A community comes together for Coco

6th Jul, 2021

Written by Malaika Croeser

Professional photography by Keith Lotz Photography

Coco the Miniature Pinscher disappeared from the busy Capetonian suburb of Sea Point. It was five long days before she was found again, on the rocky slopes of Signal Hill.

Coco makes a splash

About nine years ago, my mom and I lived in the Free State in a very small town called Reitz.

We had two dogs at that time. When my childhood dog, which was very dear to me, passed away, a new doggie came into the family. This was Coconut, aka Coco.

I was still in mourning for my dog that had just passed away and, admittedly, it was not love at first sight when I saw Coco. But this little dog followed me everywhere, desperate to befriend me. To be honest, I didn’t know what to do with her, so we just muddled along. Of course, I could never neglect a puppy or animal and, besides, just look at Coco – she’s such a cutie.

So, Coco slept downstairs and I slept upstairs. But that changed one evening when Coco nearly drowned. The sliding door was left open a bit and Coco, being Coco, managed to escape from the safe little den I’d made for her. There was a huge swimming pool outside my window. I just heard this splash in the pool! I’ve never run downstairs so fast in my life before. I leapt into the pool to get her out, dried her off, and comforted her. (Still, to this day, she can’t swim.)

From that day on, Cocobean (she has many pet names!) and I formed a strong connection. We became inseparable! She always needs me; she’s a Miniature Pinscher, and they’re like that.

She broke down the gate

Today, I live in Milnerton, near Cape Town, with my housemate, Louis. He has a beautiful garden that is his happy place. Unfortunately, Coco had been digging holes, which had become a big problem, so Louis and I had to do something about it.

The only way to fix it was to catch her in the act, so I had to keep an extra eye on her 24/7.

Louis, his friends, and I went to a concert together on the 24th of May. Because of the hole digging, I couldn’t leave her alone at our house, so Coco went to stay over with my mom, Vida Croeser, in Sea Point, as she’s done many times before.

Although my mom was in Melkbos at the time, Coco wasn’t alone – she was with two other dogs with whom she is friends. We’ll never know why, but Coco literally broke through the gate, jumped over the wall, and ran away. When my mother arrived home, she discovered that Coco had vanished and phoned me in a panic to say that she was missing.

Oh, my word, my heart just dropped. I was devastated.

A tiny dog lost in the city

My mom and stepdad immediately looked for her, but she was gone. I was in an absolute state. Sea Point is a heavy-traffic area, not far from the City Bowl, and Coco is just a tiny dog. After a lot of searching followed by a sleepless night, we started making flyers and posting on all social media platforms and groups.

She was wearing her little pink jacket, and a few people said that they’d seen a cute dog running around in a part of Sea Point, but there was nothing concrete.

I couldn’t imagine Coco being okay with all the cars and all the people – she hates cars and needs to warm up to people. For people that saw her and wanted to catch her, it would literally be impossible for them. It would be up to us, the people she knows, to get her back.

On Signal Hill

Knowing that Coco hates cars, my mom suggested that she’d probably run towards the mountainside behind Sea Point, where there’s a path that goes up Signal Hill and onto Lion’s Head.

The following day, my mom, stepdad, and I set out to search for her there amidst the bush and rocks but, sadly, we didn’t find her.

The Facebook groups really helped us. From people sharing the post and others kindly sharing the printed flyers with friends, to dog communicators and to homeless people – all being concerned about our little dog in her pink jacket.

Someone on Facebook contacted us saying that he runs on Signal Hill and had seen a little dog fitting Coco’s description running around, all alone. We were so hopeful, but when he said that he’d been running near a shooting range, I just couldn’t think why Coco would go there because she hates loud noises. Nonetheless, my mom and Louis went to look there separately; Louis didn’t see anything, and my mom only saw other dogs that looked like Coconut. 

I was beginning to break. I tried to stay calm, but I had my moments.

Lost in the mist

Then, paragliders mentioned that they’d seen Coco on Signal Hill at midday on Wednesday, the 26th of May. The message only came through at night. I was over the moon that evening and I couldn’t sleep. I wanted to drive there that very evening, but the curfew stopped me.

I woke up so early the next morning and headed straight out to look for her, but the weather was misty and cold, so she was probably holed up sleeping somewhere and I couldn’t find her. 

I wanted to stay and search all day, but I had to go back to work. I’ll admit that I hated that I had to work that day, and to be quite frank with you, I don’t even know how I did it. I was a whole different person – I couldn’t even think straight. It was the longest day ever.

While I was at work, my stepdad went up Signal Hill to look for Coco, and Louis went in his lunch break to look for her. Finally, I finished work and my stepdad and I rushed straight back up Signal Hill. We just got there in time as the mist had started rolling in again.

A movie moment

While he was at the bottom of Signal Hill calling her, I was at the top. As I was calling her name, a lady came up to me and said, “Are you looking for a small dog?” My heart leapt – yes, I definitely was!

She said that she’d run down about five minutes earlier – and that she’d been there all day. People had tried to catch her, but she was too fast. I’m convinced that she’d heard us calling her that morning in the right place, so she’d stuck around in case we came back. Then, a couple stopped me saying that she’d run the other way a few minutes earlier because they were trying to catch her.

I ran like the wind, calling her name at the top of my voice. Then I saw her. And she saw me.

We both just looked at each other for what felt like several minutes as if we both were thinking: “Is this really happening?”

I called to her, but she was clearly confused and hesitated. So, I called her again – and she sprang into motion, and we ran towards each other, both crying. It was such a perfect moment, like a movie. I can’t even explain it to you!

Happily home

Amazingly, Coco was in almost perfect condition for a tiny dog that had been lost for five days in the bush on a mountain in cold weather. Her paws were a bit raw and I found a few ticks on her, but other than that, she was fine and is getting lots of love, food, water, and sleep. 

I wish Coco could speak. I have so many questions to ask her, like: Where did she sleep? Did she eat? Why Signal Hill? And where is her pink jersey (which was nowhere to be seen when I found her)? I hope she was warm and comfortable. 

I found my Coco with all thanks to everyone who helped. I’m so overwhelmed with all the love and help we got from strangers. Cape Town really surprised me, and I’m so grateful. It’s really amazing seeing so many good people and a lot of animal helpers. Thank you to everyone from us both!

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