A little more than 10 months after being captured and given regular food and medical care, a dog that had become a kind of celebrity in Lenoir is in improved health and slowly showing more trust in the woman who is caring for him.

Now called Cooper, he continues receiving treatment for heartworms, and although he still coughs some he’s healthier than he was at the time of his rescue, said Marie Rowe-Coppernoll, who captured him in January after becoming concerned about his health. But he remains skittish around people, even Rowe-Coppernoll.

“He’s actually getting a little bit closer to me than he used to,” Rowe-Coppernoll said.

Known by some as Ol’ Red because of his fiery fur, he once was so perpetually parked next to a fire hydrant on Harper Avenue a short distance north of Morganton Boulevard that he wore a groove into the earth beside it. Rain or shine, in blazing summer heat or frigid winter cold, he seemed to always be there.

A toy yellow hydrant adorns his secure pen at Rowe-Coppernoll’s house. The pen has three shelters, an eating area, and at the moment even a Christmas tree.

In the hot summer months, Rowe-Coppernoll provided a swimming pool for him. There also is an umbrella, which provides some shade, and a dog house, where he sometimes retreats when he is afraid.

Cooper is defensive of his territory, which is framed by a wooded area. Recently, he heard Rowe-Coppernoll walking outside,

and “he just took

off barking.”

“He guards his forest. This is his forest,” she said.

Rowe-Coppernoll started a Facebook page, “Cooper’s Corner,” shortly after she rescued him that she updates twice a day with photos of Cooper and anecdotes — written from Cooper’s perspective — about how he is doing. The page has nearly 3,000 followers.

“When I read the comments, people are just thrilled that he has a place to call home and he’s safe,” she said.

A post on Thanksgiving told readers what Cooper had for his first Thanksgiving meal: an appetizer of homemade cream of chicken soup with turkey giblets and cheese, followed by beef and chunks of turkey.

Rowe-Coppernoll keeps a camera monitoring Cooper so she can check the footage to see how he’s doing at night — whether he slept or was restless.

Rowe-Coppernoll said that feral dogs require a lot of patience — it can take years to gain their trust.

Cooper will now take treats out of her hand, and he allows her to sit on a stool beside his hydrant. Sometimes he’ll shyly approach, but he still does not want to be touched. Recently, Rowe-Coppernoll’s husband, Mike, entered Cooper’s pen, and Cooper, apparently unfazed, continued to sit by his hydrant.

“He’s getting more comfortable,” she said. “I don’t see as much fear in his eyes.”

Animals have routines, “and you need to learn that,” she said. “He is showing me his trust in his time.”

Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.

Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.