The bond between man and dog goes back thousands of years to the first civilizations that domesticated wild dogs for use in hunting and companionship. The same went for Stick Figure’s (Guitarist/Vocalist) Scott Woodruff and his dog Holly; the two were inseparable. With no warning Holly was tragically killed by a vicious coyote, and a sizeable hole was left in Scott’s life that any dog owner knows is next to impossible to fill.
Meanwhile, a 6-month-old Australian Shepherd was found wandering the streets of Central California’s Merced County. With little food, no warmth nor any comfortable place to sleep, and no one to love her, the puppy was taken to a shelter with little chance of survival.
Woodruff knew he wanted that void filled, but did not want to rush into getting a dog. He spent the next few months scouring the Internet for a canine partner at local animal shelters.
“I looked at hundreds of photos of dogs and read their bio. When I saw Cocoa’s photo, I knew she was the one.” He called the shelter that said she was available.
A few days later, Scott called them again as he was ready to jump in his car and pick up his new companion, but the shelter said she had be transferred and would not release any more information.
Mama Stick Figure convinced Scott to call them back and press for more information. With some hesitation, the shelter told Scott she had been transferred to the SPCA in San Francisco, who in turn told Scott she would not be available for at least a few weeks, and again, no other information.
Calling the SPCA every three days became routine. Three weeks turned into a month and a half before she was finally available for adoption. The poor puppy spent six weeks quarantined with kennel cough and diarrhea. Scott’s persistence landed him atop the long list of possible forever homes and he made the four-hour journey to pick up his new pup.
Everyone at the SPCA thought Scott was crazy but “4 hours to meet a dog I will get to spend the next 15 years with. Is it really that crazy?”
The moment Scott met the dog, formerly known as Joan Leslie, was like a scene from a heart wrenching storybook Hollywood ending. She walked over to Scott and sat down. The two gazed into each-others eyes and realized they were meant for each other. After one look, Scott said she looked like a Cocoa.
Approximately ten people were in line in case Scott decided not to take her. They awed at the happy couple and told Scott how lucky he was. And little did anyone know that Cocoa’s rock star life on the road was about to begin.
Her first tour with Stick Figure happened while supporting Tribal Seeds in 2013. “She had a blast,” Woodruff says. “It was amazing to see how comfortable she was on stage and how she adapted to loud music. The guys in Tribal Seeds really loved her.” Being so well behaved and good mannered, the band decided she would be on every tour from that moment on.
Since 2013, Cocoa has traveled across the continental United States including ten tours from the West Coast to Florida. She recently traveled as far away from home as Alaska. The only tour she has missed was a brief stint on the Hawaiian Islands with Collie Buddz since Hawai’i has very strict quarantine laws.
Although she loves to tour, like any musician, she revels her time off at home so she can relax, get on a normal schedule, go on hikes, and play with her best friend, a Dalmatian named Patches. The two are extremely excited to see each other each time they are reunited.
“Her personality transcends the music,” Scott explains, “Her laid back chill vibe is a perfect match for Stick Figure.”
Her easygoing attitude came in handy while on tour through Idaho. The band makes frequent stops for gas and provisions and happened to realize Cocoa was nowhere to be found on the bus. Frantically thumbing through receipts and calling past stops, they reached a gas station attendant that simply said, “Yeah, she’s been sitting here all night.”
After almost 24 hours alone, Cocoa didn’t even leave the last stop she saw her boys. She was not even mad at them when they returned. Scott says, “not much phases her.”
They consider Cocoa the fifth member of the band and also recognize she is probably more popular than anyone who holds an instrument. Her sleeping quarters vary from night to night, but she seems to favor sharing a bed with bass player Tommy Suliman and frequently sleeps on her back, each night for hours on end “which is quite odd to wake up to.”
Cocoa enjoys most food, but specifically beef, Slim Jims, and fresh egg or fish oil mixed with her kibble – her favorite treats include cheese, salmon, and blueberries. Even though she appreciates a belly rub or scratch behind the ears, you’ll find a special place in her heart when you find the favorite spot under her neck.
She can be consistently seen holding a stuffed animal, preferably a duck, in her mouth and never rips the animals up; instead her motherly instinct nurtures them and licks them as if they were her very own babies. Cocoa has been known to walk out of stores on a weekly basis without paying for them.
“She seems to always find one! You’d be surprised how many stores carry stuffed animals.”
In addition to stuffed animals, Cocoa says her favorite thing about tour life is constantly being with her rock star dad. She loves the fact that she never gets put on a leash and is able to travel the country multiple times a year. She also told us her good behavior allows her to ride on planes and hang out at gas stations and restaurants. Cocoa is profoundly proud of the fact that she has only peed on the stage once in her brief career.
Obviously given more freedoms than most dogs her age enjoy, Cocoa does not take it for granted. She has not thought of a solo music career… because she has no thumbs, but wants to give back to the countless dogs that never get the second chance she did.
“Currently, Cocoa and I are in the early stages of her own charity that helps support the rescue and care for other dogs in need,” hinted Scott.
Stick Figure’s favorite thing about Cocoa is her mellow demeanor and the way her personality shines on stage. She seems to get really excited at the end of “Hawai’i Song” but her stage presence depends on the show, the crowd, and her environment.
She looks forward to meeting all of you on the road and accepting your gifts of Slim Jims, blue berries, cheese, or duck stuffed animals. In her brief three-year life, Cocoa the Tour Dog continues to inspire thousands of people each day, garnering fans from each place she puts her paws.
Article by: Blake Taylor Photos by: David Norris