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  • Désirée Hunziker

Coco - A Bittersweet Story

Updated: Jan 3

Some nights seem to be darker than others. That night seemed to be pitch black.


It was the night when I received a call from the driver who was supposed to bring me Coco back from the clinic the next morning.

He had changed his mind and told me on the phone that he will bring Coco now because he wouldn't have time the next morning and that I could either take it or leave it.






Exhausted from many long days of rescue work with hardly any sleep and left with not much choice than to accept, because I had to transport Coco the next morning by speed boat to our Animal Rescue Center on Koh Lipe, I was waiting in my hotel room for Coco to arrive.

I was aware of the fact that Coco has cancer and that he is terminally ill.


Together with the veterinary we have been many times considering to put Coco to sleep, but he always showed such a clear will to live that we simply couldn't do it.


I knew that all we could do was trying to make his remaining time as comfortable as possible, but I was not prepared for what I saw when Coco finally arrived.


In my 12 years of animal rescue there were just a very few situations where I was pushed hard to my breaking point and this was one of these moments.


After I had dealt with the obvious annoyed driver who was complaining about the hassle with Coco because he had tried to get out of his cage during the trip, I was realizing the severance of Coco's condition.


Not prepared for a night in a hotel room with a terminally ill dog I started to clean up Coco's cage. Soon the air was filled with a sweet and biting scent, the typical smell in terminal cancer. The only sound that I heard was his chilling breathing sound.


I moved Coco to the bathroom because the smell was unbearable. When I let Coco out of his cage, he walked over to me for cuddles.


My heart was tearing apart, looking into the most loving eyes one can imagine, seeing his face which is completely deformed from the tumors, knowing that all he was ever asking for in his live was love. Love that he was denied almost his entire life.


Instead Coco was terribly abused by his former owner.

The man, who was an alcoholic, had beaten Coco for years until some brave local people stepped up and got Coco out of his abusive home. It was the first time in his life that Coco received love by humans.


The people who rescued Coco called us for help because he was badly injured.

At first every one of us thought that the swelling on his nose was an injury caused by his former owner. But when the swelling persisted, we decided to send Coco to a clinic on the mainland for further diagnostics.




The results that we got from the clinic were not what we were hoping for.

It turned out that Coco was suffering from cancer and that the swelling on his nose was a tumor.


We were willing to fight the battle together with Coco and hoped for a good outcome. Coco really deserved to have this chance.

Coco was undergoing surgery several times and received chemo, but the tumor was always growing back.


When the tumor started to spread, we stopped the treatments.

We decided to take Coco back to our Animal Rescue Center for palliative care because our veterinary desperately needed the space to treat other sick animals.


It was way after midnight, when I finally sank down onto the floor, bursting into tears, totally whipped from such a long day.

Sleeping was the last thing in my mind as I was confronted with serious concerns with regards to Coco.

Would it have been better to put Coco asleep?

But he is still so responsive, eating walking around and seeking for love and attention.


Is it right to transport Coco back to Koh Lipe, an Island, two hours away from the mainland by boat and another two hours’ drive away from our vet.?

We can provide palliative care at our Animal Rescue Center on Koh Lipe but what if Coco gets to a stage where we can't manage his pain?

What if I won't be on the Island then to let Coco go in a peaceful way. How fast can the vet from the mainland come to Koh Lipe if this would be this case?

How will my team cope with Coco's case?


My head was fighting my heart. It would probably be easier for all of us if I just return Coco to the clinic in the morning for euthanasia.

But how can I put an animal down that is despite of his condition still so eager to live? A dog that is clearly showing me that all he wants is love and attention and that he is not ready to go at all.


My heart kept telling me that I would fail Coco, just as he was failed by humans before, if I would deny him this loving care.

My head kept telling me that I would fail Coco by putting him at risk for unnecessary suffering.


In the early morning I called our vet again. He understood my concerns very well but he shared my impression that Coco was not yet ready to go.

So, I decided to listen to my heart and to bring Coco to our Animal Rescue Center.


I had to give it a try and to see how Coco gets along.

I promised myself and Coco that I would make sure to let him go in a peaceful way without suffering if it would turn out that his quality of life is too poor or if he would get into a stage where we wouldn't be able to manage his pain.





All my doubts vanished when I arrived with Coco at our Animal Rescue Center.

He was so excited about his new home and joyfully exploring everything.

Our animal caretaker, who was understandably shocked at first by his appearance, was committed in helping to make his remaining time the best time of his life.





Coco is now at our Rescue Center receiving palliative care. He is enjoying every day all the love and attention that he gets.

Coco is active, has a great appetite and he even gained some weight. He is also not showing any signs of pain.


I don't know how much time Coco has left but I am full of gratitude that we can give Coco at least some of the love and affection that he was desperately longing for his whole life.







Animals like Coco would be left suffering, with no help without our project Help4Strays on Koh Lipe.

We wouldn't be able to run this project without people who support our work with donations.


Please go to https://www.help4strays.org/how-you-can-help and find out how you can get involved.


Thank you so much for helping us also in 2020 to help animals like Coco.






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