Anyone who has seen Cooper perform his blueberry-on-the-nose trick would agree: This pooch was built for the Doggie Brigade.
Cooper began making young people happy early in his life. His handler, Mary Mosher, is a retired teacher, having spent 35 years in the Akron Public Schools.
“I had a principal at Hyre Middle School who was kind enough to let me bring Cooper to class one day a week, which was a great socialization opportunity for Cooper’s current job,” said Mosher. “Then he was just a puppy who liked to explore the girls’ purses and untie everyone’s shoelaces. But he’s always been a dog that likes people, big and small.”
As Cooper matured, he proved he was Doggie Brigade material and passed the entrance exam with flying colors. Mosher says he’s most motivated by fruits and veggies. Blueberries and carrots are among his favorite treats.
“He even likes radishes,” said Mosher.
Now 9 years old, Cooper has accumulated many fans throughout Akron Children’s Hospital since he started the Brigade in 2007.
Volunteer coordinater Whitney Romine immediately swept him up on her lap as he entered the volunteer department to sign in during one of his weekly Thursday visits. She wanted some quality time with Cooper before he headed up to the patient floors to work his magic.
All of 15 lbs., this lhasa apso is known for lowering patients’ blood pressures and reducing their stress.
“I remember one gal we visited had been thrown off a horse and had a concussion,” said Mosher. “As we entered her room, her vitals were way up there and she was extremely restless and uncomfortable.”
Cooper had a healing effect on the patient right away.
“I brought Cooper in and put him in her bed. You could see her vitals dropping on the monitors. I stayed there for a while and Cooper fell asleep. Then she fell asleep,” said Mosher. “Seeing how the dogs affect the patients is our payoff for volunteering.”
Maria Strong, an 11-year-old from Twinsburg, said she was surprised to see a dog in the hospital. She was missing her 3 dogs at home, and Cooper was a welcome sight as Mosher placed him next to her on her bed.
After she chatted with Mosher about Cooper and the history of the lhasa apsos breed, Maria was treated to one of Cooper’s best tricks. Mosher perched a plump blueberry on the space just between Cooper’s eyes and nose. Like a good boy, Cooper waited until he got the go-ahead from Mosher to catch it in his mouth.
“That’s really cool,” Maria told Mosher. “Thanks for being here.”
Mosher said the volunteering is as much for her as it is for the patients.
“I want to share him with people,” she said. “I know how he loves people, and I love to meet people, too.”