A Sad Day for Mocha and Me

Three years ago I moved to Costa Rica with my dog, Mocha. If you’ve been along for any part of this ride, you know that Mocha travels everywhere with me. She hangs out in restaurants, she goes to the beach, she rides on boats, she flies in planes, she loves cars and off-roading over mountains. Well, not anymore. I should go back and change all those verbs to past tense.

Mocha has had a few incidences in the past few months that indicated something was wrong or changing in her, this past week being the worst and a major wake up call.

mocha, happy on the beach

Happy Mocha on an amazing tour of Guanacaste beaches, Semana Santa 2011.

A few months ago: Some warning signs

This past December, I spent the day on the beach with Mocha and my friend Ashley. Mocha behaved normally: she dug in the sand to make a cool custom bed and threw too much sand all over anyone within five feet, she avoided the water like the plague, she guarded our stuff while we swam in the ocean, and she politely pooped under bushes and away from people.

At the end of the day, we walked back to the car and I whistled for Mocha to come. We waited five minutes, but she didn’t come. This was the first time she didn’t come when I called, and I started to get nervous. We checked all the campsites that were cooking meat on a stick, we checked back by the car, we checked the people laying on the beach. I thought “OMG, did I just lose my dog for the first time in thirteen years??!!”

I found her in our spot, a half-mile down the beach, barking frantically at the ocean, trying to swim in deeper and deeper. I yelled “MOCHA!!!!,” but she didn’t hear me. I had to go into the water and grab her to get her attention. Once she saw me, she got really happy and followed me on to shore.

That was weird, but not too weird. Things like that happen to other dogs all the time, and I thought it was just luck that Mocha had never been lost. Over the next few months there were two or three days when she barked too much or pulled a little harder in the opposite direction on her leash, but all subsequent beach trips were normal.

old mocha in san isidro

Old Miss Mocha on the front porch of my treehouse in San Isidro. February 2013

Last week: Mocha loses her shit

Then I went to Playa Tamarindo last week and, of course, took Mocha with me.

Day 1 – 4: she barked incessantly if I was not with her, she took huge dumps in inconvenient random places by people, she tugged hard in all directions on her leash, she tried to swim, she barked nonstop at me in the water, and she even barked at children. She was acting like a different dog.

Day 5: Mocha ran away. I was playing in the waves when I went back on shore to move our stuff further up from the rising tide. She was playing with another dog and I called to get her attention to show her that I moved our stuff. She didn’t hear me, so I went up to her and bent down to pet her. She crouched away, ran into the ocean, and started swimming hard into the big waves. I caught up with her and then she swam away from me, back on to shore.

People were watching and saying “Is that your dog?!”

On shore, I bent down to fix her loosening collar when she snapped at me. Her eyes glazed over and it looked like she was looking straight through me. With crazy eyes, she snapped a few times to each side, then took off running faster than I have ever seen her run in her entire life. Faster than when her legs still worked. I chased after my dog, screaming “MOCHA!!!,” people were laughing, that didn’t help.

I finally had to give up. I just couldn’t catch up with crazy Mocha. I turned back to go tell my friend in the water what was going on. He helped me look along the walk home, but I just knew she wasn’t in a restaurant or kissing people on the beach. But really, how could I know, she wasn’t acting like Mocha. What if she ran into the water? The jungle?

We finally found her back at the beach house. She had run away from me and run home. She was standing on the porch, barking nonstop, again. When she saw me, she shut up, she drank a gallon of water, and then she passed out in her bed. I was mad, then I thought it was funny and tried to joke it off, then I got mad again, but now I’m just sad. Really really sad. Poor Mocha. Poor me. I’ve lost my traveling buddy.

A new chapter in our lives

My dog, Miss Mocha, is now tool old to travel. Apparently, she had an episode of doggie dementia and to help prevent that in the future, I need to keep her in a familiar environment. So we can go in the car…she just can’t get out of the car. It makes sense; it’s the natural order of things. Her hair turned white, she developed hip problems… she is like 85 now – a super senior…

I’m still collecting information on supplements for older dogs, I found conflicting info and too much commercialism on Google. She takes glucosamine chondroitin with all the extra joint lubricants, but there has to be something she can take for her brain. Mocha is my first senior dog…my first dog. I’ve had her for almost thirteen years. She has been faithfully by my side through all the ups and downs of my entire adult life. She’s a good girl.

cute puppy mocha sitting in devin's hands

Puppy Mocha nibbling on Devin’s hands. This is the day I adopted her, she is 5 weeks old. September 2000.


  1. says

    So sorry to hear about your beloved friend. It’s so hard when our pets get old. Hoping you get your new “normal” figured out with Mocha and that you still have many happy times left to spend together.

    • Erin Morris says

      Thanks Sabra. I turned down a couple trips over the next few weeks and plan to just hang out with her until I can figure out the new “normal”

  2. says

    My family and I have had many dogs in our lives and I have rescued many here and know this must be a very upsetting time for you …. But Mocha was obviously blessed having you as her beloved companion for so many years and for that we must all be very happy …..

  3. Noel Blake says

    Know how hard it is to lose your Dog have lost a few over the last 60 something years. Funny though do not miss my x wives at all.

  4. Laura says

    Nooo! I’m so sorry to hear poor Mochita can’t travel anymore. If you’re looking for a vet (dunno if you have a regular one) Veterinaria Los Angeles, where I took Canela, is amazing. Jose and Leo are amazing people who really care about their jobs and devote serious time and attention to all their clients. Let me know if you need contact info for them!

    • Erin Morris says

      Poor sweet Mochita. There are some good vets up here in San Isidro, so we should be alright but I’ll let you know if I need more recs. Thanks Laura

  5. Brian says

    Ouch sorry to hear about that… anything you need from out of country? Vitamins or what have you for the ol’ dog. I did say I wanted to give thanks for such a great site… clinking beers perhaps but doggy treats would be fine as I plan to bring back more than I arrive with so technically I should have the ‘space’.

    I am heading your way next week going all over the country so I’m sure it wouldn’t be difficult to bump into yah someplace.

    • Erin Morris says

      THat is so incredible generous of you, thanks! I would take you up on your offer, but I don’t know what she needs yet. It’s a bit overwhelming – there are tons of options. If I can figure it out within the next couple of days I will definitely email you. THanks!

  6. bernie says

    yeah thats a really sad tale! its really sad when our dogs get old and sick!! i lost my old pal blue last year and i still miss the old boy! and my last two dogs are getting old now as well and i face losing them

  7. says

    So sorry Hon
    I have been a dog/cat rescuer for the 22 yrs in Costa Rica Now as I, and they ,get older I may sell my lovely 3 acre farm in Heredia Hills and move home to my family .The only thing stopping me now is not abandoning my lovable pets..so I know how you feel about Mocha..
    Having had to send 3 to heaven the last few months,,I MAY find dog lovers who will either buy or rent one of my apartments CHEAP to take care of my 3 medium size friendly outdoor dogs..OR live in free apt in return for little handywork..and lite doggie care..
    MY head spins at the thought of me getting sicker and y dogs not having the love and caring but low maintenance they need…If there is a guy or couple wanting a gret opportunity with NO pets of their own email me
    Meanwhile good luck with Mocha Maybe like one of mine she has epilepsy causing strange behaviour.I give mine liquid meds and now she is old but no more seizures
    It was not easy getting her pee sample for Vet diagnosed as we live on a farm I had to chase her daily with a plastic bag until she finally realized that I wanted her to pee on it LOL…I hope Mocha gets better but if not remember she has been lucky to have your love and you having hers for so many years ..Maybe time to get another dog FROM THE SHELTER or streets I hope ..Before the inevitable happens OR come live on my lovely farm and share mine :) I am now retired but do not have the energy I once had so I rent my 4 apartments monthly to foreigners Less work than a B&B but less $$
    Good luck

    • Erin Morris says

      I hope you can find someone to take care of your animals and your farm! You can try one of the housesitting websites – there are plenty of people who would exchange housing for maintenance and pet care. Shoot, I would if I didn’t already have an old dog.

  8. Paul says

    I’m sorry to hear about the changes in Mocha. You have given her a great life, and you have experienced the joys of sharing life with each other. I hope you will both be able to find a peaceful and happy way to enjoy the time you have left together.

    I just recently lost my friend, my adventure buddy, my dog, Mac. He was 10 years old. He loved to go with me, riding in the truck, on the front of my kayak, hiking, or on the power boats. He was not a good swimmer, but he loved being with me out on the water. He had been treated for some kidney issues for a couple of years, and did remarkably well. I finally had an opportunity to make my first trip to Costa Rica last November, and my only concern was leaving Mac. He stayed with a friend and her dogs, but he got sick while I was in CR. The Vets did everything they could for him, but, by the time I got home, he was so weak, I knew he could not go on. I buried him in my back yard on Thanksgiving Day 2012. I miss him soooooo much!

    I hope this comment is not too much of a downer for you. I just felt a connection to you and Mocha, because we love our dogs so much. It is difficult dealing with their aging, and illness, just as much as any member of our familes.

    I wish you and Mocha the very best in the days ahead!

    • Erin Morris says

      Thanks for your note. It’s definitely a downer, but it really helps to hear that there are other people out there who understand how special Mocha is and how sad it is to see your dog grow really old.

  9. Michael Windham says

    I am leaving this country to live in Costa Rica on Thursday. I will arrive in San Jose at 7:00pm. I just put down my companion of 15 years! If you want to talk ?I will listen intently with utmost respect! There is way to much to converse here …. it’s all so special. You sound special.
    Michael Windham
    PS> yep, you can find my Facebook. I’m in a cowboy hat. I will add you. See how easy it is to get to know someone! lol

      • Michael Windham says

        Thank you Erin. It is so nice of you to respond. I almost feel as though I know Mocha. Miss Bailey had a few of the same actions such as the snapping at me. I’m sure it was just warning me to be careful with her!

  10. Janice says

    Hi Erin,
    I just read this blog post. I hope Mocha is still getting around. Anyway, just wanted to offer up a tip on coconut oil. It apparently helps with dementia and also with stiff joints. I didn’t discover this until after my 17 year old pitt/lab mix had to leave this world, but I’m giving it to our other dogs and they love it. They’re all shiny and energetic. The dose is a tablespoon or so a day, but you’d probably want to work her up to that.

    • Erin Morris says

      Hey! Mocha is still getting around. She takes glucosamine chondroitin MSM supplements everyday. The coconut oil sounds like a great idea. Thanks for the tip!

  11. Susan says

    Thanks for sharing this article. I’ve often wondered if expats bring their dogs when they move abroad. I’ve often thought of doing that myself, me and my sheltie Bacchus!

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