Off the Beaten Track (Saving Coco)

Life is a funny thing. In our years of rescue work, we have come across cases where the people who love dogs wholeheartedly have to give them up due to forced circumstances, while at the other end of the spectrum is a group of people who have the means to provide for them but absolutely detest their presence.

If you’ve seen our Facebook post recently, you might have noticed a photo of a seemingly hysterical-looking, unkempt black dog tied to a stilt in a fish farm. The photo broke our hearts and we knew immediately we had to intervene. Additionally, we were told that the dog could have been abandoned given the terrible state she was in. Worried about the dog’s well-being, a couple of us took the afternoon off to investigate the case.

Surveying Coco's home

This was home, with the tiny board for shelter.


When we arrived at the farm, we saw a young lady walking three local dogs so we asked if she knew anything about a small, abandoned dog. She pointed us to a makeshift shack held roughly together by some metal grills and metal pieces. Seated at the corner of the metal shack was a petite dog with a leash hanging from her collar and attached to a metal pole, looking at us wide-eyed and bewilderingly. Her fur was greasy, matted and way too overgrown for her tiny frame.

She hadn't been to a vet or groomer in years.
We asked the lady if she knew who the owner was and how long the dog had been at the fish farm. The lady said the dog belonged to her dad’s newly hired worker and that she had been living at the farm for two weeks. According to the lady, the worker would leave the dog in the fish farm overnight after he knocked off from work.

Puzzled as to why the worker wouldn’t take the dog home with him, we requested to speak with the worker privately.

The worker, Mr. L, told us that he found the black dog who he named Coco, when she was around two months old. He didn’t want to reveal too much initially but after some persuasion, he finally opened up and told us that his wife didn’t like dogs and forbade him to keep Coco. Hence, for the past three years, he brought Coco along with him to wherever he worked, whether it was in a farm or at a kelong.

As we spoke, Coco was off leash and she was running and playing freely with the other local dogs. She seemed so happy and carefree then. She didn’t seem the least bit concerned that she didn’t have a proper home and a proper space to live in. In fact, she seemed so comfortable and genuinely happy that she had her owner standing next to her, watching after her as she played along with the bigger dogs.

Look at her jumping at being off-leash.

Happy and friendly, but badly matted

That moment, the reality hit us. While Coco’s living condition was poor, it was clear to us that Mr L. and Coco shared such strong bonds that material things were second to the love they had for each other. It was circumstances that forced him to live the way he did with Coco.

On top of that, with a salary of less than $1000 per month, Mr. L barely has enough to support his wife and children, let alone a dog. However, looking at just how happy and carefree Coco was, do you think it really mattered to Coco that she was filthy, smelly, and unkempt?

Having been through so many cases of animal neglect and abuse and having dealt with countless of people who claimed they loved their dogs but didn’t have the time and capability to support them, it isn’t hard to distinguish the ones who were truly concerned with their dog’s well-being from the ones who weren’t.

In Mr. L’s case, we knew the bond they had was true. If Coco didn’t mind her living conditions as long as she was with Mr. L, do we have the right to separate them? Even if we had the right to do so, we don’t have the heart to do so.

Our job is not to remove and rehome dogs. Our job is to find happiness for the dog. In situations like this, we would offer financial aid and physical support to owners. We told Mr. L that we could assign volunteers to supply and deliver food to Coco on a regular basis, bring Coco to the vet and the groomer, and help with the bills. We also offered to speak with the owner of the fish farm on the possibility of building a shelter to shield her from the vagaries of the weather.

We left him to think while we took a walk around the fish farm. A while later, Mr. L came up to us and said he would like us to help rehome Coco as she would have a better life with another family. His eyes turned red as he spoke. We guessed that even if we gave Coco everything she needed, it still wouldn’t change the fact that he could never take her home with him. And so he took a big step to let her go because he loved her and wanted the best for her.

To other people, he might fall short as an owner but to us, he did the best he could to provide for her and to keep her by his side. He could have abandoned her since the day he got married or he could have given her away but he didn’t. Instead, he took the trouble to bring Coco along with him to wherever he worked and to plead his bosses to grant his dog a place to live.

Such is life; manipulated and forced by circumstances.

Mr. L made a selfless decision to let Coco go. We gave them some time to say their goodbyes and told him to tell her that we were going to take her away to a new place. He patted her, talked to her, tenderly placed her in a carrier and handed the carrier to us. It wasn’t an easy sight to bear.

We headed straight to the vet where Coco had the regular medical tests done including blood works, skin culture and etc. Coco is in perfect health for her age – Coco is six years old. She has a few bad teeth and she has not been sterilized but overall, she is in good health.

Getting a full medical check at the vet

At the vet, with badly matted fur

Coco needs a dental scaling.
Coco is at a foster home now but we are looking for a permanent home for her. We promised her that we would find her a loving home, and to only settle for a home that will love her no less than Mr. L did.

Please help us fulfill this promise to her. Coco is sweet, easygoing, and fun-loving. Although she didn't know how to walk on leash at first, she has received some training from her fosterer and now walks very well, and will constantly look to the person next to her for cues. She has made amazing progress. She gets on well with children and is submissive to other dogs, and she definitely doesn’t behave her age. She is so bubbly and jovial! She behaves like a puppy, possibly because she has been chained up all these years and never really had the chance to play. She's highly intelligent and loves running and playing. She does have mild arthritis in her hind legs though.

After grooming, love and fostering

Gorgeous now
To adopt Coco, please email hopedogrescue@singnet.com.sg. For each adopted dog, you make room for us to save one more dog.

Will you give Coco a home?