March 13, 2015 | by John Jordan

Meet Cooper. Last week, he wandered up the winery driveway and into our hearts. This little guy’s life has changed dramatically in just 12 days, and we’re proud to now call him part of the family.

Some dogs stray from home and get lost. Others run away. Cooper is one smart dog. We think he was a runaway, and for good reason.

It only took us a few hours to learn why.

When Elena Robledo, who practically grew up at Jordan—her father, Rafael, was our first employee back in 1973—arrived at work on Monday, she discovered a collarless, scruffy dog trotting up the road. He looked like a cross between Benji from the 1970s movies, a long-haired chihuahua and a cocker spaniel. (In other words, very cute.) He wasn’t too scared when she approached him, so she swiftly loaded him into her car and drove up to the winery. His journey was just beginning.

She created a makeshift leash from a safety belt and got him some water. He was in pretty bad shape—covered in fleas, itching and scratching so hard that he had sores on his back. We could also see his rib bones; he was definitely malnourished. However, the brown mutt was very mellow and sweet to everyone. We were all worried about his health and wondered how his journey led him to Jordan: Was he a stray that had been living on the streets for months? Did he get lost in the last few days? If it were the latter, we would be very concerned.

His health was our first priority; finding his owners came second. I called the vet who takes care of my dogs, and he was able to fit us in. The vet would give him an exam, flea medication and also check for a microchip. The next step was finding a groomer that could help get him cleaned up as soon as possible. We began talking around the office about who would adopt him since he probably needed a home.

The unfolding events felt like a sign. One month ago, my oldest dog Nimitz was diagnosed with a severe tumor and had to be put down. He’d been with me for 10 years. I thought it would take several months before I’d be ready to get another sibling for Bismarck and Rosie. It seemed like fate was intervening.

The vet discovered a microchip, and we used to find the owners. At first, I was very concerned because I didn’t want the dog to return to an environment that was obviously unhealthy. But some of our staff reminded me that there was a possibility he could have been missing for months—and had a beloved family that would be elated to have him back in their lives.

I personally called the owners, slightly anxious about how the conversation would go. Here’s the gist of our talk:

Me: So how long has your dog been missing?
Him: Since this morning.
Me: Oh.
Him: I know we need to take him to the vet, but we can’t afford it with all the babies.
Woman in background yells: Ask him if he wants to keep him!
Him: Could you care for a dog?
Me: Yes.
Him: You have plenty of space for him at your house?
Me: Yes.
Him: His name is Coco, and he’s six years old.
Me: We will take good care of him.

I hung up the phone, shocked and relieved. Shocked that anyone would treat their pet like that and relieved that he was going to have a better life from that day forward.

After his grooming appointment, it was time to introduce Coco to the other winery dogs. I wasn’t sure how my smallest and youngest dog, Rosie, would react to having a brother about the same size. We adopted her from a shelter in 2012. She still has some aggression issues with other small dogs, and she and Coco went after each other like boxers in a ring. It was not a good match.

We collectively started trying to figure out options. At this point, five staff members were helping with the rescue: Elena taking the dog around to appointments, Babette Lynch in accounting and Lisa Mattson in marketing were trying to find groomers and me off purchasing a leash and bedding. After the altercation with Rosie, I knew he couldn’t come home with me, but I wasn’t willing to give up on adopting the dog. I wasn’t quite ready to resort to dog training either.

We decided Coco would be the winery dog for the week. Everyone would share in his care, and at some point, an employee would want to adopt him. Babette loves dogs and volunteered to take him home the first night, but she was not sure if she was ready to have a dog. Assistant Winemaker Maggie Kruse took him home for a few hours the second night, more enthused than her husband. As the week went on, Babette grew more attached to Coco, who we’d started calling Rivet (after Rosie the Riveter, Rosie’s namesake). Babette wanted to adopt him, but her biggest concern was where he would stay during the day, as her office is in an open area downstairs.

I told her we’d find a solution. I love dogs, and even though guests can’t bring pets to our tasting experiences, employees with offices can bring well-behaved dogs to work.

They say sharing is caring, and teamwork is a big part of our culture at Jordan. It was rewarding to see how quickly the staff joined in to help care for the dog. Maggie talked with Rob Davis, our winemaker, who agreed he could stay in their office during the day. Terri Murphy in Human Resources offered to assist with dog-walking duties, as did Lisa. Maggie became his daytime sitter, creating a spot for his winery bed next to her desk. The only thing that was missing was giving this little guy a new name. (What six-year-old boy wants to be named Coco anyway, right?)

He is Babette’s dog, so his name really needed to be her choice, not mine. (Rivet was my idea.) After a few days of floating names around the office, she decided to go with Cooper—a bit different from his first name but not too much. Cooper is a very sweet dog. It’s amazing to think what type of life he had before Jordan. Now, he’s truly a winery dog. He’s brought us together and reminded us that we are a family, and family comes first.