Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Dog Who Loved Apples.


 I remember the first time I met Coco. 
  He had been living in a barn and fed whenever his previous owners could be bothered. As a result he was painfully thin with bald patches the size of my fist across his back and sides.
"Anxiety" said the vet from the rescue centre.
 That first night  I lay in my bed and listened to Coco pacing from room to room downstairs, whimpering because there was nobody around and he thought we'd abandoned him.
 He did that the next night.
And the night after that.


  Eventually Coco began to feel more secure. He was getting meals and regular exercise and above all, he had people around to make a fuss of him.
Yes, that is me. 
  Coco loved people. Most people loved him right back. Nine times out of ten, people would say hello to him before they said hello to me. Naturally he had to collect his daily tribute of pats and stroking and "Aren't you a lovely boy" before we'd walk on.
  I'd take him for walks on a Saturday and we'd usually make a point of stopping off to see the old chaps who lived round the corner. We'd chat and take it in turns to throw an apple for Coco to chase. He'd hare off to fetch it, then trot back, drop it at somebody's feet and grin at them until they chucked it again.

 As far as Coco was concerned, the big bonus to using an apple was that at the end of the game he'd get to eat the apple.
 Of course, most times he couldn't wait that long and every time he brought the apple back there'd be another chunk missing out of it.  So we'd find ourselves flinging an apple that was getting smaller, and stickier and dirtier. Coco didn't care.
 Imagine how happy he was when he discovered the apple trees up the road. And where there are apple trees left untended there are windfalls.  Big, green cooking apples littered the grass by the dozen, so many that every other step was a crunch or a squelch.  I couldn't help noticing that some of them were quite manky but did Coco give a shit?  Nope. He was in doggy heaven.
  We had a little game. I'd take a run-up and boot one of the slightly-putrid apples across the grass, Coco would sprint off, tail fluttering in the slipstream of his passage and pounce upon his prey with happy snuffles of delight.
  
 If there weren't any apples to chase -  we were bimbling through the woods for instance - then sticks would do just as well.  Coco would go crashing through the bushes and reappear with a stick longer than he was, looking ever so pleased with himself.
 He used to eat those as well.
No, seriously.
 Coco would flop down in the grass with something you could use to bludgeon a yak and five minutes later it would be splinters and sawdust.
  This is why I used to tell people that Coco was part-spaniel, part Rottweiler and part-beaver.
 A few times I caught him eating grass.  Maybe there was some sheep DNA in there too.

  Sometimes I'd feel a little down, a little bit overwhelmed by life, so I'd take Coco out for an evening stroll. We'd walk through the streets enjoying the quiet. Just me and him and the faint murmur of televisions seeping out from behind closed curtains. He'd be sniffing the ground and the hedges, vaguely hoping somebody had left an apple lying around, while I'd chat to him. Working my way through the things that were bugging me.
 When I finished he'd grin at me, pull a forgotten tennis ball from under a hedge and we'd spend ten minutes or so playing before turning for home. Him happy. Me happier than I had been.

 I moved out in the end, but still came back from time to time to play dog-sitter and dispenser of apples. Over time I began to realise that my dog was getting heavier. Slower. Older.
 He'd still grin at you, still sit two feet away while you were eating your tea just in case you decided you didn't need all those chips, still go haring off after a thrown ball with his tail tic-tacking from side to side, but every time I took him up to the shops it would take longer. He would pant more heavily as we walked home. He spent more time in his bed.  He seemed to be having more trouble walking...

 Then, when we'd had Coco for about 12 years,  we found The Lump.

  He came back from the grooming parlour with his long, brown curls shorn away ready for summer and that's when we saw what had been underneath.
  Growing on his left hand side was something the size of a small melon.
 Cyst? Tumour? Something else entirely? We didn't know.
 What we did know was this: If we tried to have it removed then  there was a pretty good chance that old as he was, he would never wake up from the operation.
 To this day we still don't know whether we should have had it done anyway.

  I remember the last time I saw Coco
  I'd gone up to visit my Mum and Dad and Coco, and I sat and watched as he struggled to get over the back-doorstep into the garden. When he came back in I made a little fuss of him as he sat there grinning, tail twitching, before limping off to his bed and throwing himself down with a grunt of effort. When I went home he barely had the energy to come and say goodbye. 

 A few days later my Mum called me, and as soon as I heard the way she was fighting back tears I knew something had happened. She told me that earlier that morning Mum and Dad had taken Coco to the vet for the very last time. 
  It was probably the most difficult  conversation I've ever had in my life. Mum was trying to keep it together for my sake, I was trying to be strong for hers and neither of us was fooled.
 After I hung up I sat down and cried my eyes out. 

 I like to think that Coco had a happy life. He certainly brought a lot of joy to mine. Even years later I still miss him. 

It's a shame my dog never got to see my new home. I have an apple tree in the garden and I'm sure he would have loved that. 
  

16 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing that Sir. It was beautiful.

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  2. Big D, what a loving tribute to your Coco! Great photos of his sweet smiling face, and I especially like the one of the two of you together. I just love the way he’d fetch apples and eat them too! I also know how a dog can lift up your spirits when you’re down. As you wrote about how he got older and slower and the lump, I could relate so well. That happened to my Roscoe, 14 when we lost him a few months ago. Miss him so much and still haven’t been able to write about it. But I have a Coco too, a girl, so that helps. Such a personal post and full of heart. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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  3. Beautifully written, Big D, so full of feeling. I am literally in tears right now. My best friend between the ages 3-18 was a fox terrier. We grew up together. When she died, I was crushed. It was like losing a sister. I have never had another dog, because how do you replace a sister?

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  4. Loved it, Big D. You're such a wonderful writer! Coco had so much personality; I'm so glad you "found" each other. Sounds like he was a perfect best friend. All those apples had to have had a beneficial effect on him, both retrieving them and eating them. Thanks for sharing this sweet story; it made my evening after a very difficult week.

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  5. Beautifully written, Big D, so full of feeling. I am literally in tears right now. My best friend between the ages 3-18 was a fox terrier. We grew up together. When she died, I was crushed. It was like losing a sister. I have never had another dog, because how do you replace a sister?

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  6. Thank you everybody that's commented. It means a lot to me.

    And yes, he really was something special.

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  7. You really had me on board with that one BigD...a wonderful story indeed.
    Beautifully & truthfully written. Truly moving.
    Cheers, ic

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  8. Big D, I was sucked in by the story of Coco and never realised the turn it was going to take. I had my own lump in the throat and as Ian said, it's Beautifully & truthfully written.

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  9. You gave Coco the best years of his life, and Coco enriched yours too. Loved how you described how you and Coco would play games with the apples, it reminds me of when I had dogs at a much younger age. Dogs are just so much fun and have so much character. I'm sorry you lost her that way some time ago, but at least you have very fond memories with pictures that will stay with you forever.
    A sad but very lovely post to Coco.

    Have you thought about getting another dog?

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    Replies
    1. Not really. I don't have the space for a dog or the time to take care of one properly. My parents have thought about getting another one but in their own words "They wouldn't find another one like Coco."
      You're right though, we do still have the happy memories.

      Delete
  10. Awwww... I have a dog too. His name is Pummy. He's like a younger brother to me and a baby to my parents. We all love him a lot. I can completely understand how much you must be missing him. But I think he lived his life happily and you gave him a great life. Be happy that he could be a part of your life!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. I like to think so.

      What kind of dog is Pummy?

      Delete
  11. Dale. That has just made me cry remembering that fat dopey lump that loved us . I remember having to fight an alsation that went for him. All the while he was held in my arms grinning like a tit , wagging his tail like he had a new best mate. While i flailed madly at a severing behemoth like Michael flatley on fast forward. I never saw him at the end. I prefer to remember the pictures you posted. A man and his dog have a special dog have a special bond. Or as far as coco was concerned a dog and his apple dispensers ..

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  12. Bloody autocorrect. Slavering

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  13. And i miss him too brother. One of a kind he was. Thankyou for reminding me and making me cry. You bastard !

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  14. I had a few tears come to my eyes....I don't own a dog but I have two cats that have been to Hell with me and back. One of the two cats I rescued when she was a kitten because some kids were trying to burn her up in a cup...I was not having that I went crazy seeing that....this was a beautiful write it warmed my heart on this rainy morning.

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