March 25, 2013  

With love and care, Coco grew from a quiet, scared girl into a fun-loving, happy one

By Ashley Vaughan

Coco came into my life in May 2011. It was perfect timing. We shared almost the same birthday and would be celebrating together for the first time the following week. I showered her with new dog-mom love and her very first bully stick. It was a great day. Coco was my first foster dog and ultimately, my first foster failure. She was rescued by the Humane Society from a life that left her and four other dogs badly scarred emotionally and physically. As evidence in an ongoing animal neglect investigation, I agreed to foster Coco for a few months until her case was brought to trial and she could be adopted out. Little did I know, she would always be mine.

The first time I met Coco I didn’t know what to expect. I was told by her foster care coordinators that she was a quiet, 5-year old pit bull with a few health issues. When she tottered out to meet me, my jaw dropped. Coco was born with cerebellar hypoplasia and she suffered from severe ataxia, making each step she took a difficult one. She walked with a wide, unbalanced gait that was both shocking and unnerving for people who weren’t used to it.

Coco also suffered from chronic tremors, which forced her to seize and fall to her chest whenever she walked or shook her head. She couldn’t run more than a few bounds without tumbling. She couldn’t walk up or down stairs. Every day, I scooped up her 45 pounds of pit bull muscle and carried her down the stairs of our attic apartment to the yard outside. On top of all that, she had a severe sensitivity to light and lacked depth perception, which made eating and drinking water difficult. She was a special girl.

As the months passed, her court case got postponed again and again, as animal cases often do. My world continued to revolve around Coco. We took slow and steady walks and snuggled every day. We went on car adventures, so she could see the world from the backseat. I carried her to places that her body would not let her go. She grew from a quiet, scared girl into a fun-loving, happy one. She grew to be my best friend.

A year later, her court date was finally set and I panicked. What if, in some horrible alternate universe where justice does not prevail, the defendants won? What if they took her back? The dogs were subpoenaed and we had to attend the trial. I had to carry Coco across the slick courtroom floors. We were both nervous and scared. After a few long weeks, Coco’s case finally ended and we got the news we were waiting for: the Humane Society won and was given custody of all of the dogs. They could be adopted. I signed her paperwork the next day and we celebrated by lying in the sun. It was almost our birthdays again.

In the fall and out of the blue, Coco’s health rapidly deteriorated. We saw vet after vet. I slept on the floor with her during her last days and when it came time to make the decision to let her go, I did so with a broken heart. Coco left the world last October, in her most favorite place – snuggled up in my lap, cradled in my arms. I still think of her every day, my miracle dog. She taught me true love and loyalty and forgiveness. She taught me the importance of a really cozy blanket and that it’s okay to sleep in some days. She taught me to keep getting up, even if I know I’ll fall down. Coco was, and will always be, one of the best parts of me.

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