The Tale of a Paw

Our family at Brant Lake lives in the era of Moses the Pit bull but before Moses there was Coco, a dog who brought diversity to the Adirondacks.

Although our family investigated her DNA we cannot be certain of her origins. The test results suggested she was a composite of Doberman, Shepherd, Shar Pei, Chow and, probably, many other species inherited over the generations.

Of this we are certain. Coco is a three-legged dog. Days after her birth she was diagnosed with one deformed paw or, more accurately, leg. The leg was amputated and when we first encountered Coco at the North Shore Animal Shelter she was missing both a leg and possibly a future. With all of the dogs available for adoption who would choose a three-legged orphan?

We did. Why? For many reasons but primarily because when she cuddled in David’s lap there was no question that we would adopt Coco since she had already adopted us.

People pity Coco and there was the constant refrain “Poor dog!” We did not pity her. Although she was missing a paw she was endowed with perfection. I know! Everyone says that their dog is perfect. Even the owner of the Pit bull whose favorite food is a little bit of ankle. Rare and juicy. Then there is the King Charles terrier who begins barking at 8 AM and continues through the evening. We call her concert “Charlie’s Unfinished Symphony.” Or Olivia, the golden retriever who can jump and lick your face in one motion, never discriminating in her choice of targets. All the owners of these dogs say their pets are perfect. Hardly! But Coco really is!

When she first entered our home, at eight weeks of age, she did not have any of the bad qualities normally bequeathed to a puppy. She did not chew the furniture. We took her to the nutritionist who examined her appetite and stated that she did not like wood but preferred caviar. There was nothing wrong with her appetite.

More amazing, Coco never peed in the house. Undoubtedly, for a puppy, this meant there was a bladder problem but the urologist Dr. Urine or Your Out said this was not a problem. Coco simply waited until she went outside to relieve herself. At the age of 82, I only wish that when I awaken three or four times a night I could summon Coco’s willpower! And barking? Never a sound. I deduced since I was a clergyman, Coco, out of respect for my profession, preferred silent prayer? Coco never attacked adults, although she did chase the cat, Blackjack, up a tree while retaining a mouthful of hair as a souvenir but Blackjack was a vicious little cat and deserved what she got. Coco also growled at Alex the UPS man but this was a case of mistaken identity since Coco assumed “UPS” stood for “Uninformed Pet Service,” meaning he did not know how to behave with pets.

Yes, Coco was the perfect dog, grateful to be adopted and throughout her lifetime she demonstrated her appreciation knowing what her life might have been in another scenario. She gave more to us than we could ever give to her and, in her final days, when family gathered to remember Coco the only negative trait that was mentioned was her penchant for cockroaches. She also liked an occasional cigarette butt because she was a Marlboro dog but she never acquired a taste for e-cigarettes. She was a truly marvelous dog. Cockroaches and cigarettes were not sufficient to disqualify Coco from the category of special dog even at the end when she needed to be carried outside and could no longer chase chipmunks or look triumphant after attacking a dead frog.

So I repeat: Coco was the perfect dog–perhaps because she lost her paw at an early age and from whom much is taken much is given. Therefore, the next time you see a dog with only three paws, a skunk without a smell, or a leopard without spots do not feel sorry for them. Instead look at the finer qualities they possess.

Give thanks for your two paws. Always remember Coco and give gratitude for what you have and not what you are missing–even in these difficult times!


6 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Dan:

    Thanks for this wonderful slice of humanity. My thoughts immediately were at the Double H Ranch where I am a regular volunteer who has been privileged to interact with our brave kids and their inspiring families. All of my volunteer friends and I have learned so many important life lessons from these amazing kids who have demonstrated so perfectly that they have risen above their serious issues to develop seemingly super-human attributes and qualities. Some of my best and most meaningful life experiences have been at the Double H Ranch. YOUR insightful observations on life remind us of what really matters in our lives and that we can and should endeavor to become better persons.
    Health, happiness and peace during new year and thank you for sharing your wisdom.

    Marc Lustick


  2. This is beautiful, Dan. As an animal (of all genetic composition) lover, this is a wonderful story. Coco sounds like she was truly a remarkable dog; your message is one we from which we could all learn…


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