What if you lost your child in the biggest city in the world? Coco is simultaneously our youngest and oldest family member. Twelve years ago in Ningbo we adopted a beautiful beagle.Coco could fit into the palm of our hand at that time. Now she is the equivalent of seventy years old in human years.
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For twelve years Coco was the joyful greeting we heard every time we came home. For our two young sons, she embodied a tangible way to teach them how to care responsibly for living creatures.
China was not to blame, nor was the American caretaker who lost Coco while we were visiting family in the US over the summer. Coco was lost through a series of mis-steps that propelled us through the latticework of a thousand narrow alleys and broad avenues of Shanghai.
We stood in horror watching the cctv footage at the mall where Coco was left. For seven hours, she had circled faithfully around the spot where her caretaker left her. Hundreds of people passed by but took no notice that Coco was alone and in distress.That footage on July 18 at Jing'An Temple is the last we have seen of Coco since she went missing.
Since then we have walked the streets calling Coco's name and searching in bushes and basements.We hired a military sniffer dog using her blanket, but no scent trail was found. Dedicated volunteers distributed flyers, manned social media circles, and posted stickers. Energies were quickly burnt up as stickers came down within 24 hours by street cleaners.
To try to get some traction, we printed bags and donated them to street vendors. This sparked a movement that touched many. But how to reach 28 million in the world's most populous city? The task appeared colossal.
The police station wanted to help but did not know how, beyond filing a report. Had we lost a cell phone or a grandmother, they could give us access to street cctv footage.
Alongside volunteers, we pulled all-nighters to scan streets during quiet hours when animals roam freely. Rescuers shared videos of dog catchers using massive hooks to pierce and carry off stray dogs. We watched meat trucks transport stray dogs to far-off provinces for food. The enormous numbers of stray animals attract both apathy and abuse.
Shanghai citizens told us that beagles are rare in China. However, the first17 weeks we received 17 sets of photos of stray beagles on Shanghai streets. Each time we went through the harrowing identification process to determine that each was indeed not Coco. These beagles found homes as a direct result.
Mid-winter celebrations are now approaching all over the world. Festivities are often marked by stories of hope, wonder, and family reunions. We still await our missing family member. Coco cannot find her way back home by herself. She needs help to find her way. We still hope for that wonder and that reunion.
To follow Coco's story see: http://www.cocozainali.com/
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