EVERYONE’S RECEIVED AN an e-mail making an emotional plea for help, money or both. Usually, it’s a get-rich-quick scheme from, say, a fictional Nigerian government official, but when the following plea started circulating online on Jan. 20, it would have been easy to assume it was no different from the rest of the spam that clutters your inbox.
“Sorry again for the mass e-mail. … As many of you know, we are moving in just two weeks.
Unfortunately, I have still not been able to find a good home for Cookie and Coco. We’re not able to take our beloved doggies with us and I’ve been desperately trying to find a home for both of them ‘together.’ They were raised together and pine without each other.”
Attached to a string of forwards was a picture of a chocolate Labrador retriever, Coco, and a yellow Lab, Cookie, looking up with that puzzled, ear-raised expression: “Who me?”
“Yes, you,” the citizens of America collectively replied. Faster than you can fire off an e-mail from your iPhone, people nationwide were all but building Coco and Cookie doghouses in their backyards. (“Package deal! Please pass along to all family, friends, co-workers.” — Atlanta, Feb. 12.)
But pretty soon the tide out there in the blogosphere turned from chirpy do-gooder optimism to irritated skepticism. (“I have e-mailed this person a couple of times & NO response … so I [am] starting to believe this is a total scam!” — Hackettstown, N.J., Feb. 12.)
Pages upon pages of Google search results yielded more confusion and second-guessing. It started to look like Coco and Cookie don’t even exist.
But they do.
Just ask Sas Behzadi of Woodland Hills, Calif.
“It was the day of the inauguration,” recalled the 37-year-old, who requested the use of her nickname instead of her real name, due to the backlash she’s received from some not-so-pleasant animal activists. “I had been looking for a home for both of my dogs together for over four months. My house was in foreclosure, and I knew it was a bad time.”
After a series of personal misfortunes, the mother of three found herself finally able to afford the rent at a local apartment building — but dogs over 25 pounds were prohibited. So, she sent out one last e-mail plea to her friends in hopes of finding a new home for her 3-year-old dogs.
On her contacts list was Julia Schklair of Los Angeles, Behzadi’s friend of 15 years. “I would have taken them had she needed that, just temporarily, because I already have two dogs,” said the 46-year-old costume designer for CBS’ “The Mentalist.” But Coco and Cookie needed a permanent home. So, Schklair did what any friend would do: She hit “forward.”
That’s what James Harvey did, too, when the 45-year-old San Diego technical support specialist received Behzadi’s plea two days later. “I sent it off to my friend Donna Littlejohn at [Los Angeles'] Daily Breeze [newspaper],” he said. “She goes to my parents’ church in L.A. and has a Web site for dogs. I sent it to local people and she replied, ‘Hey, do you want me to put this on my blog for pets?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ It just went nuts from there.”
Did it ever. A Jan. 22 entry on her South Bay Pets blog unleashed a virtual Coco and Cookie frenzy. By the second day, Behzadi had received 200 replies. “I was, like, ‘Wow, gosh. There’s a lot in my inbox,’” she says. “Within a week, it tripled. I think to date it’s almost 10,000, if not more, e-mail responses. I’ve kept all of them.”
And with her inbox inundation came the full gamut of human reactions, from the supportive (“At least you’re doing the right thing for your dogs”) to the heartbreaking (“My dog’s 11 and I’m dying from cancer. I don’t have anyone to take care of him, can you help me with mine?”) to the vicious: “I’ve gotten some really nasty, vile hate mail from animal rights activists and people who just don’t understand,” Behzadi said. “We didn’t plan for this.”
But as Coco and Cookie were becoming something of a national cause, it was a local organization that ultimately came to the rescue. With the help of Southern California Labrador Retriever Rescue, Behzadi recently found a couple to adopt her dogs.
Behzadi is still in touch with the pair who offered the dogs their new digs.
“They send me pictures all the time and have invited our kids to go hiking with them,” she said. “It’s just been amazing.”
So amazing, in fact, that movie studios have shown interest in the Coco and Cookie story.
“People want to see that there’s still goodness in the world today,” Behzadi said. “If Cookie and Coco can bring a smile to someone’s face, then great. It’s worthwhile.”
Now, please stop e-mailing her.
Photos courtesy Sas Behzadi