Saturday, January 30, 2016

Biography of a Celebrity Chihuahua

Earlier this month, award-winning author Louis Nowra wrote a beautiful article about his dog Coco’s cancer. Coco, a ten-year-old Chihuahua, had a splenectomy and is undergoing chemotherapy. Nowra marvels at just how attached he and partner Mandy Sayers have become to Coco.

“Sometimes I cannot believe that for 10 years this canine, weighing all of 3 ½ kilograms, has dominated our lives. Because she’s a gregarious dog and adores humans she has gained friends everywhere she goes in and around Kings Cross. Those she especially likes she will greet with her version of a wolf howl. She likes to sit on laps and be patted. At our local pub she seems to know when people are stressed because she jumps onto their laps and, before too long, the human is absent-mindedly stroking her and, in the process, calming down. Since she has been sick we take her out rarely and I’m often stopped in the street by people, ranging from pensioners to drug dealers, asking how she is faring.”
Coco, like many dogs, is a social facilitator. She is better known in the neighbourhood than Nowra and Sayer, and has introduced them to colourful characters and incredible events that appear in their stories.
Nowra wrote her into the TV series The Straits. 

Sayer wrote Coco:Autobiography of My Dog. The latter is a revealing book, examining the lives of Coco, Nowra and Sayer through the lens of Coco (as viewed by Sayer). If you can get your head around that, it is actually a brilliant essay on the attachments we form to animals. The degree to which Coco is involved in the lives of Nowra and Sayer, from dog-friendly holidays and associated dramas to afternoons in the pub and visits to the local shops, is wonderful. She is a character, just as worthy as any other. 

It’s a lovely, very funny read. One of my favourite passages pertains to preparation for a veterinary visit that will involve a general anaesthetic. Coco has to be fasted to minimise the risk of aspiration pneumonia. As someone who co-habits with non-human species I know too well just how tricky it can be to fast an animal for a procedure, and I’ve been leant on to break the fast (if you think fasting a dog is hard, try fasting a cat who thinks he is a Labrador).
“On the appointed morning I noticed that Mandy was still half asleep as she was making tea. This was the best time to trick her, I realised, before she’d had her first cup and wasn’t thinking straight. As she opened the fridge for the milk I swooped onto my chaise lounge and began to beg in earnest. And when she glimpsed me beside her, gazing up intently with my best big moist dog eyes, she automatically fed me a treat…Later, at the surgery, the vet looked at Mandy reproachfully and shook her head; even a tiny morsel of food in my system, she explained, could result in post-operative complications, like choking. Louis glanced at Mandy and shook his head, exasperated, as if she were the most negligent dog owner he’d ever met…The surgery was postponed for the following Tuesday…Tuesday morning dawned and just before we left for the vet again, Mandy ducked out to withdraw some cash from an ATM. When I glimpsed a sleepy Louis wandering around the kitchen, making coffee and talking on his mobile, I knew it was the moment to strike. I leapt onto the chaise lounge again and began whimpering and high-fiving with both paws, as if in pain. I was making so much noise he couldn’t hear what his caller was saying and so automatically fed me a treat to shut me up.
When Mandy returned, an ashen-faced Louis confessed, ‘You can’t take her in this morning. You’ll have to cancel.”“What the hell happened?” demanded Mandy. “I’ve only been gone a moment.”
Eventually Coco was fasted for her operation. We hope that Coco goes into remission and we’re sending our very best wishes to Coco, Mandy and Louis.

Coco: Autobiography of My Dog by Mandy Sayer is available through Five Mile Press. You can also follow Coco on facebook