at the Water's Edge

Living life and learning all I can along the way!

Grief and Joy: Part Two

In part one of this blog series I focused mostly on the grief side, with the loss of our first dog, Happy Gilmore. While we are still sad and miss him dearly, we've also been able to experience new joys with the new dog we adopted a couple of weeks ago. Meet Copernicus -- or, Copper, for short. We adopted Copernicus from the Humane Society shortly after a visit there to get registered as volunteers. We will soon be helping with special adoption events around town. And, I'll be able to do so all the more enthusiastically now that we have our own new rescue dog!

The night we brought him home

Copper is a one year old male American Staffordshire Terrier Mix. The Amstaff, or "Staffy", as it is often called, is one of several breeds commonly referred to as "pit bulls." Copernicus was considered a "hard to adopt" breed, and from what I can tell, spent at least a few months between a couple different shelters. His history before that, we do not know. Pit bulls tend to get a bad rap and many people are so misinformed. It makes me sad, as Copper is one of the sweetest most loving dogs I've met. While there is a lot of abuse that goes on with pit bulls, and it's important to know and be prepared if you are going to adopt a dog who has that sort of a background, there are many who are simply "unwanted" dogs. Taking in an abused dog requires special attention and I would say you really have to know what you are doing to properly rehabilitate a dog. But, for the majority of pit bulls out there, there is no reason that they could not immediately become a new loving member of your family. I did a lot of research ahead of time, as I was not that familiar with Amstaffs -- and what I have read seems to be true for Copper so far: they are loyal, loving, intelligent dogs that make great family pets.

Family photo!

Copernicus LOVES pets. He loves attention and scratches. He loves playing, especially tug-of-war. He is also very food motivated and eager to please, which has made his transition into our home a pretty smooth one. We learned a lot through our training with Happy -- who was a pretty willful and excitable dog -- and it has been a big help to all of us to be able to start training Copper right away. When we got him, the only command Copernicus knew was "sit" -- and he would do that eagerly enough. Copper is spending his first weeks learning his manners, basic obedience and house rules -- plus, Tom already taught him how to do "shake" and "high five." Within the first week, he already learned how to sit and wait nicely before eating his dinner, before going outside and after coming inside so we can wipe his wet and muddy paws off! He learned "off" decently well and is already really good at making eye contact with us. We are working hard on "release," "drop it," and "leave it," as he's interested in picking up, chewing or eating so many things. He LOVES sticks and I hope soon he'll be able to play with them without trying to eat them! "Come" and "stay" are also a work in progress, but so far he's doing great!

Look at that sweet pup!
Copper is a very goofy dog. If you sit down on the floor, he thinks it's play time, so we're working on that in order to avoid him trying to play with little kids on the floor! He will roll over and get all excited and try to bury his face in your lap. Once calm, he'll sit or lay in your lap while he enjoys scratches or chewing on his toy. He absolutely loves his rope toys and will play with them all on his own, tossing them in the air and chasing after them. When Copper gets really excited, his tongue gets long and lolls to one side, hanging out of his mouth. He totally reminds me of the hyena from the Lion King!

Look at that tongue!

Image result for ed hyena
See the resemblance?
So far, Copernicus is pretty good on a leash. We're working on proper leash manners, he's learning to take his cues from our body language and learning to walk on a loose leash. He doesn't pull nearly as much as Happy, and a harness really helps. I attribute most of it to Copper not having the hunting instincts that Happy did. Happy was waayy too excited on a walk or new environment, always trying to sniff out the next chase. Copper loves sniffs and smells, but he'll be more of a digger than a chaser, I think. We tested him out with our friends' cats, too. Happy wanted to eat cats, which made it difficult to bring him to certain houses. Copper nicely sniffed and licked the kitty, but was easily redirected and, when directed, would sit nicely, looking at me and ignoring the cat. Perfect! There's a whole new world of potential pet-sitters now! We are also hoping it means that he will be able to use the invisible fence rather than requiring a physical tie out.

Copper's first walk to the lake!

So, you might be wondering about the name. Well, it took us a bit to decide, and his name is multi-faceted. Firstly, we are keenly aware that dogs have a propensity to live up to their names -- so, name them wisely. Our family dog growing up was named Barker. And he was a barker. Happy Gilmore was a very happy dog, but also had a bit of the stubborn streak seen in Adam Sandler's character in the movie. We knew we wanted a smart dog. Most dogs are probably smarter than we give them credit for, but some learn better than others. Tom threw out the name "Einstein" -- which not only was a man of great intelligence, but was also the name of Doc Brown's dog in the Back to the Future movies. However, I'd recently heard of another dog with that name, so wanted something a little more unique. It wasn't a far leap from Einstein to Copernicus. Not only is Copernicus another extremely intelligent scientist, but he's also the name of Doc Brown's other dog in the Back to the Future movies -- the dog Doc had in the 1950s. While he made an appearance in the first film, he had a larger role and was actually named in the third Back to the Future movie.

Although I liked the name, I think it's good to have a shorter name for a dog so it's easier to call him and give commands -- no more than two syllables. Enter his nickname: Copper. It's an intuitive shortening of Copernicus (who sometimes spelled his name Coppernicus -- among many other spellings), and it also matches the beautiful brown color in his brindle coat. "Brindle" was a term that was relatively new to us -- but it's the term for the striped markings on Copper's coat. It gives him a very unique look, and he's already gotten a lot of compliments!

Meeting him at the shelter
Copernicus is adjusting well to life in his new home, and we are adjusting well to life with a new dog. In some ways, it's difficult, because I'm constantly reminded of Happy. In other ways, it's wonderful, as I truly enjoy training and teaching dogs, and I love the bonding process. We are still getting to know Copernicus and the idiosyncrasies of his personality -- and he's still getting to know us. But we already love each other and are so grateful for the opportunity to give another great dog a happy home. We determined that Happy and Copper would have LOVED one another and would have played great together. I can't quite put it into words, but Copernicus even has these aspects of his personality that make him seem like the "younger brother" -- whereas Happy seemed more like a "first born." I think Tom hit the nail on the head when he made a comparison to Lord of the Rings characters -- saying Happy was Boromir and Copper is Faramir. For those unfamiliar with the book or movies, these were two brothers -- the older of whom was a bold fighter, his father's favorite and a little headstrong. Although he repents in the end and is really good at heart, Boromir dies after his own desires get the best of him. The same thing happened to Happy. The brothers loved and respected each other dearly, but the younger Faramir was often left in his brother's shadow and disregarded by his father. Though he was bold and courageous in his own right, Faramir was more gentle natured than a fierce warrior. Likewise, Copper is a gentle soul -- a playful, energetic puppy still, yes -- but, a true lover by nature.

He's a lap dog!
We are looking forward to getting to know Copper better and continuing to work on his training so that we can all enjoy lots of adventures together, especially as the weather warms up this spring and summer. There's nothing quite like puppy love, and we are so glad that we could give Copernicus a forever home.

Share this:


Hi there! My name is Dana and I live in West Michigan with my husband, Tom and our dog Copernicus. I created this space as a place to share the things I learn along this journey I call life. I work in marketing and I'm a sort of Jane of All Trades, interested in all things nature, gardening, cooking, exploring and learning new things. This blog is a conglomeration of my interests, hobbies, life and life lessons. Thanks for stopping by!