Big Hunk of Chocolate

Looking back, this summer turned to be a very humid one I'd never experienced in New England. It reminded me summers in Japan. Even the uncomfortable summer, its heat is already missed on these days with 50s weather...

In the hot and humid evening of August, 90 pounds of chocolate was dropped off at my house. My 93 years old house has no central air conditioner. The temperature was almost 90 degrees. It was one of those days you feel you are sweating slowly and constantly as much as the moisture in the air. You would feel like being in a rainforest. It was not an ideal weather for chocolate.

Chad and I got brief care instructions for the chocolate. Her mom and dad put a new tag with her name, and our phone number on her collar. They gave her their love, then left. Thus, we became Cocoa's temp. parents for next 3 weeks.

One of Marilyn's bowl was filled with water in the breakfast room. Marilyn's bed was set in the bedroom with A/C. Cocoa finished one big rawhide bar her mom gave her earlier, then had a big drink of water from the bowl. She was not sure what was going on yet. She was unsure about her next action. "Hey Cocoa, do you want your dinner?" Her eyes brightened up.

After her dinner, we went to the TV room. She didn't know what to do. I gave her a doggy ice cream. She settled. We watched Marley and Me together. She was hanging out with me for a while, but took off to check out the house. In the movie, Marley got old and wasn't doing well. There was a flashback in my head, the moment I came to the realization that I couldn't help my baby anymore. My feeling was running parallel with John's in the movie. No matter how much time past, the memory of the moment chokes me up with the guilt. The guilt of unable to find any other way to help her. I guess pet owners who have sent off their beloved furry friends share this feeling, a price to pay to have our most precious friends/families.

I was falling asleep watching TV. Around midnight, the big barks woke me up. Cocoa was in the dining room baking at Marilyn's ashes in the dark. "Cocoa, it's ok. You don't need to bark." I introduced them. "Cocoa, this is Marilyn. Marilyn, this is Cocoa. She's staying with us for a couple of weeks while her mom and dad are away." Then, we went to the bedroom. It was cool and dry there, but Cocoa didn't like to stay in the room. She went into the room, turned around and left. I was puzzled. "Cocoa, don't you want to be in the cool room?" She went straight to the stairs. Her mind was made up. There was no way she would go upstairs again. She settled in the living room where she would get breeze from the dining room windows. I was afraid she would bark again in the middle of the night if she was left alone. We slept in the living room together. There was no more barking for the rest of the night.

Next morning, I found Cocoa sleeping next to Marilyn's ashes in the dining room. It seems Marilyn took care of her over night. I believe she made a visit and told Cocoa our house rules. She'd never barked at night since then. It took no time to her to make herself at home.

First couple of days, we tried to either occupy her or tire her out. Until she got used to our place, we preferred her busy doing something or sleeping instead of being homesick and depressed.

She was not interested in toys. We tried to take her for long walks to entertain her. She was smart one. She didn't like to go too far away from home. She preferred to stay in the area she could see our house which is the connection between her and her parents. Once she got to the point our house was getting out of her sight, she stopped. 90 lb. is not easy to drag when she decides not to do anything. I had to bribe her with treats to get her going. After all, she is a food loving Lab. She also loves people, and tried to greet everybody she saw on the street. It didn't take so long for her to make new friends.

When they saw us walking, neighbors came out from their houses with their excited expressions. "Ahhhhh~! You got a new dog!!!!" Their excitement didn't last so long. "Uh no, we're dog-sitting for a couple of weeks." I added kiddingly "Our plan is to brainwash her to be our dog before her parents come pick her up." Even ones we barely know came up to us "Oh, I'm so glad you got a dog. It's been awhile since Marilyn's gone." They remember our dog though we don't even know each other's name. That certainly made us feel warm and fuzzy. Since Marilyn was gone, we had lost a reason to walk around the neighborhood. It was nice to walk around and see familiar faces again.

Cocoa loved to watch the yard and the street laying down in the yard. Her mom told us she doesn't understand cars are dangerous. She added to watch out for UPS and mail tracks, which Cocoa thinks they have treats. Apparently, the UPS guy and the mailman at their area regularly give Cocoa treats. Cocoa was off the leash in the yard, but never took off toward the street even UPS or mail tracks drove by.

Only time her attention caught by mail tracks was at a walk. She found a mail track and was ready to go after it to get some treats. I had to put all my weight toward the opposite direction from the mail track. "Cocoa, that's not your mailman. He doesn't have treats for you, sorry."

When she got tired of her watch duties, she entertained herself by soaking up the sun or rubbing her back on the grass. Her life seemed to be good.

One of joys of having a dog is that you get your super enthusiastic welcome committee. Once your car pulls into the driveway, your dog's excitement sets on fire. He/She dashes toward you. His/Her tail is in a full action, super wagging. He/She crushes you. He/She only thinks to get to you as quick as they can. He/She rubs his/her body on you, jumps on you, gives you kisses, and/or cries for joy. It's the purest love, joy and excitement you could get from others. It gets even better. That happens every time you come back to him/her! Who else could make you feel that much loved?

With senior pups, their physical expressions wouldn't be as animated as young ones, but their joy and excitement are the same. Their bodies just cannot keep up with their mental state, but you see sparkles in their eyes and you can tell how they are excited to see you.

When I parked my car, Marilyn was always at the driver side door to say hi to me. I loved that. No matter how the day had been hard, that was purged instantly by it.

Even I was her temp. mom, Cocoa was so excited to see me whenever I came home. She was about to dash toward my car as soon as I pulled into the driveway, so Chad had to hold her until I parked the car. Then, she ran toward me with the wagging tail, and gave me a shower of kisses as if we'd not seen for years. It was just sweet.

As she found her new/temporarily normal at my house, she showed more her personality. She is vocal. She was not shy to say what she had to say verbally or nonverbally. She didn't like to be alone when she knew we were around. Whenever she found herself alone, she barked, "Where are you?", until she found us. She baked when she found something interesting. When she woke up, she came to me with lots of kisses on my face, which had been my alarm clock. The alarm clock came with a snooze feature, too. When the sun was up and I got up for using the bathroom early morning, she woke up and looked at me. Then, I went back to the bed, she put her head down and went back to sleep. When she found me awake after the sun was up, Marilyn was ready to go for a walk. "The sun is up. Marilyn is outside." That was how Marilyn thought. I didn't get a luxury to snooze with Marilyn. Every dog is different. They are unique beings. They have their own personalities.

I thought I'd get attached her much more. Interestingly, there was always a little thought, "she is not ours.", in my mind. I don't know if I had it to ease my feeling when she would go her home, or not. Although I adored her and enjoyed every second with her, I felt the boundary and my feeling was not quite as same as I had for Marilyn.

We went for walks to Great Brook Farm for a couple of times. Dog walks bring us good opportunities to meet people... and more dogs. This is a popular dog walk spot. You see a lot of happy tails there. They have a dairy farm with an ice cream shop. Naturally, it's also popular for families.

Whenever we went to the park, the weather was perfect for a walk, not too hot or humid. Cocoa was in a go-go mode. Her tail never stopped wagging. Her rhythmic footwork said everything.

The park is big enough to enjoy some privacy. Once in a while, we met some people and dogs. Oh, and...

We ran into some families with little kids. Their little fingers were pointing Cocoa. They excitedly said "Doggie!". Sure, the 90 lb. dog grabbed their attention. In case you're not familiar with the size of dogs, this might give you some idea of a 90 lb. dog. Her paw is as big as my palm.

When I see kids express their interest to dogs, I'd love them to interact with dogs. Especially if they don't have dogs in their family, that would be a great opportunity to experience the goodness of dogs.

So, I offered "She's friendly. Would you like to say hi to her?" Looking at the big dog from the distance is a totally different thing from touching her. With their parents' encouragement, they got as close to her as they could. Cocoa was like a horse to those toddlers. Even she was quiet, when her head turned toward them, they got scared and hesitated. "Here, pet her back." I showed them my petting her back. Their little hands quickly ran through her back. Then, big smiles spreaded on their faces. That's the moment I want them to have. Big dogs are their friends.

People tend to misunderstand that big dogs are violent and dangerous, but big ones are generally more laid back and easy-going than small breeds. I have to admit some big breeds tend to forget or have no awareness of how big they are, and their friendly actions unintentionally turned to be rough. But, they are still loving and friendly.

Even such a big dog looks small next to the corn stalks.

Cocoa's mom told us she loves water. We walked by some swamps. Cocoa was thinking of getting in the water.

Unfortunately to her, I didn't let her because they were swamps and you never know what kind of water they are. A stinky slimy dog wouldn't be welcome in late Sunday afternoons. Instead of swimming, she got a lot of walks and sniffs on the trails.

We took one little break for drink. I tried to let her take breaks, but she kept walking and walking. About one and a half hours later, we finished a loop and came back to the parking. I was going to pick up a trail map for another loop. When she realized we were in the parking, Cocoa started walking faster and headed straight to my car. She sat next to the back door and looked at me "Open the door." She jumped up to the back seat and laid down. The second loop was not going to happen. Her face said she had enough.

After the walk, it was ice cream time! We picked up Chad and headed to our favorite ice cream place. They offer small portion for dogs as a doggy dish. The white dot behind her on the grass was Cocoa's doggy dish. After she finished hers, she got a little extra. Doesn't she look satisfied?

We enjoyed hanging out on the grass with occasional breezes for a while, then went to see their goat.

Cocoa was not quite sure what to think of him.

Thus, 2 1/2 weeks flew and her parents came back from France. They gave us an extra day with Cocoa to adjust themselves from the trip. In the middle of another heat wave, they came to pick her up. I had to work late that day and missed my regular train to home. On the top of it, the train I was supposed to take was delayed. I thought I wouldn't get a chance to say goodbye to Cocoa. But they were waiting for me despite of their still adjusting themselves from their jet lag. As soon as I opened the door, Cocoa came to me with welcome kisses. That made her parents happy to know she had a good time with us. She jumped into their car and she was ready to go home. "There is no place like home." It seems that this applies to anybody who has a place to call home.

Well, my "Cocoa brainwash" plan failed. Maybe, another scoop of crunchies with bacon topping for each meal would have done it🤔 It was still nice to see Cocoa was aware of having her own home and family and happy to be with them. It was fun 3 weeks. Having a dog in a life is simply priceless. Chad and I greatly appreciate her mom and dad to trust us to let us have their precious baby for such a long time, and Cocoa to trust us enough to stay with. I also appreciate my FB doggy peers to share the joy of having a dog in a life for a while.

Here is the big hunk of 🍫. She is a milk chocolate kind of girl😘 ... making a life of everyone, who she meets, sweet.