Dog of the Week: Coco
Canine stardom in Del Ray
Sitting on the porch during a beautiful Del Ray day with Coco, a 12-year-old Cairn and Border terrier mix, is truly an experience in popularity. It is like sitting next to a star, as every neighborhood dog and owner that walks by stops to say hello.
But this is what every day is like for Coco. "She's one of the few divas on the street," says neighbor Patsy Ann.
About 12 years ago, Jeff and Irene Schanz were in the market for a dog. Coincidentally, around the same time Irene heard her stylist talking about a dog she had just adopted but was struggling with in her small apartment. So Irene invited her stylist to bring Coco over. She has been part of the family ever since.
Every day Coco and Jeff, armed with a bag of treats, head out for their first walk around 7:30 a.m. Coco knows their route well as they traverse across Del Ray. Her neighborhood canine friends, who Coco knows by name, are always out and ready to greet her (though it's possible they are just as excited for Jeff's bag of treats).
Jeff and Coco walk all over the neighborhood: up Mt. Vernon Avenue, past the stores and shops, by a group of dog friends known as the Alley Dogs, and past Simpson Park and the YMCA —where Coco was named "Most Clever Dog" in 2009.
Coco definitely has a strong nose and uses it to find anything edible out on the roads during her walks. She also gets excited when she sees kids being pushed toward her in strollers. Though Irene says, "It's not so much the kids as what they have," meaning strollers can hide a lot of food that a dog's nose will find.
But each walk always ends up with Coco leading the way to the Bellefonte Group Home, a home run by the Alexandria Community Services Board, where sixteen adults live with special needs. Coco acts as a therapy dog there and the residents look forward to her daily visits.
The routine changes on Sunday mornings when Jeff and Coco head to the park for Tai Chi. Irene says it seems like Coco gets into the Zen-like moment. At least until a squirrel darts by.
In fact, squirrels seem to be an irresistible weakness for Coco. One day when she was out in the yard chasing them, Coco suddenly froze and yelped in pain. Jeff and Irene took Coco to the Del Ray Animal Hospital where the doctors performed surgery on Coco's ACL. Even still, the next day Coco was out on the back porch raring to chase some more squirrels.
So if you see a terrier happily trotting up Mt. Vernon Avenue being trailed by the Del Ray paparazzi, odds are it is Coco. Don't be too intimidated by her stardom to say hello because Coco is just a down to earth dog who loves everyone she meets. Especially people with treats.