I adopted her in
November 2012 from the Dutchess County, NY, SPCA, she had a mole growing on her
right side. I was told then that it wasn’t cancer. The vet said he could remove
it before it grew bigger.
At the appointment before
the surgery, the vet discovered another growth underneath the one that is
visible. This is what has caused the most fear in me. I just pray that both
growths are not cancer and can be removed as easily as possible. He referred to
them as “fatty tumors.”
Every morning I begin my
day with books to read that help me make sense of my world now. My condo resembles
a mini-Barnes & Noble, with books stacked everywhere. A list of the books
that have helped me (and some that I have referenced or quoted throughout my
book) are listed in my book recommendations.
The chapter I opened up
this morning in the book Shades of Light:
A Spiritual Memoir: A Mother and Daughter’s Pathway to God, by Phyllis
Cochran, is entitled, “Fighting Fear.” What a perfect way to help me read how
another person made it through something too scary.
This is a heartfelt book
about a little girl named Susan who had a large brain tumor. Though I haven’t
completed the book as of today, I can’t express enough how this author’s choice
of words has helped me each morning since my friend Ilse tried to find this
book for me and then my editor finally did. [Because I couldn’t locate it after
I had heard of it.]
The author quotes the Bible throughout her book. This
particular chapter quotes Psalm 91:5,
“You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.” I’m
so afraid that my doggie will not make it through surgery. That’s why my
doctors told me to take my medicine (with supervision by Aiden) so I could stay
as calm as possible. I took it, but I also prayed, read the Bible, read Phyllis Cochran’s book and
others that help me to get by.
So, luckily, I just heard
that Happy survived her surgery. I will be eternally grateful to God for that.
Unfortunately, there were a few problems attached to the post-surgery period….
I had told the vet’s
staff ahead of time that I would be medicated when I came at 4 p.m. (their
assigned time) to pick her up. Aiden has to chauffeur me under these
circumstances (since I’m so medicated, I have trouble processing anything,
never mind driving). I obey the law diligently about not driving while
When I got there, the
staff spoke so quickly, I couldn’t comprehend them. There were multiple
directions to follow (“use a warm compress for this,” “give this med once a day
but this one twice,” etc.). I practically exploded because none of it was
written down (and my SHE dog kept being referred to as “he”).
I know all too well how
it is when you take a person home from a procedure: there can be pages of
printed directions. Here, there were none, and I was so out-of-it (remember – I
told them ahead of time that I would be), I was very bothered. Picking up a pet
after surgery should be treated similarly to picking up a human being. I left
there very upset and scared to death that I would make a mistake, even though
they hurriedly produced a full page of handwritten directions.
[As a sidebar here – when
I went to back to this vet to have Happy examined five days after her surgery,
I calmly told the vet my suggestion – to have printed out the various
responsibilities when you take your beloved animal home with you after any
surgery. The vet responded with, “We’ll work on that.”]
I assumed that once Happy
was back home, the hard part was over. Actually – it was WAY harder than I
expected! Trying to get her to keep that cone around her neck so she wouldn’t
lick her draining tubes or bite at the 19 staples on her right side was very
Aiden sat with her when I
had to go to other appointments. This craziness lasted for two weeks, because
that’s how long the staples were in her. I canceled many plans I had (even not
going to a play) so I could be near Happy as much as possible because I was so
worried about her. She looked at me with the saddest eyes every time I had to
put that cone on her neck or wrap the sweater around her for a walk outside.
Though I’ve never had children of my own, I turned into “mommy” for all of
We went back to the vet
to have the staples removed two weeks later. I thought Happy would throw a
party for herself, if she could, the day that cone didn’t have to go around her
neck at bedtime or car rides (since I can’t keep an eye on her). I know I
sighed with relief when my doggie was back to her old self.
As I have stated here, I
have a ton of signs around my condo. The day I move out, I will be spending
quite a bit of time plastering up the walls. But, for now, I enjoy reading and
rereading these carefully selected signs. Here are some of my favorites that
are related to pet ownership [and my opinions added on]:
therapist has a wet nose
want to be the person my dog thinks I am
dog doesn’t think I’m crazy [Though some people do.]
house is maintained entirely for the comfort and convenience of the dog
happens! Just pick it up and move on [It’s very difficult to move on
welcome – people tolerated
friendly – beware of owner
laugh with their tails
had me at woof
love dogs – it’s humans that annoy me
your blessings in dog years
is better when shared with a dog [How true!]
dog and his housekeeping staff live here
you need is love… and a dog
best things in life are rescued
head of the house is the one with the tail
is… being owned by a dog
saved who? Home of a loyal and very special rescued dog
is my favorite breed
of dog kisses
leave paw prints on your heart…and on your floor
you slow down, you can catch your tail
is me and my dog
best friend has four legs
is where you meet all the dogs you ever loved
to the paw!
is where your dog is
house is not a home without a dog
welcome home doggie dance performed here
pets go to heaven
more I get to know some people, the more I love my dog [Amen!]
happens. Remain pawsitive
breeds have pure hearts
day God made dogs, He just sat down and smiled!
all fun and games...until someone ends up in a cone.
calm and woof on
old life is over. My new life is beginning.” [Not a sign, but a quote from Lucky Dog, CBS-TV, 5/28/16.]
have left my life, but you will never leave my heart. [This is a frame holding
a picture of my Angel.]
Once again (like months earlier this year), I'm writing as
my dog Happy is under anesthesia at the same vet's office. This time, she's
there for shots, tartar removal, and some kind of tooth repair.
told me at 7:30 a.m., when I dropped her off, that I would get a call from them
when it was over and after that, I was supposed to call them at noon. I didn't
hear from them all morning.
I was not
able to take my meds to calm down because I have a chiropractic appointment
today. I'm still in the back brace, and so I have to be able to drive, since
Aiden was expecting help with construction at his house and thus couldn't drive
literally shaking as I scribble this down because when I called at noon, the
vet’s staff said Happy was still having surgery. They gave me no other
information, and I forgot to ask for more.
don't live by the motto, “no news is good news.” I'm WAY too negative for that!
I'm assuming the worst every minute the clock ticks because no one has called
to tell me anything.
So, I called
again less than an hour later because I couldn't wait one more second. The
woman in the office said that Happy is okay, but still with the vet. He had to
remove two teeth, and that's why this is taking so much longer than expected.
So, Aiden was
able to come over to try to calm me down when he ended up having time. He hates
when I take my meds for calmness, so he just stayed with me and drove me to my
Right in the
middle of my session with the wonderful Judith Dougan working her hands on my
very-stressed-out back, they called me to tell me how Happy had fared. Judy is
such an excellent chiropractor because she just patiently waited as the vet
went over everything with me (which meant I was on my cell for at least three
minutes of Judy’s time). Happy’s time at the vet’s went much longer than
expected because two teeth had to be removed. I was so relieved to hear she was
okay. After I hung up, some of the stress in my back went away….
I went with
Aiden to pick up my very-medicated “Happy-girl.” I thanked the vet, the staff,
Aiden, and God for the healthy return of my best friend.
told that I worry too much about my dog. This sentence infuriates me. I know
there are folks who don't have pets, but if you do, you know how attached pet
owners can become.
Once, I heard
someone negatively comment about animals and pets right after I had overheard
her describing her enjoyment of ironing sheets and towels. Boy, did I bite my
tongue that day. Ironing “trumps” pets. Wow! She and I have been only
acquaintances, and after hearing that, I definitely realized how different we
all can be. So, she went home to iron (oh, so much fun), and I went home to
cuddle with my Happy. I'll always be of the opinion that I had more fun than
A friend from
my church sent me a card once with important advice from a dog: unleash your
talents. Thanks, Jeanne!
Shaw, a little girl from my church, was ten years old, she waspetting a therapy dog that attends our church
regularly with its owners. Isabella and I struck up a conversation before our
service began one Sunday as we both played with the dog. I could tell she loves
doggies as much as I do, so I asked her to write something for my book. Here it
is (way to go, girl!):
They give you: company, happiness, love. You get to play with the
dog, love on the dog.
To take care of the dog, you need to play with it, walk or
exercise it, give it food and water, toys to play with.
Services they do for you: seeing-eye dogs, police dogs, therapy
dogs, herding dogs, hunting dogs, bomb-detecting dogs.
So – I want to end this
chapter telling all the dogs I’ve had in my entire life to rest in peace:
Tuffy, Sandy, Tara, and Angel – you are all sorely missed. I think of you
nowadays since I have my Happy still alive and well. Dogs are like family
members. I’m sure all of them are having a good ole time up there in doggie
For the coming year, I [Douglas Winslow Cooper] will be
excerpting, weekly, material from this almost-final version of the fine book by Janet Johnson Schliff, M.S. Ed., which she wrote over a three-year period with some coaching and editing help from me, through my business, Write Your Book with Me.
Janet Johnson Schliff was on WKNY Radio 1490 at 9:10 a.m. on Thursday, March 1, Kingston, NY.
Janet spoke at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 3 at Barnes & Noble in Kingston, NY. I [DWC] attended, along with about 40 other people. Congratulations to Janet on a fine talk! Janet Johnson Schliff spoke at the Starr Library in Rhinebeck, NY, at 7 p.m. on March 6.
She spoke at the Golden Notebook Bookstore in Woodstock, NY, at 2 p.m. on March 17.
She spoke at the Morton Library in Rhinecliff, NY, at 6:30 p.m. on March 28.
She spoke at RCAL in Kingston, NY, at 4 p.m. on April 3. I was able to attend. They gave her an impromptu book-launch party.
On 4/4/18 Janet spoke at the Parkinson's Support Group at the Starr Library at Rhinebeck at 2:30 p.m.
On 4/27/18 Janet spoke at the Stone Ridge Library at 5:30 p.m.
On 5/4/18 Janet spoke at the Hurley Library at 6 p.m.
On 5/9/18 Janet spoke at the Kingston Library at 6 p.m.
On 5/14/18 Janet spoke at the Staatsburg Library at 7 p.m.
On 5/31/18 Janet spoke at the Clinton Community Library at 6:30 p.m.
On 6/9/18 Janet spoke at the Tannersville Mountain Top Library at noon. On 6/11/18 Janet spoke at the Gardiner Library at 7 p.m.
On 6/20/18 Janet spoke at the Marbletown Community Center at 6 p.m.
On 7/13/18 Janet will be at the Esopus Library at 7 p.m. On 7/20/18 Janet will be at the Pine Plains Library at 6 p.m.
On 7/23/18 Janet will be at the Ulster Library at 5:30 p.m.
On 8/11/18 Janet will be at the Northern Dutchess Bible Church in Red Hook at 1:00 p.m.
On 9/06/18 Janet will be at the Inquiring Minds Bookstore in New Paltz at 7 p.m.
On 9/22/18 Janet will again be at the Tannersville Mountain Top Library, at noon.
More signings will be coming up. A fine feature about Janet by John DeSantos [845 LIFE] appeared in the Middletown Times Herald-Record on Monday, March 12, as part of Brain Injury Awareness Month. An article about her book was just published in the May 2018 Living Rhinebeck Magazine. An article about her book appeared in the May 14 Daily Freeman of Kingston, NY. and another in the Family Life section of the Poughkeepsie Journal on June 8th.