By Michelle Raiford

Several years ago, a beagle showed up at a remote party in the woods of Eastern NC. He spent the entire weekend with us and seemed to have no home. It's a rural area with few houses. Most likely, he was a failed hunting dog. It's not uncommon there for unwanted dogs to simply be put out to fend for themselves.

Over the course of the long weekend, I became very attached to him. I mentioned taking him home with us, but my husband didn't take me seriously. I was sure the dog was in need. He was too thin, no one came looking for him, and he never left us. He was begging for affection. Fast forward to our departure, and my husband said, "I don't want another dog." We argued for a few moments, but ultimately I decided we both had to want him as part of our family. To be fair, my husband's main concern was our elderly dog, Katy. She seemed to want to be an "only" dog. As we backed out of the driveway, this adorable beagle ran after us and I lost it. I sobbed and wouldn't speak to my husband. My heart was breaking. 

After about 45 minutes into our six-hour trip, my husband pulled out his phone. He called our friend at whose house we had been staying. He asked if the dog was still there. Our friend had closed up the house and was nearby at the post office. He said he would go back to the house and call us. In a few minutes, the phone rang. The little beagle was still sitting on the front porch. Our friend said he looked like he was waiting for someone. I knew he was waiting for us. My husband asked our friend to put him in the backyard. Then he turned the truck around and we drove 45 minutes back to get our dog.

I advocated for the name "Cooper". It just seemed to fit him. I kept my eye on the lost and found pages in the area, but I knew no one was looking for him. I knew it in my heart, but I couldn't live with myself if I had stolen someone's dog. I told my friends there that if anyone came looking for a lost beagle that matched his description to put them in touch with me. No one ever stepped forward. Coop was skinny and unneutered, two strikes against any "owner" in my book. I believe Cooper knew we were his people. It's been five-plus years and he has brought us laughter and unconditional love along with car sickness and fear of, well, everything. Sometimes he leaves his mark when he sits on us. He digs for grubs and barks too much. Katy has adjusted to another dog. I won't say she loves him, but she tolerates him. When Cooper curls up in our laps, though, he looks at us with deep love and gratitude. We saved a dog that day. He's been saving us every day since.