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  • Writer's pictureKevin Roeckl

Cooper portrait in progress 1 - A surprise

I'm starting another portrait of a Doberman with a special story. 

Maura Reilly asked if she could get on my wait list for a portrait of Cooper to surprise Diane Schurman. She said, “Diane is such a special person and I wanted to do something for her. I know she loves your work.” Sadly, while she was waiting for her turn, Cooper passed away. That made Cooper’s portrait even more meaningful. 

Maura told me some “facts” about Cooper’s first home (a young couple who didn’t have time for him) and how she re-homed him with the Schurmans. She wrote,

“Diane and Michael have always had a soft spot for "difficult" dogs. They have taken in breeds like great dane, bullmastiff, always helping those dogs that needed a bit more attention. Coop lucked out because they live out in the country on acreage. He got many daily trail walks through their property... Diane and Michael were exactly what Cooper needed!”

But I wanted to know more about who Cooper was. It’s important for me to understand the personality of the one I’m portraying. I prompted Maura for a few adjectives about him. So, to avoid giving away the surprise, she “tricked” Diane into writing about Cooper by saying that she needed a photo and some adjectives for a website! Diane took the bait and wrote a wonderful story about this special boy and what he meant to her and Michael. 

Here are a few photos of Cooper and below that are Diane's words.

Reference photos of a black-and-tan Doberman

"This is a full page story. I hope you can get some adjectives out of it. I tried to just do adjectives but I couldn't help myself. I love talking about Cooper. He was absolutely amazing. Cooper was a one in a million dog who was devoted to his family and loved and protected with his whole being. He could do everything. He was loyal and loving, protective, athletic and agile, intelligent and attentive, funny and fearless.

Nothing fazed him. He was an outstanding example of the Doberman breed.

He liked nothing better than walks around the property, running free, exploring and checking out the wildlife, which included skunks and porcupines. After his first spray from a skunk, he stood back out of spray distance. His first porcupine quilling was also his last.  

He could be relentless about chasing off interlopers like squirrels, deer, turkeys and rabbits. He even scanned the trees and pursued the crows until they passed our boundaries. Rodents were dispatched with a lightning fast grab and snap, but he also had a kind and gentle side. One day he gently brought me a live grouse and watched carefully as I set it free. Initially he chased off the female fox who visited regularly but after a while, he allowed her presence as long as she didn’t get too close to the house. She felt safe enough to dig several dens in the bank of the driveway.  

The stream was his favourite place all year long. He stood in it no matter how cold it was, drinking and exploring. The black mud of the wetlands was also a special place to roll around in.  

He got incredibly excited when we drove the golf cart. The first day he rode beside us but after that, he loved to run with it. He knew the golf cart would take him on a long journey all over the property, where he could visit all of his favourite places in the fields and forests.  

Cooper took his protection duties seriously. He spent hours looking out the front window scanning for danger, and when he was outside he never stopped watching. He was polite and respectful but never let his guard down.  

One day as we walked past a chainlink fence, a big dog threw himself against it in attack mode inches from us. Cooper’s response was instantaneously full on attack back. When I pulled him away, he became calm just as swiftly. He had done his job and it was time to move on. He was fine with that.  

He checked out strange people and our interactions with them. If we were fine, he was fine. Most delivery people loved him and he was happy to see them. But when a strange courier arrived to deliver a package, saw Cooper, threw it at him and ran, he barely made it to the van.

Friends and neighbours were welcomed with a wagging bum and big smile, which they returned with lots of pats and love. There was a big Cooper fan club.  

Toys with squeakers were his favourite and he could get those squeakers out in a minute. It became a fun challenge to find a toy that squeaked but was hard to destroy. At bedtime, he chewed his squeaky vigorously for a few minutes and then fell over fast asleep.  

Cooper adored lying against us and being petted, two things he couldn’t get enough of. He was our shadow who followed us everywhere, always with a toy in his mouth. He kept us to a strict schedule of walking with him every two hours, regardless of the weather or time of year. We have hundreds of treasured memories of him and his antics. He made us laugh and smile multiple times a day. He was an unbelievably beautiful dog in every way…an absolutely wonderful companion and friend.


Cooper is Can. Ch. Gatehouse Black Friday.  

Bred by Maura Reilly and Stephan Olschewski - Gatehouse Dobermans.


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