When a would-be robber hit Sam Caruso on the head and arm with a brick, he called a dog named Cocoa for help. The Belgian Malinois stopped the assault and chased the man out of Caruso Beer Distributor on the North Side.
"She was there for him," said Shari Caruso, Sam's daughter and Cocoa's owner.
Thanks to her dog, her father, who celebrated his 73rd birthday on Wednesday, was not seriously injured. In fact, he was back at work the next day.
But this story does not have a happy ending -- yet.
The hero dog has been missing since the attack Aug. 14. Cocoa "chased the robber out of the building, but then she panicked" and kept running, Ms. Caruso said.
"It was 4:30, the evening rush hour. She's not used to city traffic" because Cocoa and Ms. Caruso live in Zelienople, about 30 miles north of the distributor.
Belgian Malinois are a working breed, often used by police officers and the military because of their intelligence, bravery, loyalty and willingness to work for the people they love. Ms. Caruso hopes Cocoa's intelligence enabled her to escape traffic. However, one woman called her to say a dog that looked like Cocoa had run into her car shortly after the robbery.
Ms. Caruso and an ever-growing army of friends and volunteers have been working 'round the clock -- on foot, on computers and on smartphones -- to find Cocoa. There are photos of the dog on Facebook and other social media and posters and fliers throughout the North Side and points north.
The Cocoa alert has gone out to multiple police departments, animal shelters, animal control agencies and veterinarians. There is a cash reward for her return.
There have been many sightings of Cocoa, who seems to be heading north. Ms. Caruso hopes the dog is trying to get home to Zelienople.
Pittsburgh police are investigating but have not caught the robber yet. They're also keeping WATCH for the missing dog.
Cocoa's most distinguishing feature is very large black ears that stick straight up. Her muzzle is also black, and the rest of her body is "tan like a deer," Ms. Caruso said. She is 3 years old and a thin and fit 50 pounds. She's usually friendly but has run away from people who have tried to catch her.
If you see Cocoa, Ms. Caruso asks you to call her cell phone -- 724-822-9558. Someone will immediately come to get the dog. If you can take a picture on your cell phone and send it to her, that would be helpful because some of the reported sightings were of other dogs. There are also pictures and updates on a Facebook page, Find Cocoa.
"I am convinced that Cocoa made it possible for my dad to be alive, well and standing on his 73rd birthday," Ms. Caruso said. "She has blessed all of us with the gift of life, and I'm praying that it is not the last blessing she has given us."
Mineral Beach in Finleyville, Washington County, is the site of the second annual Dog Swim from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday. The event is a fundraiser for the Washington Area Humane Society. Last year, 175 dogs swam in the big pool on Route 88. The event includes a Best Bathing Suit Contest -- for dogs, not people.
The admission donation on Labor Day is $15 for the first dog and $5 for each additional dog. You can register the first dog for $10 in advance until Monday by calling the shelter at 724-222-PETS (7387) or on its website, http://washingtonpashelter.org/.
Once again volunteers will be saving the paws of puppies and dogs by picking up glass in the South Side Flats.
The Southside Glass SweeP-UP is next Saturday. Registration with breakfast snacks is at 9:30 a.m. at the 18th Street parking lot. The event is sponsored by the South Side Chamber of Commerce and Keep Our Pups Safe.
Last year, 44 volunteers picked up 400 pounds of glass. This event is popular, so you need to email info@SouthSideChamber.org to make sure you get on a clean-up team.
For more information, go to the Facebook page, South Side Love Your Block & Glass SweeP-UP Volunteer Event or the website http://keepourpupssafe.com/.
A bichon frise named Minne "is ready to reign over his kingdom," said proud owner Linda Dickerson. Her "Minne for Mayor" campaign buttons made the friendly 3-year-old dog the top fundraiser for Animal Friends' Bark in the Dark on Aug. 24.
Minne and Ms. Dickerson thank their supporters, who donated $1,360 to the Ohio Township shelter. Next year, Minne's face will adorn posters, pamphlets and T-shirts advertising the event.
Minne goes to work in Gateway Towers every day with Ms. Dickerson, who is principal at 501(c)(3)2, a consulting firm for nonprofits.
Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: email@example.com or 412-263-3064. First Published August 31, 2013 4:00 AM