NEWRY — “It’s just like taking a deep breath,” Bing Fishman says when describing the comfort his golden retriever, Cooper, brought to him when his son passed away years ago.

Bing Fisher, who lives at the Sunday River ski resort in Newry, relies heavily on the comfort and companionship of his dog, Cooper, a certified therapy dog. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

After the funeral, a large gathering of people came to his sister-in-law’s home to pay their respects. Cooper stayed close to Fishman. However, at one point, Cooper went up to each person, almost greeting them in a way, Fishman said. After Cooper visited everyone, he remained by Fishman’s side for the entire evening.

“I noticed him clinging to the both of us (Fishman and his wife), just walking around. He knew something wasn’t right. And so I realized that this is medicine with no side effects,” said Fishman. “And then, you know, that got me through a lot because I talked to him. (I’d) go hiking, and we talk, so you’re looking into their eyes.”

Fishman said it felt as if Cooper was giving him a hug with his eyes.

According to a New York Times article, when owners and dogs lock eyes it can prompt production of oxytocin, a hormone that is also produced by feelings of love between humans. Citing scientists and psychologists, the article states that with continued eye contact, dogs can view their human as “key social partners” and vice versa.

Fishman described how it was comforting being with Cooper during this dark part of his life. Cooper was someone he could talk to openly, with no judgment or feeling that Fishman was weighing anyone else down with everything he was going through.


“I talk more freely to him than I would a human,” Fishman said. “And I don’t know why that is. … I want to use the word freedom when you’re talking to a dog, but, well, it is the ability to say anything you want about your feelings. But I can use any kind of language I want.”

Bing Fisher, who lives at the Sunday River ski resort in Newry, relies heavily on the comfort and companionship of his dog, Cooper, a certified therapy dog. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Fishman said he never really accepted the loss, and he refers to President Joe Biden as someone who has described how Fishman feels.

“Biden … he took my thoughts and words … like he was listening to me. … Biden said when he lost his son, he said, ‘Trust me, folks, after a while, a grin will come over your face because you’ll think of something funny that happened.’ And he was right,” Fishman said. “I think of things that happen and I’m able to smile now. I got a picture of (his son) at a vineyard. Beautiful shot that my sister-in-law took. And I talk to that picture as well.”

Cooper has not only helped Fishman heal, but his wife as well. His wife was diagnosed with primary lateral sclerosis, a type of neural disease that causes the nerve cells in the brain that control movement to fail over time. Cooper immediately took to her side.

“He sits by her side. If she’s using the walker, he’ll walk with her, and it’s just astounded me because I didn’t train him to do that. He’s doing all this on his own,” said Fishman.

Fishman’s wife said Cooper calms down negative thoughts she has and makes some of the pain better.

“And I know it does,” said Fishman softly, “because I see her sitting there and she could be reading a book and she’ll set it down and she’ll just stare out and look at him. And he’ll stay there for the longest time. So I honestly believe they have an innate ability to have feelings.”

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