The tiny Yorkie-Poodle was well-known throughout the Circle and had plenty of regular stops.
For years, St Armands Circle has had an unofficial mascot: a tiny, sweet and sassy Yorkie-poodle mix by the name of Coco.
“We would do this every day for 12 years,” Coco’s dad, Joe Bertucci, said. “Rain or shine, we got in the car and went down to St. Armands every night.”
Bertucci and Coco walked every inch of the Circle nearly every night, going up and down the side streets and stopping at her favorite places, which included the Tommy Bahama store and Settimi’s Gelato. Restaurant regulars and shop owners were among her best friends. Technically, the walk was exercise for Coco, but she treated it more like a social occasion. With pit stops.
“She would pee like 10 times,” Bertucci said. “I don’t know how she held all that in that little body. A drop here, there. That was our social life, basically. We ruled the Circle.”
But since March 24, Bertucci hasn’t been back to the Circle. His companion died that day, at age 13. Her death came as a shock.
“She was spry, she was healthy,” Bertucci said.
When Bertucci came back to Longboat Key with Coco in late January, he took her for her regular vaccines. The veterinarian found cancer in her spleen, but it was knocked out with chemotherapy. A few weeks later, after Coco missed breakfast a few days, Bertucci took her back. Not only had the cancer come back, but she also had an infection, and antibiotics weren't working.
“It was a matter of five weeks from being sick to being gone,'' Bertucci said. "It’s just heartbreaking. I didn’t expect this … I took such good care of her and it was just her time, I guess.”
Bertucci and Coco had several stops around the Circle, including Rico’s Pizza, Wyland Galleries and the Black Dog General Store, but the place they most often stopped was Settimi’s Gelato. Bertucci had become friends with owner Isidro “Ichi” Lodi over the years and even had one of Coco’s birthday parties at the place.
“Coco was sweet, sweet, sweet,” Lodi said. “She was the doggy that every single person stopped to pet. Kids, adults. She was so kind, very gentle with kids, but she’d get mad when the motorcycles made noise.”
Coco was the steadiest fixture among the “kennel club” outside Settimi’s. Andrew Fletcher, a longtime friend of Bertucci’s, would often go with wife Katherine and their Bernese mountain dog, Berner. The four-legged pair couldn't have been more different but were great friends. Bertucci remembers how Coco would eat biscuit crumbs off Berner’s huge paws, and the big guy didn’t care at all. The group of Settimi’s dogs always drew pets from passing Circle-goers.
“Berner didn’t like the attention as much and she (Coco) loved it,” Fletcher said. “Someone would want to go and pet Bernie, and he was OK with it, just shy, but Coco loved the attention. She was a great dog.”
The attention was everywhere, and Coco couldn’t get enough of it. Tourists remembered her when they returned to the Circle, the little Yorkie-poodle in a pink bow who preened for petting. Fletcher remembers when Coco wanted to go, she would give Bertucci a little attitude and a bark, as if to tell Dad to get moving. There were places to be and people to pet her, especially in the Tommy Bahama store.
“She loved to be petted,” Bertucci said. “One time in the Tommy Bahama store, there was a whole big family. She went from person to person to person to get petted and when she ran out of people, she barked at the mannequin.”
Bertucci and Coco often went to Cha Cha Coconuts for dinner as they walked the Circle, and Coco had a pad that Bertucci put down on her very own chair each time so they could sit together. She often ate from his plate and loved the chicken, which was one of her last meals.
Bertucci had Coco cremated so he can take her with him, both in life and death. He said when he goes, he wants Coco’s box to go with him. She was a one-of-a-kind dog, and friends remember her as more than a dog to the man.
“I remember Joe showed me pictures of taking Coco to see Santa Claus,” Ichi said. “She was more like a kid rather than a dog.”
Bertucci said the questions about her when he returns will be hard to deal with.
“Joe was kind of a fixture on the Circle,” Fletcher said. “It’s sad he’s not there as much now that Coco’s gone. It’s not the same without Joe and Coco always sitting there at night.”