It’s no secret that I’m a dog lover. Always have been, always will be. I was born into a house of dog lovers. And other animals too – cats, birds, fish, gerbils. You name, we loved it. Domestic and wild.
I’ve written about the day my dog Andy died and how painful it was, especially for my daughter and me. But also, for our next-door neighbour, who unwittingly became the hero of the night. For which I am eternally grateful. Although Andy’s death was a sad story and broke my heart, the death of his partner Coco, seven years later, is one that I still cry over. Like this morning.
I was out walking my sweet sleepy Schneagle Simon and started thinking about my walks with little Coco, especially the precious ones towards the end of her life. This in turn got me thinking about her final days. Coco was one of those stoic characters. No matter how much pain she was in, she would soldier on.
Nothing stopped her. She was a tenacious stubborn bitch. In my mind, I always imagined she had a whiskey, chain-smoking voice like Marge Simpson’s twin sisters Patty and Selma. And that she was always snarling fuck you or fuck off under her breath. I loved her for that. We spoke the same language.
Her stoic tough-girl nature was no more apparent than when she was pregnant with her litter of five. Despite her growing girth, she walked with me every morning right up to the day before she gave birth. (Rhyme, not intended.) The final stretch of our early morning walks included a steep hill, which on the best of days, utterly exhausted me. It had to have exhausted Coco too, given that her belly was full and almost dragging on the ground. But she just kept givin’ er. Head up, tail high, eyes alert, one ear up and forward and one bent, her little rear-end swaying from side to side.
But she would not quit. I always admired that about her. Wished I had more of that in me.
We rescued Coco when she was around two years old, maybe older. No one seemed to know for sure. She was a barn dog, one of many – twenty or so Jack Russell Terriers – at the stables. She was one of the two Mama dogs, used for breeding, who roamed the grounds freely, not kept in the outdoor pen like the others. She had this swagger, and fuck-you attitude that I really respected. I used to see her around on Saturday mornings. While my daughter took riding lessons, I kept one eye on my kid and one on Coco. She was adorable, feisty, fiercely independent and sassy as hell.
But life on the farm wasn’t good for Coco, despite her freedom to roam the property and chew on horse nails and other barnyard delicacies. Somehow, she had a run-in with a gang of escapee JRTs and was severely pulverized. Shit-kicking doesn’t begin to describe it. One on one, she could have taken any of those male fur-balls down, but this pack was too much, even for the toughest of broads.
She was removed from the scene by the mom of one the other riders after she found her at the entrance gate covered in blood and one ear mangled.
Their family couldn’t keep her because they already had two dogs. But we could. Coco was my kind of girl and I just had to have her as part of our family. For the next five years she was Andy’s cussing companion, and then she spent another seven years keeping Rusty in line. There was no messing with Coco.
Towards the end of her life, she was almost deaf and blind which made walking her a dream. Once a reactive dog, ready to go at it with anything on four legs, she grew into the most chill laid-back chick on the block. Our daily walks became stress-free, quiet, focused, pleasant and peaceful.
On her last week, she stopped eating including all her favorite things that we tempted her with. On her last day and night, she slept peacefully on the mat in our downstairs bathroom. We held vigil throughout the night. The next morning Eric took her to the Vet where she took her journey over the Rainbow Bridge. He was devastated. Shattered. And vowed never to do that again. It felt like murder. Completely irrational, we know. But that’s how it felt. Don’t judge. And please, no platitudes about putting an end to her suffering. We get that. We aren’t selfish morons. Just brokenhearted dog lovers.
It was completely different with Andy. I was with him when he died on the floor next to my bed. I got to stroke his back as he took his last breath. I got to walk him one last time. To the foot of the Rainbow Bridge. No bright lights. No needles. Just him and me. I got to whisper soothing, tenderhearted, loving things to him. I got tell him it was okay. Everything was going to be okay. I was with him. I loved him. Always would.
This morning, as I was walking Simon and weeping in the dark, I wished the same for Coco. I wished that I had laid next to her on that little mat on our bathroom floor, with her sweet head cradled on my chest, while I gently stroked her back. I wished I could have held her and whispered, “It’s okay, girl. You can let go, sweetheart. Your job is done now. You rescued me.”
And of course, she would have looked up at me one last time, and in that raspy, whiskey-voice of hers, told me to “fuck off.”