Meet Coco, the darling nine-year-old Chow Chow I met in the parking garage at work yesterday. A colleague discovered Coco taking a nap on the concrete floor of the parking garage and went over to make sure she was okay. That's when Coco hopped up and trotted away, limping as she went. Two security guards helped my colleague keep tabs on Coco, making sure she didn't go out into the street or get hit by a car. My coworker called me, asking me to bring a leash with me when I came to work. Just five short minutes later and with leash in hand, I walked over to the trio trying to coax sweet Coco into their arms.
There were two security guards on one end and my colleague on the other. Coco hobbled her way through the maze of parked cars. I watched her carefully and put myself directly in her path but out of her sight. I got down on both knees and greeted her with a warm hello and something like a hug as she walked around the corner. She still had a collar and license tag on her so I hooked her up to the leash and took my phone out to call the number on the tag. Luckily, Coco was registered to a home in Roswell, Ga., some 20 miles north from where she was found. The lady at Fulton County Animal Control gave me the Chow Chow Mom's name and number, and I thought for sure we were about to make a happy ending.
I couldn't reach Coco's Chow Chow Mom. Neither could the security guard. That's when he revealed that he had caught a few other people dropping off their dogs in our parking garage time and again. He said he wouldn't be surprised if this was another case like that. I was disheartened. My coworker and I looked over Coco. It was clear she needed to go to a vet. She was limping and she was dangerously thin, especially for a Chow Chow. We slowly coaxed Coco into the car and were about to drive away when the security guard came running back saying Chow Chow Mom had returned his call. He handed the phone to me and the conversation was short and not so sweet.
Chow Chow Mom claimed sweet Coco had gone missing only one day ago. Clearly, Coco had not eaten in days, perhaps weeks. She was matted and her eyes were caked with dried goo - as if she had conjunctivitis. Then, she said it might be two days. Chow Chow Mom told the security guard Coco had jumped from her car door but told me Coco ran out the front door of her new apartment. She asked I not take Coco to the vet and that I return Coco to her so she could follow up with her own vet. At first, this seemed like a completely reasonable request and I told her I'd gladly meet her at her vet - where was it? Chow Chow Mom didn't know. That's okay, I said. Do you have the name? I can Google the address and still meet you there. She didn't.
I began getting an uneasy feeling about the whole situation and decided it was best we take Coco to a vet to see if a professional could tell us whether this pup had been neglected and if it was safe to send her back home. Chow Chow Mom seemed to be getting irritated at my insistence that Coco needed to see a vet. I told her I'd send her the address to where we were taking her and she could meet us there. In the minutes that passed, Chow Chow Mom blew up my phone - calling me from three or four different numbers and leaving me angry voicemails saying, "You have my dog. I want my dog." She kept calling the security guard, too, who repeatedly assured her Coco was safe and we were headed to the vet and would call soon.
We arrived at the vet who welcomed sweet Coco in without an appointment. The vet took a look at her and said it was obvious that Coco hadn't been treated very well, assuming she had been at home with Chow Chow Mom just a few days ago. She said it looked like Coco had a very large tumor in her mouth but test results came back negative for cancer. The vet fed Coco and gave her water. Now the question was: what to do? The vet offered to call Chow Chow Mom and feel her out. She said she had to give Coco back to her owner but if she felt at any point that it wasn't a good situation for Coco, she would report the situation immediately. Chow Chow Mom's story was again different from the one told to myself and the security guard but other than that, the vet felt she checked out and said she was sending sweet Coco home. I called later that afternoon to make sure Coco had indeed been picked up and a part of me wished she hadn't because of this feeling in my gut that she might not be going home to a good situation. Alas, sweet Coco had gone home.
My colleague and I haven't stopped thinking of Coco since we left her at the vet's office. We keep telling ourselves and each other that we did the best we could and what happens from here is completely out of our hands. Scottie Dad tells me I just have to trust that Chow Chow Mom was just stressed out and that Coco really did go back to a loving home. He says that no matter what, we did a great thing that day. I wish I believed this was true but there is something to be said about a woman's intuition. All I can do is hope. Hope that Coco is safe. Hope that she is happy. And hope that she has the care, love and support she needs to live out the rest of her sweet life.