Why are there always goodbyes to say? Last year at this time I was asking that question about my dear Milo. And three weeks later, he left us. Now, I look at my sixteen year old dog Kenya (yes, I really do have a dog) and I know that very soon now, I will once again be called upon to make some incredibly hard decisions.
Kenya became part of our family at the age of five weeks. She was this little bit of a dog who fit in my coat pocket. Coal black, some sort of Lab cross and a sweet little disposition. And oh, that puppy breath when she gave us kisses. My kids were 7 and 12 years old and everyone was excited about getting a family dog. At that time I was not married or doing rescue work. We were just adopting a little mixed breed puppy to complete our new home.
We stumbled through all the training that is required when you bring home a puppy. We were actually very lucky because she was potty trained very quickly (a lot faster than either of my children), and, except for eating everything and anything, she was a great pup.
However, we did go through a very long chewing stage which involved a complete package of raw stew beef, Styrofoam and plastic covering included; an entire set of make up that my children bought me for Christmas, and the best one, of course, was the Frisbee she ate the night before she got spayed. We, of course, didnít know about the Frisbee until I picked her up the next day at the vet.
All in all, Kenya was a really good dog. She followed my kids around when they went trick or treating on Halloween, watched television with them, and was the soft pillow they cried on when their hearts were broken, and the dog who sat next to me and nursed me through my divorce. She watched my girls grow up.
She was at every birthday party, holiday and special occasion. Kenya was in attendance (along with Milo) at my wedding to Clint. In fact, Kenya was always there, and even as both my children grew up and moved out, she stayed. For sixteen years, Kenya has been my best friend. She has never asked me to buy her an IPOD, talked back to me or threatened to run away if I didnít buy her a car. She has never stopped loving me, whether I was having a good day or a bad one. She has never questioned my love or loyalty and I have never questioned hers!
I donít think I am a very good dog owner. We didnít go for a lot of rides or play ball very much. Luckily Kenya has always been more of a couch potato, preferring to watch the activity in the house while lounging on the furniture. We did teach her a few tricks though. She will still speak when she wants a cookie, even though she canít hear a thing we say, (when she sees the cookie, she remembers she is supposed to bark) and then she gets a cookie.
She has also decided that she can now do whatever she wants because we never say no to her anymore. Since she canít hear us, Kenya figures it must now be okay to get on the counter and steal our dinner, or eat the catís food, or beg at the table. She figures that is one of the benefits of being deaf. And at this point and time, Clint and I just let her be.
Kenya is truly in the winter of her life. She doesnít see very well, she has arthritis and her joints are stiff. She walks slowly. All this is normal for an aging canine, however, she also suffers from a degenerative spinal disease that is causing her to fall over when she walks. She seems to have forgotten that she has back legs and her hindquarters are slowly wasting away. I will come home one day soon and she will not be able to get up.
My children have both come home this year to say goodbye to their childhood friend. They donít remember a time when there wasnít a Kenya. I know they will grieve, as will my husband, but it will be me that takes her on her last journey. And I will have to say goodbye to another old and dear friend.
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