Cooper and Nico the rescue dogs

Katie O’Regan didn’t intend to rescue two dogs. She just wanted one. But when she found out that the RhodesianLab mix puppy she wanted to bring home had a brother, she couldn’t say no.

In May 2013, O’Regan adopted Cooper and Nico from Warm Fuzzys Cat Rescue, a facility in Tupelo, Miss., that saved the pups from euthanasia. The adorable brothers recently turned 1, and O’Regan says her two pups have changed her life for the better.

“I tell people all the time, it's the best decision I've made in such a long time — getting both of them.”

We caught up with O’Regan, a 28-year-old teacher who lives in Quincy, Mass., to hear more about her pups’ remarkable rescue story.

Q: Can you tell us the story of how you rescued Cooper and Nico?

A: Last May, I started looking for a dog. And I knew that I wanted to get one dog. So I went onto Petfinder, and Cooper’s photo showed up. I called this pet rescue down in Tupelo, Miss. It was originally a cat rescue, but they ended up starting to rescue dogs. The dog had just been posted on Petfinder the night before, so I was pretty anxious and eager to get on the phone with the woman who had the dog. I had tried to rescue a couple of other dogs, or put in inquiries, and realized the dogs went quite fast when they were put up [on Petfinder].

So I spoke to her, and she said that his brother, who was also in the litter, was in her possession as well. I started thinking about it and thought, "Well, you know, if I'm going to get one dog, I might as well rescue both of them.” 

As soon as they went up on Petfinder and I straightened everything out with her, they were on a puppy transport up to the Boston area.

Cooper and Nico the rescue dogs

Q: Do you know anything at all about their lives before you found them?

A: The woman didn't know a whole lot about them — just that they'd been dropped off with their two sisters to a shelter down there. And what this woman literally does is go through the shelters and try to find dogs that are adoptable. And she happened to go by the shelter one day, and both of the dogs — Cooper and Nico — were already signed up to be euthanized. She decided these dogs were very adoptable and there was no way she was going to let this happen. She was actually the one who went and pulled them out of the shelter and took care of them for a couple of weeks.

I was pretty apprehensive, you know, getting these dogs and committing to it without ever having met them. But she was extremely reassuring and super informative. The dogs had all their puppy vaccines, and they'd been neutered and all of that before they even got onto the puppy transport. They'd been checked out by vets several times.

Cooper and Nico the rescue dogs admire the sunset

Q: What motivated you to rescue your dogs as opposed to going through a breeder?

A: I definitely was interested in rescuing versus getting a dog through a breeder. I actually grew up with a dog from a breeder, a Brittany, and he's now 13 years old. Seamus … he's been wonderful. But I just started seeing an increase in the number of animals that are in need. Rescue was something highly motivating for me. A dog is a dog whether he comes from a breeder or comes from a terrible situation as a puppy. They grow their personalities, I think, based on the way you treat them and the amount of love that you give them.

With [Cooper and Nico], I feel like there's a different level of gratitude. I feel like they are very well-behaved puppies. I'm not sure if I just got lucky. Some people just tell me that I got really lucky with them. But I also believe that it's because they know that they maybe weren’t headed for such a good life. Their fate was already determined.

Q: What were they like when you first brought them home?

A: They were really nervous when I first got them. And slightly neurotic. Upon getting them — they came up on the puppy transport in Hartford, Conn. — I took them out of their crates, and they were really overwhelmed. Part of it, I think, was from the long trip they had just taken. They were on the transport for maybe 24 hours, you know, on and off. It seems like the transport service was very reputable.

That first night at our apartment, they seemed like they were scared of a lot of things. And they still are, even at a year old. They like to be very aware of their surroundings. I'm lucky enough to live in a condo facility that is dog-friendly and relatively quiet. So that's been a nice transition for them. But anytime something is moved around my apartment, Nico, the smaller one, he notices it right away. Or anytime we go over to my parents' house, he'll notice if something is different. If anything is different at all, he'll notice it and go on guard a little bit. But they've definitely calmed down quite a bit since I've had them.

Q: Have you taken them to a behaviorist or trainer?

A: I have a trainer that comes here once every couple of weeks. She really likes them, and she said to me, “You completely lucked out with these guys. I don't think you really even need me all that much. They're great.”

Cooper and Nico the rescue dogs snuggle on the porch

They are very eager to please and very loyal dogs. We’ve worked on some of the little things with them. Like Nico, he’s scared of cars. When cars go by, just feeding him treats and positively rewarding him helps. He's gotten better.

But the other one, Cooper, is a lot calmer in that sense. He's not really neurotic or anything. Neurotic is a strong word. I say that jokingly. But he is just much more of a dog’s dog, and he's kind of like the Poky Puppy. He likes to stop and sniff around and smell the flowers, and the other guy [Nico] is like little mister energy running around and wanting to play and just wanting to really run a lot. They've got their own little personalities. They play with each other all day. They sleep with each other at night. They really are like best friends. 

Q: What do you love most about your dogs?

A: Honestly, just being able to wake up with them every morning or come home to them after a day at work or being away from them. It's one of the most gratifying experiences to have them there. I love being outdoors and being active, and they've allowed me (or forced me on some days) to even spend more time outside. They are man's best friend for a reason. For many reasons. Just having your love returned to you all the time is pretty amazing.

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