Emotional Support Dog goes to college

We have always joked that Cooper is such a smart and hard-working dog, that he really needs a job. And this past weekend, he finally got to go to work.

We decided to take him to visit his big brother at college. Andrew has been longing to see Cooper, and it was his birthday. So, despite the fact that students are discouraged from leaving campus during the semester, we decided to make a quick trip to visit Andrew and celebrate his 20 years of life.

Cooper seemed to sense from the moment we stepped on campus that his services were in great need. It might have been the students sitting in lawn chairs that were facing TOWARD the brick exterior of the outer dorm wall. We quickly figured out they were shouting to second floor windows to have conversations with friends in quarantine. Maybe it was because of all of the people walking around in masks. Or perhaps he could sniff that most students had not seen their families — or their dogs! — even one time since August. Whatever the case, it was Emotional Support Dog to the rescue.


Cooper is typically a very friendly dog. He wants to meet every living creature that he comes into contact with. But often, he can be overly aggressive with his desire to befriend people and other life forms. He jumps on people. He sniffs their private parts. He barks. He is the best friend you never knew you needed.

But this past weekend, he was a much more chilled version of our beloved pet. It might have been because his tail injury had zapped some of the life out of him, or the four-hour car ride, or maybe — just maybe — he has actually matured enough to start to understand the basic rules of human interaction. Or perhaps he just had an innate sense for what was required in his new self-assigned responsibility to bring love and joy to every. single. person. he encountered.

For 24 hours, he was amazing at providing puppy love, pets and emotional support to college students.


On Friday evening, our family was hanging out with Andrew and his roommate around an enormous outdoor fire table on campus. The area is right outside the student center, which houses a Chic Fil A, the main attraction on campus on a Friday night.

Near us, there was a group of about eight students standing in a big circle. Cooper went up to each one and gave them his look of, “I will be your best friend if you want me to.” One by one, they patted his head, gave him back rubs and told him he was a good boy.

From there, he made it his job to welcome each person who visited the student center. It would have made a great sociology experiment to document how people react to a fluffy, friendly puppy walking up to greet them.

Some would look both ways as if to check if anyone was watching before they petted him. Others would immediately react with joy and excitement at the opportunity to pet a dog! “Oh my gosh! You’re so cute!” About 98.5 percent of people reached down to at least give him a good head rub.


Cooper had his own system of evaluating his clients.

He would saunter up to each new person as they arrived to see if they wanted to give him a pet. He didn’t skip anyone. He doesn’t care about gender, race, ethnicity, size, shape, popularity, or any particular trait. If you have hands willing to pet, he is at your service.

Once introductions were made, he would often try his “drive through.” This is when he tries to squeeze his entire body between your legs like he’s getting a car wash of petting. He stops when he’s about half way through, fully expecting to be patted on the rump. We would try to explain that he wasn’t showing favorites here. It just doesn’t take him long to warm up.

If that was successful, he would basically sit down at the person’s feet. If the petting continued, he would lay down and then eventually flip over on his back in the “T-rex” position with his front paws curled up and his body stretched out to give his clients full access to his tummy.


He took his job extremely seriously. He would lay about six feet away from the door to the student center so he could properly greet any new customers and offer one last emotional support dog petting opportunity to those who were leaving. The ones coming out already knew he was their best friend, so they weren’t shy about diving in to his thick white curls. At this point, they were fully aware of the “drive through,” the “T-Rex” and his other services.

The funny thing is that one of us would stand nearby just to make sure his clients WANTED an emotional support dog. While Cooper walked straight into the middle of groups of friends and interrupted conversations, we just stood awkwardly on the side lines waiting for him to finish. It didn’t matter because the humans directed their full attention to our curly-haired family member. If our presence was acknowledged at all, it was only with questions like, “What’s his name?” or “What kind of dog is he?”


I entertained myself by imaging how funny it would be if humans treated each other the way we treat dogs.

What if we could just saunter up to a total stranger and receive love and affection?

What if we could be welcomed into a group of people, right in the middle of their conversation?

What if we made no judgments based on external appearance?

What if humans were as open to receiving emotional support from other humans as they are from dogs?


By the way, thank you for all of the love and outpouring of concern for Cooper’s tail injury. I have been amazed that people have called, texted, and messaged me with concern, asking for updates. One sweet friend even sent a gift to comfort Cooper.

After a week, he is finally starting to act like his old self. He was able to wave his flag tail yesterday. It had been at half mast for a week. His tail could have been fractured, but it seems to be healing on its own. Like Samson, it seemed to contain all of his joy and energy. Now that it’s making a comeback, Cooper is, too.



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