Coop the Great

My last night at Derby Animal Shelter, I couldn’t sleep. Not just because the room reeked of urine, thanks to Buck, my roommate. And not only because the fluorescent lights buzzed and flickered, casting creepy shadows across the cold concrete floor.


Of all the reasons I couldn’t sleep, the thought of morning topped the list. Another open house. Another round of visitors sweeping through the building, eager to adopt a dog to suit their needs. Not too old. Not too short. Definitely not fat. Gotta be smart and oozing with personality. The list was endless.

A funny and inspiring story about love, loyalty and loss told by a dog, jaded by life and reaching for greatness.


"A quick and enjoyable read filled with endearing characters, moments of humour and heartfelt storytelling, Coop the Great is a wonderful middle-school novel for all readers... .this is a novel worthy of purchase and priority placement on bookshelves.  Highly recommended."                                                                      CM Reviews, Volume XXV / Issue 26

"If you are a fan of canine literature or movies like A Dog's Life, this is your book. It is very involving and radiates decency. I had to get to the end, desperately hoping that everything worked out for the heroes, human and canine."
Kenneth Oppel, author of Silverwing, Airborn, The Nest, The Boundless, Inking and others

Every now and then, I come across a book that hits me so hard that I can't stop thinking about it.  This is one such book. I have to confess, I've read this book four, yes that's right, four times....I wish I could give this book 100 stars, but, I am forced to only give it a meager five out of five. Well done!"
                                                                        Janet Slipak, My Book Abyss

"Verstraete, a former science teacher who has written a host of non-fiction as well as fiction books for children, manages to convey a feeling of love and caring in the household even though we never leave Coop's perspective.  Special for dog lovers."
                                                                         The Winnipeg Free Press

"What really struck me about this book is the fact that the author really captures the voice of Coop.  I have read many failed attempts at this point of view, but Verstraete does an amazing job."

"A well-written beautiful story about courage and trust on many levels."
                                                                       Suzanne Goulden, author of Empty Cup

"An interesting, exciting and inspiring read even if you aren't a dog lover."
                                                                       MaryLou Driedger, What Next?



Once, I watched a program on the Animal Planet channel. The Animal Planet wasn’t one of the usual stops my owner-at-the-time made when he channel-surfed. He preferred sports, especially wrestling if that can be called a sport. But that day there wasn’t much on TV. The program featured a dog. Near as I could figure, the dog was a mixed breed, probably cocker spaniel with a touch of German shepherd. I’m pretty good at telling one breed from another since I am a dog myself. Also, I have experience. I’ve lived so long and have been in so many homes and shelters that I’ve lost count.
         But back to the TV program. Wires ran from the dog’s head and chest to a panel of instruments. A woman in a white coat held photographs in front of the dog. In one photo, a man was smiling. In another, he was frowning. In a third, he appeared to be yelling. As each photograph was shown to the dog, a guy in another white coat watched numbers flash across a computer screen. A narrator explained that these people were scientists. They were conducting a study to find out if dogs favoured one face over another.
        Humans have been wondering about dogs since the world started. If I had the ability to speak, I could have saved those scientists some time. We like smiling faces more than angry or upset ones, and most of us are a lot brighter than people realize. Granted, some dogs are dolts. Every species has its share, even humans. But most dogs are deep thinkers. We’re better than people at a whole bunch of things like detecting odours, tracking sounds, and reading minds.
        Actually, dogs don’t really read minds, but we are very good at decoding clues. We follow hands. We watch faces. We listen carefully. We smell everything. We compile all the evidence in an instant. From there, we arrive at a conclusion. Come to think of it, we’re not so different from those scientists with their fancy equipment.
        In that TV program, scientists thought they were being clever. But I think they missed the point. They probably learned something about the dog’s brain, but they learned nothing about what really mattered. Nothing about a dog’s emotions. Nothing about a dog’s character. Nothing about a dog’s destiny.
         Many people scoff at the idea that a dog can be anything more than a simple animal, but I know better. Even a runt like me can do great things.
         I didn’t always think this way. My outlook on life was sour for a long time, but I can pinpoint the moment I began to see things differently.
         It all started at Derby on a Saturday that began like so many other Saturdays before.


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