In his best-selling novel, “Whispers,” Dean Koontz sums up the giant hole left when you lose the family pup. “Once you have had a wonderful dog,” Koontz concludes, “a life without one, is a life diminished.” We lost our beloved 12-year old dog Coco this month and there is no doubt our life and our family won’t be quite the same without her. Referred to by our daughter Ashlie (Coco’s official owner) as “sassy and spunky,” Coco loved chasing bunnies, socializing with all the neighbors who ensured she had her daily “cookie” and keeping watch from her perch on the back of the sofa for dad to arrive home. But more than anything, she loved Nantucket…in all seasons, for 1000 reasons and for all time.
Coco has made a few cameo appearances in this blog over the years…sometimes she even had a starring role. Mostly because she was an easy subject to write about, with her unwavering affinity for a wide variety of things that are so easy to love about the island. Like us, she fell head over tail in love with Nantucket from the first moment we brought her along on the ferry. Our large grassy Nantucket lawn replete with bunnies might have been enough to burst her heart for all eternity, until we walked her down to Cisco beach where she discovered the sheer thrill of having her paws on the sand and her nose dipped in the salt water. Like thousands of dogs before her, she found utopia on Nantucket.
It was fascinating to experience the Grey Lady through a dog’s life. Walking on the bike path or in Sanford Farm, she didn’t know a stranger and would never dream of just “passing by” a fellow canine. She always wanted to stop, take a few good sniffs and say “top of the mornin” to the other pups. She was never intimidated by size or breed and would never pass judgement if the other dogs were cranky or even disinterested. She would offer a friendly greeting anyway and move on down the path. I’ve thought of her example often as I’ve met fellow walkers on the path these past couple weeks. Everyone could use a warm hello (sans sniffing of course!)
It was fascinating watching Coco find her sea legs on our little inflatable dinghy. As a puppy, she would sit shivering on her own seat unsure of what to make of all that water. Soon enough she found courage to begin venturing around the boat and in recent summers she would literally walk the perimeter on the very edge of the pontoons while we cruised the harbor, then settle on to the bow with head lifted high. She loved feeling the wind in her face and as the boat approached the sands of Coatue she would leap over the edge, swim to shore, shake off and then turn to be sure we were watching. Even in her old age, she never lost her courage or excitement for the water.
Our family won’t be the same without Coco and our island experience will never be quite the same either. We did have a wonderful dog, but I hope that instead of a life diminished as Koontz wrote, we’ll use her example of passion and exuberance for life, her family, and all things Nantucket as a model for island life without her.
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