I just braved the 15 degree temperatures and -2 degree wind chill to take Cooper out. One of my neighbors, a rather humorless fellow, stopped me so we could chat, which is just what you should do when it's bone-chillingly freezing outside.
Before I go on, the man doesn't like me. Five years ago, I went outside and discovered someone had thrown a paving stone through the windshield of my car. A group of neighbors had gathered around to inspect the damage. I took one look at it and I laughed. I mean, what was I supposed to do, cry? We have bars nearby and drunk idiots wandering around at all hours of the night, so I doubt it was a personal vendetta or anything. This particular neighbor was very disturbed by my laughter and has been giving me the side-eye ever since.
So this morning, as boogers froze in my nose and Cooper eyed his lapdog suspiciously, the neighbor asked me, "Is that the same dog you've always had?"
I looked down, inspecting Cooper carefully. "Umm, yes? I think so."
The neighbor looked doubtful. "He looks younger and thinner."
First of all, no one ever says that to me.
Seven years ago, when Coop was only a year old, I took him to Petco so they could cut his nails and give him a bath. Keep in mind, my dog is crazy and any interaction with strangers is accompanied by shaking, peeing, whining and attempting to run away, so I was prepared for a fun and exciting time.
I came back an hour later and the lady lead out a black lab wearing Cooper's collar.
"Hmm, did you guys shave his chest or something?" I asked, examining the newly-developed grey hair around his belly and mouth.
"What? No. All we did was give him a bath."
I paid, looking down at the dog and petting his head. I figured that this grooming experience had taken a lot out of him, even turning his hair grey. From then on, I figured I'd stick to giving him showers in my bathroom, the poor dog.
I left the store and was halfway to the car when another employee chased me down.
"Ma'am! Ma'am! That's not your dog!"
Confused, I eyed the dog again, who seemed perfectly happy to be leaving with me. "Uhh, are you sure?" I asked.
The woman couldn't hide her disgust for me. "That dog is twelve years old, ma'am. That dog has got cataracts."
The dog looked at me, again perfectly content, and I noticed the milky film over his eyes. Yeah, this wasn't my dog after all.
So this morning when my grouchy neighbor questioned the identity of my dog, I actually had to look. As far as I know, the dog in my house is still Cooper, but if you read about a lady from Chicago eaten by a strange dog in her apartment, don't be surprised that it's me.