In early 2012 KOKO was diagnosed with congestive heart disease, a common affliction in dogs. He received early and immediate treatment to improve his quality of life but has sadly succumbed to the disease.
RED DOG producer and owner of KOKO, Nelson Woss, said that he was devastated to have lost his best mate.
“Through the making of RED DOG, KOKO became Australia’s favourite dog. He certainly changed my life forever. I will miss his companionship, his remarkable outgoing, friendly nature and the many long walks that we enjoyed together in Perth and around the country. His incredible journey has come to an end," Mr Woss said.
Based on the best-selling novel of the same title by Louis de Bernières, RED DOG tells the true tale of the charismatic dog who roamed the Western Australian outback in the 1970s. Even with a Hollywood cast, including Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama) and Rachael Taylor (Transformers), KOKO shone as the star of the film and became beloved by fans in Australia and throughout the world. RED DOG grossed more than $21Million at the Australian box office, making it the 8th highest grossing Australian film of all time. The film is the third biggest selling DVD of all time in Australia behind Avatar (#1) and Finding Nemo (#2).
Mr. Woss and KOKO toured Australia to promote the film’s cinematic release in August 2011. KOKO visited animal shelters, met with fans and local communities, winning people’s hearts wherever he travelled. KOKO’s hard work and charisma helped to build buzz for the film and likely contributed to its huge box office success.
KOKO before RED DOG
KOKO was born on 9 April 2005 to breeders Carol and Len Hobday from Klassikelp Australian Kelpies. Initially trained as a show dog, KOKO won Best Exhibiting Group, Working Dogs in January 2006. Carol Hobday noted at the time that it was quite unique for a dog so young to win in that group.
Trainer Luke Hura was tasked with finding the canine star for RED DOG and in 2009 he approached Carol and Len with an interest in KOKO. Luke and RED DOG director Kriv Stenders auditioned KOKO and immediately found him to be an outgoing dog with a beautiful temperament and star quality. Carol and Len agreed to part with their beloved dog for the movie, but they did not want to lose him permanently.
Filming of RED DOG
KOKO began training with Mr. Hura at age six and learned more than 50 commands for the movie. The filming of RED DOG was KOKO’s chance to shine and he demonstrated a strong work ethic but often showed a fierce independence and spirit akin to the real RED DOG. KOKO formed a great friendship with all of the RED DOG cast and crew.
At the conclusion of filming, it was obvious to Carol and Len Hobday that Nelson and KOKO had formed a very special bond. The Hobday’s agreed to let Nelson keep KOKO and did not accept any payment.
Following the film’s publicity tour, KOKO was retired to a life of long walks, good food and lots of pats. During this time, KOKO would only make public appearances where there was a significant donation made to either the Shenton Park Dog Refuge or the RSPCA. KOKO was often recognized on the streets of Perth and was always happy to meet his fans. KOKO was especially close and protective of Mr Woss's 3-year old daughter Zella.
In 2012 KOKO was awarded Best Dog in a Foreign Film at the inaugural Golden Collar Awards in Los Angeles. In a 2012 book by author Lee Tate he was listed as one of 101 amazing Western Australian characters alongside esteemed icons such as Tim Winton and C.Y. O’Connor. A portrait of KOKO by Adam Cullen received a special commendation at the 2012 Archibald prize.
Mr. Woss said that having a kelpie in your life is a great joy but urged families with children to carefully consider any decision to own a kelpie, as the breed requires a lot of exercise and mental stimulation.
Mr. Woss is not available for further comment but suggests that anyone who would like to remember or honour KOKO can do so by making a donation or pledge in KOKO’s name to the Shenton Park Dog Refuge.