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One of my best friends is Copper – my 2-year-old German shepherd.

We start the day together with a fast walk of up to an hour – rain, shine, snow, sleet.

But we’re not walking this week. She just gave birth Tuesday to a litter of 11 puppies!

I’ve had many dogs over my many years, but there’s something very special about Copper – who got her name for multiple reasons, including her coloring and her “profession.” She comes from a long line of police dogs. And she takes her role as protector very seriously. Those puppies have nothing to worry about for the next six weeks – I can assure you of that.

If I sound a little gushy, it’s because I am indeed a dog person.

I grew up with a cocker spaniel who was born about the same time as me. So I lost her when I was 12. She followed me everywhere. And she was quite a watchdog, too, pound for pound. Shortly after I lost Lady (yes, Lady), my parents encouraged me to adopt a German shepherd who was part husky. No one would ever suspect she wasn’t a purebred German shepherd. In fact, Bonnie’s markings were identical to Copper’s. If you saw pictures of both, you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.

Bonnie and I were very attached. But I had to leave her with my parents when I moved to California for work in 1979. I kept a picture of Bonnie on my wall and would see her when I visited my parents.

But one day the picture of Bonnie fell off the wall for no reason. I called my parents and they told me Bonnie had died. When? Just about the time that picture fell off the wall inexplicably. I like to think it was Bonnie’s way of saying goodbye.

I’ve written about some of my other dogs in this space before. There was Bosco, the chocolate lab. More recently there was Baxter, an Australian shepherd with a hint of Brittany. We just lost him last year. Both of those guys are buried in our backyard.

Baxter and Copper were very close buddies throughout their short time together. I actually got Copper because I knew Baxter, at 14, wasn’t going to be around forever. He was such a good dog, I thought it would be nice if he had a young friend – and maybe some of his charming personality characteristics would brush off on his successor.

I don’t know about that, but Copper is, without doubt, one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever seen. At 6 months old, she proved herself to be an escape artist. She could open gates that people have problems with. She learned to turn doorknobs through observation. And she never missed an opportunity to break free and take off outside – chasing deer or squirrels or just running for the fun of it.

She loves her family members, but with other dogs she can be aggressive. She’s got a little alpha in her.

She loves toys – especially those that squeak. She likes any kind of ball – but they need to be indestructible. She’s also nuts about popcorn and pistachios.

Why am I sharing all this with you today?

I guess because I’m proud of Copper. Just think about it – 11 puppies! She did get pretty big, but I was guessing maybe five.

Copper is going to be bred one more time in about a year, then she will take it easy and just hang out and get old with me.

She’s a great companion.

And she pushes me to do those long morning walks – which is good for both of us.

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