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.
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!
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 Rescue; Animal Lighthouse Rescue; Animal Care Centers of NYC; NYC ASPCA; Humane Society of New York; Bideawee; Social Tees; and Animal Haven.