XENIA — Katelyn Mergy and her golden retriever Cooper checked “go for a hike” off their bucket list at Greene County Parks & Trails’ Caesar Ford Park in Xenia last week.
Mergy will be a senior this year at Fairmont High School in Kettering and next year she plans to go to college, while her parents plan to move for her father’s job. Since this summer is the last one the family will spend together with Cooper, Mergy and her friends created the bucket list for him.
Mergy and Cooper live in Dayton and intended to go hiking near their home June 29. But the first few parks and trails they tried were either closed or not dog-friendly. Finally, they got lost looking for a trail and found themselves at Caeser Ford Park. Park employees pointed them to a hiking trail and creek, where Cooper went for a walk and a swim.
“The area was amazing,” Mergy said.
The trail was easy for 10-year-old Cooper to navigate, and he was able to walk right into Caesar Creek to go swimming, which is one of his favorite activities.
So far, Cooper has received a professional haircut, eaten a Puppuccino from Starbucks, eaten a soft pretzel and gone hiking and swimming.
When Cooper joined her family, Mergy was 7 years old. For the first several years, he didn’t like her because she pulled his tail. He preferred her father, Jim Mergy, instead.
Once she was in middle school, however, Jim passed the responsibility of feeding, bathing and walking Cooper to Katelyn. As they spent more time together, Cooper and Katelyn became good friends.
Now, Cooper, Katelyn and Jim all spend time together. When her dad has yard work to do, Katelyn and Cooper follow him outside and swim in the pool while he works.
Not only does Cooper help bring Katelyn and her father together, he also helps keep the peace in the Mergy home.
“Whenever something is awkward in our family,” Katelyn said, “we’ll just talk about Cooper instead.”
Her friends love Cooper too. She said his favorite of her friends is Alaina Howell, one of Katelyn’s classmates.
Howell helped Katelyn create the bucket list and has accompanied her and Cooper on some of their adventures, including the hike.
Cooper knows the way to Howell’s house and always sleeps next to her when she spends the night at the Mergy’s house.
Howell and Katelyn have been friends since their freshman year of high school, which is also when Howell met Cooper. Howell said she loves animals and thinks Cooper sensed that.
Katelyn said that Cooper also comforts her and her friends when they’re feeling sad.
When she’s had a bad day at work, Katelyn will cuddle with Cooper until she feels better. And when her friends are sad, she and Cooper drive to their houses to cheer them up.
Sometimes, Cooper even visits Katelyn while she’s working at Jet Freeze in Beavercreek. She gives him pieces of soft pretzels, which he loves. He’s never gotten to eat a whole one, so that’s on his bucket list too.
If Cooper completes his list by the end of the summer, he’ll have eaten a hamburger, chewed the stuffing out of a toy, met and had a sleepover with another dog, met another golden retriever, and made a new friend.
Katelyn and Howell both said they were sad that they won’t get to spend next summer with Cooper.
“It’s a sad thought,” Howell said, “but, you know, I know that it’s going to happen eventually. And that’s OK.”