Not only was Coco special to her family, she also holds a special place in the history of Muttville. Read in the words of her dad Dale how Coco came to be a part of our founder Sherri’s destiny. Thank you Dale for sharing her story.
Coco came to us via a neighbor, Sherri Franklin, on Potrero Hill who volunteered extensively at the SPCA. They have an agreement with SF Animal Care and Control to take adoptable dogs into their no-kill system, provided they judge them to be adoptable. Dogs that they do not accept are returned to ACC for euthanasia. She was about 10 months at the time and had been loose on the streets of SF for as much as 3 months by the time she was picked up and had an extreme aversion to people and could not be shown. In addition she had radiological evidence of dysplasia. Sherri believed that after some time at her house with other dogs she might calm down enough to tolerate being shown. It was at that time that she approached us to accept her on a foster program largely on the strength of the physical resemblance between Coco and our older lab-shepard mix, Ryker.
The two dogs got on quite well right from the start. However she could not tolerate any human attention, so much so that even leashing her for a walk was traumatic enough to cause her to fire her stink glands. But thankfully that only lasted a week or so and she began to settle into a routine with us, always keeping her distance with Ryker between us and her.
After a few weeks, she suddenly became playful with Ryker and would regularly engage her in puppy play, much to our surprise and Ryker’s puzzlement. But they worked it out and became good littermates. She also was eventually wooed by the treats and learned to at least accept being handled if not actually enjoy it.
She was quite the streetwise dog. On a few occasions while up at the Rec Center on the hill, she decided to go home without us. The first couple times she went to Sharri’s but finally accepted that our house was her new home. It scared us to death each time it happened but eventually she trusted us enough to obey us, at least most of the time.
Ryker and Coco had a regular dog walker in SF since we both worked. The first one took summers off to develop a spay-neuter program in Indonesia and arranged a substitute. Our regular walker only brought them up the hill to our local park but on the eve of starting her substitute walking she announced that she would take them to another park on Bernal Hill. She lost control of her and she bolted and wouldn’t return. We searched for hours, with Sherri’s help, but could not find her. Miraculously she found her way from Bernal Heights to our doorstep by 5 am the next morning, nails ground down to the quick, filthy dirty, but happy to be back.
Our second walker, Joe, had a similar experience when he took her to Fort Funston. It was a few days before July 4 and during the walk she heard a bunch of firecrackers go off, something that she has always been deathly afraid of. She bolted and would not come out for him. He tried valiantly to find her but no luck. We were certain it was the end of her since there was no way she could navigate from Fort Funston to Potrero Hill on the opposite side of town. But like some Phoenix, when Joe did his morning round in the park she came out of hiding and gladly rejoined his pack. So this dog was well on her way to having as many lives as a cat.
Coco had a very distinct personality. Perhaps it was the chow or perhaps there was some other breed in there but she could be very intimidating when she wanted to. Twice I had friends over and had to leave the room and asked them to just wait for me on the couch. Coco, for whatever reason, decided that they were expected to just sit there and would watch them. If they tried to get up from the couch, she would utter a deep guttural growl and not move a muscle. It was enough to keep them seated until I returned. The first time I was certain it was exaggeration but the second account was identical and neither person was inclined to exaggerate. She was never aggressive but she seemed to take a great delight in intimidating people.
Ryker passed, we moved from SF to Sacramento and Coco seemed happy as the sole dog in the house. But Steve felt that she needed company so we got a pure lab (American) that was named Nugget. Despite being a rambunctious 6 month old male, she immediately told him who was boss in the house and proved she meant business. He has been her adoring brother since 2006 and only stopped trying to play with her a couple months ago.
Despite the radiological evidence of dysplasia, Coco never had mobility trouble until her 13th winter. Then it became clear that the cold, damp mornings caused her stiffness. But she always rallied for the afternoon walk and as soon as the worst of the winter was past, he was back to her old perky self.
This past year she was finally diagnosed with kidney failure and she began to lose weight. But is hardly dampened her spirits. For a time we were giving her pills for her arthritis but we found that they upset her stomach and caused her to stop eating. It was either some joint pain or a fast death so we stopped the pills and she rallied again. Then the symptoms of Cushing’s disease started to appear.
Our older dog Ryker had died of complications of Cushing’s so we knew the symptoms well; incontinence, constant drinking, aggressive behavior, panting, and weight loss. Since she already had kidney failure, was 14 years old and would not likely tolerate the aggressive treatment for Cushing’s, we opted to just treat the symptoms and make her comfortable. But then about a month ago she started going downhill very rapidly. First she refused walks, then a few days later, had trouble walking. She has gotten to the point that she cannot stand by herself and can barely walk. And she sleeps 20 out of 24 hours in the day.
For a dog that was so close to being put down for behavior, and health problems, she has had a remarkable life with us. She had been sweet and attentive and required no vet visits beyond routine shots till last year. She’s been a companion to Nugget as well. We miss her already.
The most remarkable part of Coco’s story is that she was part of a career change for our neighbor, Sherri. She went on to found Muttville Senior Dog Rescue in San Francisco.
Thank you for reading Coco’s story and thank you to Sherri for bringing this remarkable dog into our lives.
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