Tom Antonino, his wife, and his dog Cocoa love to spend family vacations at the beach, but this year at age 16, it would be Cocoa’s last trip.
The family of three
Antonino was determined to build a custom mobile doggy bed for Cocoa so that she could comfortably enjoy the vacation. “My wife and I — we came up with a way to, with a mechanics creeper and stuff like that, to take her for walks,” he said. “We had rope and a bed and we’d bring her out.”
The picture of them vacationing together was clicked by Carrie Copenhaver, who was out for a bike ride and stopped to chat with them and took a picture of them with permission.
She shared their story and image on Facebook and now the whole world has seen it and come to know of Cocoa.
“A couple of weeks ago Mike; I were riding our bikes on the boardwalk; came across this sweet soul walking his beloved golden,” Copenhaver posted on Feb. 27. “She’s ; not so good with her legs so he pulls her around on this bed he made so she can enjoy the smells of the ocean.
“I had to stop; express my love for his extraordinary care … compassion, kindness, love. I need more people like this in my life.”
A couple of weeks ago Mike & I were riding our bikes on the boardwalk & came across this sweet soul walking his beloved…
The irony of it was that Antonino doesn’t have a Facebook account and didn’t know how viral the post became until a family member showed him and asked about it. Then reporters started connecting with him.
“I found out from my brother-in-law,” Antonino explained. “He said, ‘Is this you?’ and then other people asked, ‘Is this you?’ and I’m like yeah, that’s Cocoa. That’s Cocoa and I going for a walk.”
Cocoa is a Chesapeake Bay retriever who has lived for a good 16 years but will be missed terribly by her owners.
“Here is Cocoa, our Chesapeake Bay Retriever, looking out on Rudee’s Inlet at the end of the Virginia Beach Boardwalk,” Antonino’s wife, Laura Slepin, shared with Copenhaver, who posted it.
“She peacefully went to sleep last Friday. We spent over 16 sweet years together and the last 6 months without her ability to stand brought us even closer. She has left a large void in our heart and our home.
“She wasn’t able to greet people or dogs anymore on her own, but she loved it when people came up to her. Thank you for stopping to greet her and for sharing her with your friends on Facebook.
“Cocoa had not walked since last August, but she still was living a meaningful, quality life with us. She brought us such joy and hopefully we did the same for her. We miss her and will treasure our memories of her forever. She will always be with us in our hearts.”
Antonino said that the story was appreciated by pet owners who know the joy and loss that comes with pet ownership. “It hit a chord with people that the bond we have with our dogs and our pets,” Antonino said. “It’s strong.”