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.