The Cooper Project

Baby Carlin plays Cooper’s game

Carlin has been doing the sweetest thing. I didn’t realize what he’d been doing until I saw it a few times, and then I thought, “Wow, little guy. You might win Cooper over yet.”

Cooper has this seven-year-old habit of dropping a ball several feet away from his target person, and then running to a spot even farther out. There he waits for the person to pick up the ball and throw it.

For the most part, neither Russ nor I pick the ball up until it’s at our feet, and so over a period of several minutes, Cooper will run up to the dropped ball, bring it maybe a few inches closer to the person, and then run off again. After a wait, he’ll again come pick up the dropped ball, drop it a few more inches closer, and then run off again. Eventually, the ball will appear at the person’s feet, but it takes a while.

Sometimes I think that this is a longitudinal experiment Cooper has designed to see how close he has to get the ball to the person before that person will throw the ball. At the very least, this is a game that Cooper has made up, and he loves playing it.

So, about Carlin. The other day, Carlin watched Cooper start the drop-ball-and-run-away routine. And when Coop turned to run away from the dropped ball, Carlin picked it up. I thought, “Oh, boy. Stealing Cooper’s ball may not be such a great idea.”

But it turned out, he wasn’t stealing it. Instead, he ran to Cooper, dropped the ball about eight inches away from Cooper, and then pushed it toward Cooper’s feet. Experiment interrupted, Cooper grabbed the ball, and started the routine again. And again, Carlin picked it up and brought it to Cooper. Not too close to Cooper, of course. Cooper can be grumpy.

It could be that Carlin is just returning the ball — “Here, Cooper, you dropped this.” That would be sweet.

But there is another interpretation. Carlin so wants to play with Cooper. Carlin is usually polite, and understands that Cooper won’t put up with being jumped on and having his ears pulled, the way Tooey will let him do. But when Cooper runs in the yard, Carlin runs along, just behind. When Cooper sniffs along the fence, Carlin trails after him.

So here’s what I think. I think maybe Carlin is trying to add a new rule to Cooper’s game, so that Carlin can play it, too.