She made her mark and left pawprints across the hearts of everyone she met, including mine. Coco Chanel Bella, a 13-years-young American Cocker Spaniel crossed from this life to the Rainbow Bridge on October 17, 2018. She leaves behind a trail of broken hearts, including her dog mom, Christine Aiello, and her sister, Danielle, grandma, Ann, and granddad, Gary. Coco was no ordinary Cocker, and this tribute is dedicated to her. If you’ve ever loved and lost a dog, as we have, you know the gut-wrenching angst.
Coco was more than ‘just a dog;’ she was and remains the Cocker Spaniel of my best friend, Christine Aiello. First some back story on how we met, the course of Coco’s life since I’ve known Christine, and the series of all-too-strange yet connected events that happened in the week leading up to her passing. If you believe in messages or postcards from the Rainbow Bridge, read on.
Cocker Moms Meet
Dog lovers seem to find each other. Whether at a dog park, in a grocery store, at a traffic light, or walking our dogs and sending a smile across the street. We even find one another online these days. Coco’s mom, Christine, and I became acquainted through a photo contest in 2011. I was the Managing Editor for a dog magazine, and she entered Coco in one of the photo contests I was running for them. Christine started following this blog and our social media presence and we had a near instant connection.
In February of 2013, we met in the lobby of a hotel in New York City, where I was in town to cover the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Since Christine works in the city for a law firm, she suggested we finally meet in person. A beautiful friendship was born. Here are a few snaps from that day:
Getting to Know Coco Chanel Bella
As the saying goes, everyone thinks they have the best dog, and all of them are right. Coco was a very special girl. Spunky, sassy, a princess of the highest order, and the kind of dog who stole your heart. My wife and I would find ourselves talking about her for days and days after getting together with Christine. Though we live close to four hours from each other, the distance doesn’t keep us apart. Whether through phone, text, or email, we keep in touch every single day.
Some of our favorite memories of Coco include:
- At a fundraiser we hosted for homeless Cocker Spaniels, a group of us went for a walk around the hotel property with our dogs. About half way through the walk, Coco suddenly stopped and sat down. She would not move. Without missing a beat, Christine told us that Coco now wanted to be carried. I can still picture Christine picking her up, carrying her the rest of the way as all the other dogs walked on leashes. Coco knew she was a real life princess.
- During a Christmas visit to our house, Dexter and Coco both wanted the same squeaky toy, as dogs often do. Dexter took the toy and hid on a chair with it. Coco was having none of that. In fact, see for yourself how she handled it and sassed him back:
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- She was a fashionista who really loved wearing couture. I could publish a photo book of some of her many outfits, but she knew how to work a dress, pose for the camera, and knew that treats would soon follow. She was a born model and had the looks and personality for it.
- We were often times allowed to go into stores because Coco and Dexter would ride in a stroller together. We could hardly get through a store because everyone had to meet and greet. Always the ambassadors for the breed, they posed and allowed people to pet them.
- She was a little fishie! That girl knew how to swim better than some people.
- Coco would sit and hang out in the weirdest spots: from next to the toilet to on top of a mop. We were always laughing at her antics.
Two Angels Meet at the Rainbow Bridge
Long-time readers of this blog know that our first cocker, Brandy Noel, passed from this world in 2008, the same year our Dexter came into our lives through a stroke of fate. Brandy Noel was quite the girly girl, very independent, and wanted to be close to us in proximity but wasn’t fond of being cuddled or smothered in kisses. Coco was the same way, and we often spoke of how the two girls had so much in common despite never having met. I didn’t even know Coco’s mom when our Brandy Noel died.
Well, Brandy Noel was born 10/11/93 and she died 10/17/08. Coco entered the hospital 10/11/18 and she died 10/17/18. That’s a really freaky coincidence, right? But wait, there’s more.
We are firm believers that our deceased dogs come to us in many ways. The day that Coco entered the hospital was the day Brandy was born, October 11th. Separated by time, I believe these two are as close as the wings on a butterfly.
Our Brandy’s urn with her remains sits on a desk in our home office. On the front is a plaque, as is customary on an urn. The urn is a clock with no face, as I felt as if time stopped when our little girl died. Pet parents can relate to that feeling, I am certain. Instead of the hands of a clock, we have a favorite photo of Brandy in the face of the clock. When I entered the office on October 11, 2018, the plaque that sat in that spot, untouched except for dusting, had changed. The plaque on the urn fell off and was found on the side of the urn, about 6 inches from its original location.
I yelled out for my wife, in a near state of shock. “Dar come quick, please,” I shouted.
She came into the office and said not a word. She saw me standing by the urn, the plaque a good six inches from where it belonged. Why of all days did that plaque fall off at that moment on that date? It was adhered to the urn in a permanent fashion. I picked up the urn, the plaque in my other hand, and the tears started. The tears are falling again. Ten years passed and she sent a signal.
I expressed to my wife that I felt Coco was going to be joining Brandy Noel. I prayed I was wrong with every fiber of my dog-loving heart. The words just came out and then never were spoken again.
What Happened To Coco
On October 11, 2018, Coco was rushed to the emergency veterinary hospital due to vomiting, shaking, and pain, which came on suddenly.
She was diagnosed with a ruptured gallbladder and underwent risky but emergency surgery to remove the gallbladder. In dogs, there are many things that can go wrong. Coco was in the hospital for almost a week and showed signs of improvement. Her family was told she would be discharged after several days, as long as she remained, which she did.
Sadly, this did not happen. On October 17th, Coco spiked a fever, her blood counts were off, and she underwent emergency exploratory surgery. A tear was found, attempted to be repaired, but she went septic by this point. All of the toxins were leaking into her organs, causing them to shut down.
Christine held her little girl as she passed away. Christine says her family will never be the same. She was cremated and her remains will stay with Christine and her family forever. Christine always kept up with her medical appointments, grooming, checkups, needs, and treated her like a daughter. Dog lovers understand this bond.
This all happened so suddenly and we remain in a state of shock. I’ve learned that losing a dog means losing a piece of your identity. My heart beats dog and it breaks dog, too.
From Coco’s Mom
When I asked Christine about Coco, she shared, “She won 150 contests and has been in several magazines, calendars, and on a wine bottle. She walked the runway for Brooklyn Fashion Week for Anthony Rubio and did an awesome job! She looked like the little model she was. Always knew how to pose for photos. She was a princess and she knew it! She was trained in one day on where the door was to go out to the bathroom. She was such a smart girl and a good girl. Always happy and loved giving kisses and seeing people. She loved getting attention for everyone! She made sure everyone knew she was there and to pay attention to her. She loved to unwrap gifts and every time you came home with a bag from a store she assumed you had a present for her. She would come running and stick her head in the bag looking for a present. She knew very well what the word “present” meant! You said the word she came running! She was engaged to Dexter but never got to have her wedding. She had a walk in closet of clothes that was overfilled! (To the point that mommy should’ve switched closets with her b/c her clothes were all over the floor too b/c there was no more room to hang them up!) She was my little spoiled princess and always will be! There will never be another dog like her! She was and will always be the best little girl ever! I’m lost without my baby girl!
This Isn’t Goodbye
Grief is unforgiving, and death is not final. My wife gave me a gold necklace on Christmas Day, 2008, the year our Brandy Noel died. On the locket, the inscription read, “Love Never Ends.” Not time nor space will end the bond of love shared between Christine and Coco. The love will only grow. Looking back at my grief path over this past decade, I’ve learned the death of a beloved dog does not mean they are truly gone. It’s the worst part of pet parenting, too: the knowledge that you will likely outlive your dogs.
The missing of their physical presence in our human lives is the absolute worst part, sheer hell, and I have no magic formula of how to fast forward that pain. My best advice for anyone suffering is to walk through it, carry it with you, and don’t let anyone tell you to ‘move on.’ Carry on, carry the love, yes; but move on: hell no.
Coco will never be forgotten. We love you, sweet Princess. We shall meet again. Fly high, soar like the princess you are, and let Brandy Noel show you around the Rainbow Bridge.
Getting Help When Your Dog Dies
If you want to learn more about my journey and losing my dog, please consider reading these blog posts: