Lifestyle & Human Interest

Couple Creates Mobile Bed for 16-Year-Old Dog to Enjoy Last Family Beach Vacation


While social media seems crammed full of everyone detailing their lives, there are still plenty of people who are more concerned with making memories than documenting and sharing them.

For many, this is the best and most genuine way to enjoy making memories. Others find that being able to share those memories online is the best way to celebrate them.

Tom Antonino falls into the former category. Earlier this year, he was at Virginia Beach, where he, his wife and his dog Cocoa had been going for years — but at age 16, this would be Cocoa’s last trip.

Determined to make it enjoyable for her, Antonino built a custom mobile doggy bed so Cocoa could bask in the familiar vacation sights, sounds and smells from a comfortable spot.

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“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 told WTKR-TV. “We had rope and a bed and we’d bring her out.”

It was during that outing that Carrie Copenhaver, out for a bike ride, spotted the unusual duo and stopped to chat and take a picture. With Antonino’s permission, she posted the short, sweet story and image on Facebook, and it’s because of her that the world has come to know and love sweet 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 [16] & 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.”

The post blew up, but Antonino — who doesn’t have a Facebook account — didn’t even know it until a family member showed him and asked about it. Then reporters started reaching out to 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, actually a Chesapeake Bay retriever, certainly had owners who were a cut above. Sixteen years is a long time for any large dog — but no matter how long a dog lives, it’s never long enough.

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“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.”

As Antonino noted, this story hit all the pet owners who have experienced 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.”

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