Pupper West Side: Erika and Cooper Promote Doggy Volunteerism


Erika (right) volunteers with The Good Dog Foundation and Cooper (left) is a rescue from Arkansas.

By A. Campbell

Name: Erika and Cooper

Age: [Erika] I’m five years old and Cooper is 13 years old.

Breed: [Erika] I’m three-quarters lab and one quarter Golden Retriever. My buddy, Coop, is a rescue from Arkansas and Mom calls him a “Heinz 57” – meaning, a little bit of everything, but most likely a Redbone Coonhoud mix.

Profile/history: [Cooper] I came to New York from Arkansas after my siblings and I were founded abandoned on a farm. My parents adopted me from Rawhide Rescue. Erika was originally raised to be a Seeing Eye dog, so our family got her when she was about seven weeks old and raised her for a little over a year. She returned to the Seeing Eye program, but it didn’t end up working out for a few reasons, so she came back to live with us. Even though she’s not part of the Seeing Eye program, she’s still generously volunteering her time with The Good Dog Foundation and the Lighthouse Guild.

[Erika] See my fancy harness?!

Daily routine: [Erika] Most mornings I’ll start thwapping my tail loudly around 6 a.m. so that my parents understand it’s time for breakfast. It. Is. Time. *Thwap. Thwap. Thwap.* Afterward we head to Central Park for off-leash hours. Dad and I play catch while Coop sniffs around. Mom has a daily calisthenics routine and I do my best to participate and challenge her. Maybe I’ll crawl under her while she’s attempting push-ups and planks. They say you’ve got to mix it up to get the maximum benefits. I might practice my downward dog while she’s in the midst of a cool down.

[Cooper] I prefer to lay in a warm sunny spot. Watching all of that exercise makes me exhausted. If you ask me, one of the free best activities in the city is sitting on a Central Park bench along the main road on a Saturday morning, watching all those people huff and puff while you sip a frothy cappuccino and enjoy a warm pastry. Heh, they’re working so hard out there…

Love: [Erika] I love all the things, especially veggies! Baby carrots, green beans, corn. That reminds me, I should make a mental note for Mom to stop by the 79th Street Greenmarket this Sunday for some fresh summer corn. Of course, I also love people, attention, and volunteering. What about you, Coop?

[Cooper] Attacking squeaky toys until they no longer squeak. I like to show them who’s boss.

Does not love: [Both] Rain!

Favorite UWS store/business: [Erika] Pour Wines on Amsterdam and W 75th.

Favorite park spot: [Cooper] We like the area of Central Park around Strawberry Fields near the 72nd Street entrance, especially when we get there early in the morning before the crowds arrive.

Favorite treats: [Erika] Mom gives us Old Mother Hubbard treats and we also love freeze dried liver!

Tell me about your work with The Good Dog Foundation: [Cooper] I can provide a little history, since I’ve been around the longest. Our parents and sister have always been avid dog-lovers. They were a little concerned when they decided to volunteer for The Seeing Eye foundation because they just couldn’t imagine having a puppy for a year and then letting go of it. It was hard on all of us, but the experience also had incredible benefits. Over the years, our parents have raised six Seeing Eye dogs, and Erika is the one who came back to live with us.

[Erika] That’s right. Our parents said it’s life-changing when you receive feedback from the recipient – the blind person who receives the dog – about how meaningful it is for them to have a dog who helps them regain their independence. Our family once received a very powerful and emotional thank you letter from a woman named Dottie who lived in the Bronx who received one of the dogs. They said that feedback like hers really makes it all worthwhile. Nowadays, I volunteer with The Good Dog Foundation. Every week, Mom and I head to Mount Sinai West to visit the oncology and ambulatory surgery wings. My job is to provide comfort and stress relief by being friendly and letting patients pet me. Studies have shown that therapy dogs like me help provide stress relief which can lower heart rates and blood pressure, in addition to the emotional benefits for the patient. I would encourage any pups to serve as a volunteer, if they’re interested. It’s never too late to begin helping others!

Read all our Pupper West Side interviews here!

If West Side Rag readers are interested in becoming pet owners, we encourage you to consider adopting or volunteering to be a foster parent with one of the many sheltersand nonprofits based in and around New York City. These include but aren’t limited to: Muddy Paws RescueAnimal Lighthouse RescueAnimal Care Centers of NYCNYC ASPCAHumane Society of New YorkBideaweeSocial Tees; and Animal Haven.

ABSURDITY, COLUMNS | 10 comments | permalink
    1. Elizabeth M. says:

      You sound like great dogs doing good work! Bravo, get an extra cookie!

    2. Bea says:

      Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue is a great rescue organization. I have a friend who adopted a dog from their shelter and it’s been a wonderful experience for both of them. I hope that you will add Badass to your above list of animal organizations.

    3. Albu says:

      So many more important things for us on the UWS to read about. But it looks like no amount of negative comments will stop you from publishing this drivel.
      ( I love dogs,)

      • Sarah says:

        You should ask to speak to the manager! The customer is always right!

      • Grovey says:

        Albu, do you really think providing assistance to blind people and visits to the oncology ward are drivel? And adopting needy dogs? If you are so concerned with “more important things,” instead of complaining about a great free blog, why don’t you write something?

        On a very positive note, Kudos to Erika and Cooper! The apple does not fall far from the tree; their parents sound like great people.

        Please adopt don’t shop!

      • LMN says:

        You seem to be the only negative comment I see here. Also, WSR can write about many things, all at once, isn’t that neat? Not to mention the attention it brings to good causes.

    4. RWC10025 says:

      Absolutely the most charming and lovely dog story.
      Upper Westside dogs and their people are the best.
      It made my morning amongst all of the crappy news out there.

    5. UWS pup says:

      This inspired me and my pup to apply to the Good Dog Foundation! Such a great feature.

    6. Christine E says:

      New York Therapy Animals (www.newyorktherapyanimals.org) is another good therapy program, for those interesting in volunteering with their dog.

    7. We need doggies & they need us. If you can’t own one for reasons of space or time or regulations, save lives – donate to one of their organizations. I auto-donate to 3 rescue organizations. Their power to help & heal is why I ‘waste’ hours and hours weeknights, crying or laughing myself to sleep over doggie YouTube videos. Sometimes both.