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Coco the Emperor dog


Coco is common as muck. It’s one of the most common pet names globally, and if you’re a Coco owner, you’ll inevitably get comments like “oh, my aunty / friend / father owned a dog called Coco.” To which I reply “yes, Coco is actually named after another dog, Coco.”

This is true, as for years husband Andy and I swithered about what kind of pet we’d like for our slightly cramped one-bedroom flat, and the Griffen Fitness studio. When we visited Darwin in 2013, my uncle was dog-sitting a lovely wee pug called Coco, which loved being made a fuss of. We agreed, there and then, to get exactly the same dog. So after many searches of Kennel Club breeders, we were interviewed and allowed to purchase a pug puppy, born 20 January 2014. Guess what we called it?

There has been a lot of attention on how unhealthy brachycephalic breeds of dogs are – that is dogs with a shortened nose. They’ve become popular due to their cute looks, almost humanlike. Sadly the thing that makes them cute, the shortened snout, can cause breathing issues. We set out to prove you could can keep a squishy-faced dog fit. No matter your body shape Griffen Fitness can keep you in peak condition.

Most dogs love to eat, and pugs are no exception. Coco enjoys her food so much I invented ‘dog porridge’ as a feature of my specialty recipe in last year’s Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship. It was something the judges had never seen before, and thankfully didn’t need to sample, as the dish features a dried sprat on top.

Add to their voracious appetite (Coco is known in local shops as ‘the hoover’), they would stay in bed all day if allowed, leading to many pugs being overweight, exacerbating breathing problems. The amount of pug owners I’ve met who say “oh, he doesn’t need/like walking…” Aurgh! ALL dogs need regular exercise (as do their owners!).

The trick to keeping a pug fit and healthy is to measure food and keep treats healthy and minimal. Many dogs love vegetables, and Coco has her ‘daily brassica’ of raw broccoli, even nibbling the stem (fibre for her gut). Refill and wash their water bowl every day and carry a water bowl and bottle on longer walks.

Because a brachycephalic breeds’ jaw is squished up, they also tend toward rotten teeth. Like humans, dogs need their teeth cleaned. After a vet told us Coco may need to get three teeth removed. Coco hated the toothbrush, until we found a doggy toothpaste with enzymes she can just eat. Logic Oral Hygiene Gel (locally available at Dofos) has saved us hundreds of pounds on vet bills. Her teeth are fine now - no need to shove a toothbrush in her gob.

Pugs are actually one of the oldest breeds of dogs; according to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, ‘In ancient times, pugs were bred as companions for ruling families in China. They were highly valued by Chinese Emperors as the royal dogs, kept in luxury and guarded by soldiers. Later they spread to other parts of Asia. In Tibet, Buddhist monks kept pugs as pets in their monasteries. The breed has retained its affectionate devotion to its owners since ancient times’.

Among many pug anecdotes, my favourites are, Buddhist monks using them as hot-water bottles, by popping them under their robes. And there were favoured pugs, highly regarded due to the wrinkles on their forehead representing certain Chinese characters.

Pugs used to have a leaner physique (check out Hogarth and his Pup by William Hogarth) but have been bred into a more a cobby body shape. Not Coco though, her long lean legs love to sprint around Leith Links, leading to some running injuries. Luckily, we have a doggy physio as part of our team, Lisa Cleeton. And, at nearly ten years old, our fitness pug is barely slowing down… Apart from 18 hours sleep a day!

Coco plays an important role in the studio. She’s a fully paid-up Therapet and knows how to make people feel relaxed. Her squiggling tail, her whole butt wagging from side to side when clients come through the door puts people at ease.

Many people dread exercise and eating well, but Coco has proven it is quite good fun and results in a good quality of life. One day, I plan to adopt a rescue dog from the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home, a local charity that needs support as many ‘pandemic pets’ have been abandoned by owners. A pet really is for life, when taking on a new dog be sure you have a space big enough in your home, heart (and wallet) to give it all the attention it needs.

If you love dogs you might be interested in EDCH Dog First Aid course. Yes, doggy First Aid is a ‘thing’, and a very good half-day course it is too, highly recommended!

Everyone believes their dog is the best in the world. Indeed every dog IS the best in the world, to that particular human. Coco is my Constant Companion, almost an extension of myself, always around. Even as I type these words, laptop precariously balanced on knees, she’s snuggling on my lap.

It is true, dogs are the best people... ■


Twitter: @tracygriffen

Coco’s porridge with sprat and… guess who?

Pugs were highly valued by Chinese Emperors as the royal dogs, kept in luxury and guarded by soldiers



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