I’ve decided to make a weekly event – Forget-Me-Not Friday. Forget-Me-Not Friday is about pets we have lost, whether they’ve passed over the Rainbow Bridge, got lost and were never found, or had to be given up for one reason or another. Most of my posts will be limited to cats and dogs as they are what I know best. Tell me about your beloved dog, your adorable cat, your favorite horse, your silly goat, your pet pig, your mischievous ferret, and send a picture with your story to FluffybuttsFamily@mycompanymail.com and I’ll post one picture and one story every Friday in memory of those pets.
The first Forget-Me-Not Friday will feature Coconut Baby (Coco), my baby girl. This is not an easy story to tell, but I feel it needs to be told.
My dad got Coconut Baby as a 2-month-old puppy, free even though she was purebred because she was the runt of her litter. She was a beautiful Chocolate Lab, and so smart. It wasn’t long before she learned not to bite, before she learned to sit and lay down and stay, before she learned how to play fetch and drop the ball for us, before she learned to “heel” and “lead” in turn. She never grew to be as big as most other Chocolate Labs, but we didn’t care about that. She was our family dog. And she was my baby girl. She slept in my bed most nights. We played together in the empty lots beside our house. We went on long walks together. She was there when I was lonely, there when I was sad, there when I was happy, there when I came home from school, she was just always there. I loved her more than words can express, even if she did sometimes chew on our toy horses and dragged our underwear about if we didn’t put them away properly.
My dad intended to breed her one day so he never got her spayed; however, before he actually decided to breed her, she ended up pregnant twice. She’d managed to get out while she was in heat and came back a day or two later with a semi-expected surprise growing in her belly. The first litter was a litter of seven puppies. In our little house, cramped even for the ten humans living there, it became even more cramped with seven puppies running around, getting into things, soiling the carpets, and generally getting underfoot. Just as I loved Coco, though, I also loved her puppies. Even so, we couldn’t keep them. We just didn’t have the room and didn’t have the finances to care for another dog, not to mention several. So my dad took us to Walmart and set up signs that we had mixed breed puppies for sale (believe me, if I had known better at the time, I would have never agreed to sell them that way). A couple went that day, and more other days, until at last they had all found homes. For several days, Coco searched for her puppies, but eventually, as most do, she settled down and life went on.
Her second litter came after we moved into a larger house with a much larger yard and chain link kennels outside. When she turned up pregnant yet again in the cold fall months, we fashioned a house for her out of straw that would help hold in heat and keep her and the puppies warm. The litter this time was larger. Nine in all. They were mostly black, though some were mottled with Coco’s brown and spots of white. They were, in a word, adorable. With more room we were able to keep them longer and search for good homes for them. They were between 2 and 4 months when our dad finally managed to find homes for all of them. I don’t know how or where he found the homes and, again, if I had known better at the time I would have insisted we go about it a different way.
In any case, after that we were able to prevent her getting out to stand for whatever male dog was in the area. I am ashamed to say my dad did not see her as a member of the family, not like I did in any case. As times became tough and financials were strained, he saw her more as a way to make some quick cash. By this time he and my mom were divorced, but he’d kept Coco as she was, technically, his dog and the house we’d moved into would only allow one small dog, which was my grandma’s Schipperke/Pomeranian mix. Coco was almost ten years old when he paid for a purebred Chocolate Lab to impregnate her. It was a phenomenally bad idea. Even as little as I knew back then about properly caring for a dog, I knew it was bad. The dog was much bigger than her and already she was suffering from arthritis and possible hip dysplasia. Even so, she fell pregnant. Old as she was, the pregnancy was hard on her. She started losing fur. Her skin was dry and itchy. She didn’t have much energy, and though she greeted us with a wagging tail when we visited, her eyes weren’t as bright as they used to be. My heart hurt to watch her and know I could do nothing about how she was being treated. I was trapped by my feelings for my dad, for he was a good dad despite the way he treated our dog, and the desire to help Coco.
Finally, she gave birth. Only two puppies survived. Gidget and Gizmo. One male and one female. Coco had two months with them before they were sold. The male for $200, and the female for $250. In that moment, I was beyond disappointed with my dad and furious at the way he’d used our family pet. My baby girl.
From there, things only got worse. He didn’t breed her again, thankfully, but neither did he care for her very well, especially post-pregnancy. She looked unkempt, covered in dandruff, fur falling out, and thinner than she should be.
Then he left. He said he was moving down to Utah or Texas to get a job as a truck driver. He said he’d found someone to take Coco and then left her there at the house. Coco was lost and alone. She sat at the front door and waited for him to come back, for although he treated her poorly, she loved him as only a dog could. She was loyal to a fault. For days she sat by the front door and waited. I tried to bring her to our house. The landlady wouldn’t allow her to stay inside, so she had to be outside. Every day she would disappear and I’d drive back to my dad’s house to find her sitting at the front door waiting for him.
Until, one day, she wasn’t there. The woman cleaning the house told me a man in a green truck had picked her up and taken her away. I searched, drove all around the area, but couldn’t find her. At the time, I had no idea how to find a lost dog, that social sites specifically for lost dogs existed, that I could post on Craigslist and Facebook and shelter sites that we’d lost her. All I knew was that we might be able to put an ad in the newspaper, but we lived out in the country and the closest city with a newspaper was 15-20 minutes away, out of the area I thought she might be. Plus, it cost to put an ad in the paper and we were already financially tight since now our only income came from what my mom could make as a newby and temp worker at her company.
Coco was about 12 years old when she disappeared. I hope and pray she lived out the rest of her life in comfort with someone who appreciated her and loved her as I loved her.
There are many things I wish I did differently. I wish I insisted on vetting the people that wanted to buy Coco’s puppies. I wish I insisted she stay with us when my parents divorced and we moved out, even if it was against the wishes of our landlady. I wish I would have had the courage to call someone to take Coco away from my dad and penalize him for her neglect. Most of all, I wish I could have been with her as she lived out the rest of her life. I miss her dearly and still think of her daily.
This post is in memory of my Coconut Baby. May she never be forgotten.
Remember, you can send in a picture and the story of your beloved pet to FluffybuttsFamily@mycompanymail.com and have them featured on Forget-Me-Not Friday.