“Sticks! Look you guys, sticks!” Coco knew they could read her mind as she snatched the first one she saw. With great pride she lifted her face toward her loving family, radiant in her find. Mom crouched down and scratched Coco’s head and ears. “Good girl!” With only slight resistance, Coco let Mom take her prize from her grip. Pleased that her family rejoiced in her stick skill as much as she did, Coco quickly turned back toward the beach. “I smell rabbit,” she noted.
With her 8 inch long nose and extensive, limber ears that flop about helping to scoop up the scent of her prey, Coco was focused on her occupation. She riveted her nose back to the ground so no rabbit would go unfound. Although the symphony of smells on this rousing beach often distracted her, Coco’s nose knows. And there it was. The marvelous smell of rabbit suddenly hit her. She stopped. Her nose thrust up briefly. Her right paw elevated off the ground as if she was pointing in the direction of the bunny. But in a New York minute, Coco was on the move, as if that sudden, arrested prance had never happened. Mom felt a sudden jolt at the other end of the leash and they were off. “There are rabbits here. I can smell them. I will find them, because that is what I’m built to do. Rabbits. Bunnies. Some of them even have floppy ears like me.”
Mom handed the leash to Dad. This 40 pound, four year old Basset Hound has the strength of gale force wind when rabbits are anywhere near. “It’s like her crack,” Dad laughingly reminded Mom and Grandma. They acquiesced to her need to hunt her prey and followed her into a thicket. Coco pulled and Dad pulled back. When he was finally able to re-direct her attention back to the beach, Coco was licking her chops.
“She must have found some bunny-poo,” Mom stated flatly. It is, indeed, a fact, that Coco and her Basset Hound kin love their rabbit.
“Too bad we’re not hunting for rabbit stew tonight,” Grandma noted. The three chuckled at the thought of Coco actually catching a bunny. It wasn’t to be. At least, not that evening. “Do you think we should tell her that she will probably never actually catch a rabbit?” They shook their heads; what would be the point of telling her?
Unlike many other dogs, Coco does not like car rides. But she had endured this journey via car and ferry as the family enjoyed these leisurely few days at a Whidbey Island Airbnb. Once they all arrived, Coco, Mom, Dad, and Grandma, stepped onto the pebble and tree lined beach. Coco’s short Basset Hound legs flew over the wet sand. In the end, she decided that the beach explorations, sticks, and rabbit tracking were well worth it.
At home the next night, Grandma flicked on the gas fireplace and Coco stretched out on her grey velvet cushion, her belly facing the warm flame. She dozed into a light slumber when she suddenly realized that Mom and Dad were embraced in their own warm glow. Coco leapt off her bed and jumped up on to them as far as her short legs would allow. She began to howl. “Wooaohoa! Wo-woahh!”
Mom stepped away and Dad turned to Coco. “I love you, Coco,” he exclaimed. Coco howled in joy. “I do, I love you, too!!” She could have listened to her Dad recite those words all day. Dad bent down and met her happy face with his own kisses. For several minutes they sat on the floor, Dad rubbing her ears and belly, Coco resting in his gentle embrace. Coco looked up at him. He met her gaze. For a moment that felt like eternity, Dad was overwhelmed by her unconditional love. Her look was nearly that of a human - their connection so clear and deep. He was speechless. A slight tingle rippled through him. Although he, Dubraskha, and Grandma had spoken about their thoughts that Coco was their human child in another life, in that moment, Gillmer felt their truth. He kissed her forehead and again whispered into her magnificent ear. “I love you, too, Coco. Thank you.”
As the only child of professional classical and contemporary dancers, Coco brought a much needed balance into the lives of Dubraskha and Gillmer. While living in Alaska, Dubraskha wanted Gillmer’s 40th birthday present to be exceptional. She and her friends Ivy and Therese had driven far and away to visit the last of eight Basset Hound pups as a possible gift. All the while, Gillmer knew nothing. After a delightful visit, Dubraskha instead gave in to her caution and left without the pup.
But eleven short minutes after they’d left the three month old, Dubraskha stopped the car, turned around and finally scooped up Coco into her arms. Meanwhile, Gillmer was at home waiting for his wife.
Finally, he heard the gentle crackle of car tires on the frozen driveway and released an audible sigh of relief. When the car’s headlights washed across the apartment’s front window and went dark, he knew his wife had finally arrived home safely. Then he heard Dubraskha talking and curiously making too much commotion. “What is she doing out there?” he thought to himself. After several minutes, Dubraskha threw open the door - excitement, extensive ears, a wagging tail, and a delighted little Basset Hound blew in with her.
“Happy Birthday, Gillmer!”
The puppy rushed to him. He fell to the floor to greet this sweet, low hanging, and long nosed gift. “Oh my gosh!”
“Her name is Coco!” Dubraskha exclaimed as she, too, dropped to the floor to adore the new pup. “I was trying to think of a name for her - since she’s your birthday present - and you love cocosette, I thought it would be a perfect name - a sweet treat’s name, for a sweet little girl.”
Gillmer barely heard what his wife was saying; he was already so enamored with this ball of energy that he was overcome with joy and laughter. “Oh my gosh! Look at you, Coco! You are beautiful!” As he rubbed her long torso, she aimed for his face, administering doggy kisses and in return, gleefully accepting all the love Mom and Dad could gush upon her. In that instant, Gillmer fell in love with his new baby, and she with him. “This is awesome. I love her!”
It wasn’t long before Coco found a best friend, Krrome, who was thrilled to find someone who also loved sticks. And playing, of course. An untrained eye might not realize that their gentle biting was merely their way of frolicking. Their walks would cascade into chasing one another once they arrived in the safety of one of their homes.
And then there were the sticks. Coco found her stick soulmate. If either picked up anything resembling a stick, the branch - fiend friend found another end to hang on to. But after that tug – o’ – fun, it was time to run again. Or, hang out in their beds, just contemplating each other and being together.
Mom and Dad soon learned that training a Basset Hound requires its own unique skill set. Coco can be stubborn and does not want to be alone. She will sit next to – or on the lap of whoever is near to her. She has her own bed, well - beds…in each room of the house, and will often fall asleep wrapped in her blanket. By 3 A.M. she is ready for her snuggle time. Sometimes Grandma won’t even realize that Coco has slipped into bed with her, her long body pressed as close as she can manage – snout ready to administer kisses once dawn breaks.
After Anchorage, the family also lived outside of Washington, DC, where Coco found her new best friend Emil, a Carin Terrier while both were out for their walks. Coco, the social butterfly, is interested in everything and everyone. Emil, on the other hand is a – let’s get the job done – kind of guy. Because he is a good friend, he would patiently wait for Coco as she snooped in and out, up and down. In fact, Coco is the Basset Hound poster pup for “walk…and carry a big stick.” Or small stick. From anywhere, at any time - sticks rock and rule. “It’s all about sticks and bunnies,” she would tell Emil.
Once the two got home from their walk: Let the games begin! They would play, run, tug, tease, and share their beds. But if there was a splash of sunshine-move over, Emil. That’s Coco’s slice of heaven. It was as if the bright rays radiated bunny smell - Coco could sniff out the warmth of the bright light from anywhere and secure her spot in Coco-paradise. She fancies herself a little sun-bunny (any way to make it rabbit tie-in is works for her!).
After moving to Renton, Washington, Coco stayed with Mom’s friend Claudia for three weeks while they got settled in their new home. As Claudia escorted Coco around her soon to be old neighborhood, everyone and especially her dog friends, made a point of spending a little extra time with Coco, since they knew she’d be leaving soon. Even after Coco joined Mom and Dad in their new home, Claudia was sending messages about how much Coco was missed. “The man with the two big white dogs asked about Coco this weekend. She made an impression!” And for Coco, the loss of Emil and her dog park/walk friends was tough. But in Renton, Washington, she has her Grandma, lots of sticks, Mom and Dad – and more new friends to make every day. And since it’s Coco, it hasn’t taken long at all.
While Mom and Dad learned a lot about Coco’s needs and habits, Coco became a unique ballerina in her own right. Mom explains it simply:
" We say she is a versatile dancer... Classical dancer when she pees because she has a great turned out in a second position grand plié..."
"She also stands in a great 1st position:"
"And she is a contemporary dancer when she poops because she shows her contemporary contraction:"
"When she gets up from sleeping she stretches and shows a great arabesque line with her back paws. Sometimes her right sometimes her left:"
“Coco, where am I?” Coco’s eyes pop open. She knows that voice-it’s Dad.
“Coco, where am I?” That’s Mom’s voice! Not even this warm fire and my favorite grey waffle bed will keep me from this!
“Coco…,” Dad calls from the back bedroom. Coco is up as fast as a rabbit she would like to catch. She screeches around the sofa and slides on the tile floor as she turns the corner of the kitchen.
“Coco, where am I?” Wait, Mom is closer. She must be in the bathroom. Coco grazes the corner of the refrigerator as she gallops into the bathroom, saved from sliding on her derriere by the tangerine rug. She sees the bottom of Mom’s foot headed into the bedroom.
“Coco, where am I?” That’s Dad. Now he’s in the living room. He may be closer, after all. As fast as she can, she first tries to find Mom. Nope. She takes a hard right and heads back into the living room.
“Coco, I’m over here…” She can now see Mom behind the counter, taunting her from the kitchen. Dad sneaks up behind her, scratches her back and runs to the other bedroom. Now Mom is gone. Grandma watches gleefully from the dining room table where she has a bird’s eye view of all the action. Around and around they go. When Coco finally finds Mom or Dad, they rub her flappy ears, run, and hide. It is Coco’s favorite game.
As Mom and Dad collapse on the living room floor, Coco waddles over their bodies, her ears brushing elbows and eyelids. “Woooaaaoohh,” she howls for more and jumps over and away from them-now she is the tease. She runs down the hall, looks back to see how close they are to her. But there they lie. Disappointed but filled with love from all the fun, Coco struts back to her family. Grandma sits near them. The three of them rub, scratch, kiss, and caress Coco. Hide and seek may be her favorite game, but this is her favorite - anything.
In this moment, all four feel the serenity, joy, and peace that Coco has brought to her family. There is no rush to get up and check phones or computers. There is no hurry to get dinner ready or return an email. This moment is the hallmark of their family. This is the moment for which they live. Their love is palpable.