Thursday, July 26, 2007

Back in 1992, not long after I moved into my first "share" house after college, my then girlfriend bought me a Siberian Husky x German Shepherd puppy. She was only six weeks old. We named her Kyah. Kyah stayed with me for more than 15 years. But dogs don't live as long as people and Kyah had reached the ripe old age of somewhere in her mid 90s. The last year has been hard on her, as she lost her hearing and arthritis set in. After what appears to have been a stroke, DW and I made the difficult decision to let her go yesterday.

Fortunately I was able to leave work and go home and be with her at the end. She was clearly frightened but obviously took great comfort in my presence, placing her head in my hand. It saddens me that I can no longer do any more for my old friend, but at least I could do that. I was with her to the last and I am grateful it was so peaceful, and that she no longer suffers. Though I grew up on a farm and saw many animals come and go, I never felt that any of them belonged to me and so none has had such a profound effect. It has been a privilege to have had such a wonderful and devoted friend, to see her grow from a tiny puppy and participate in her entire life cycle. While it pains me now, I know such experiences are not to be shied away from, because they enrich your life immeasurably. This has been Kyah's gift to me.

When she first came home, such a tiny little ball of fluff, she looked like a wolf cub. In fact, this is precisely why she was chosen. Wolves are my favourite wild animal. I remember her weeing every time she got even the smallest fright, and yipping for hours into the night if she was lonely. We managed to settle her with a ticking clock in her bed and after a few weeks she was completely at home. When she was that small, we let her run around the house, but as she got bigger, and more energetic, we decided that she had best be an outside dog.

I trained her myself. Kind of. She could sit, stay and come, provided there was nothing more interesting to do. She never really got into "fetch". She seemed to think the object of the game was to go and get the ball I had thrown and take it further away. I can only guess that she thought we were taking it in turns to "fetch".

Like many dogs, she loved to dig. It probably frustrated her no end that the place we have lived for nearly six years was on rock hard clay. So for a while she started burying her bones in DW's larger pot plants. Many times she would be sitting at the back door, looking as innocent as can be, except her nose that was covered in potting mix.

One of Kyah's more distinctive traits was her bark. I refer to it as a bark so that you know what I'm talking about, because to hear it, you certainly wouldn't call it a bark. Actually , it was something of a cross between Donald Duck and Scooby Doo. In fact, I'm sure I heard her say "Rowkay" on several occasions. I don't think burglars were scared to come into our backyard because we had a dog. I think they were scared because they didn't know what the hell we had in there.

In her youth, taking Kyah for a walk was amusing to say the least. She never, ever understood the command "heel". We even got a choker chain but that did nothing to abate her enthusiam. She would strain so hard that she could barely breathe, and then try a little harder. Man's best friend maybe, but not Man's smartest friend. Fortunately, persistence on our part and a measure of maturity on her part saw her overcome her natural instinct as a sled dog.

While she may have been a mix of two large breeds, she herself was never a really big dog. She was much closer in size to a medium, however, her wolfish looks and heavy coat made many people very wary of her. She never attacked anyone, though once she did bare her teeth and growl at a man who was being aggressive toward me. She may not have been the bravest dog in the world but I like to think she would have protected me had the need arisen. She did have a tendency to jump up on people, to see them eye to eye, which some may have felt a little intimidated by.

One of the most memorable aspects of Kyan was her amazing coat. It was a beautiful sable colour and always thick and luxurious. Unfortunately, she tended to malt a lot. Not often, only twice a year, but for six months at a time. She could be lying outside in Spring, enjoying the warm sun, when she would suddenly sneeze and you would swear she had actually exploded. No matter where you go in the backyard, there would be dog hair caught in clumps somewhere. We tried to manage it but to little avail. She seemed to be able to regrow anything we brushed off in less than 24 hours. Its a legacy that will remain with us for some time.

Little Man loved Kyah and was with us when we took her to the vet. The staff at the clinic were excellent and one of then took Little Man out for a while. At least he got the chance to give Kyah one last pat and even said "bye bye Kyah". I guess its a little sad that he will probably never remember her but I am also glad that he doesn't really understand this stuff yet. Princess on the other hand, knew Kyah well. She understood when we told her Kyah was sick. She was stunned when we told her Kyah had died. Her first thought was that we would have to get another puppy, possibly more than one. It took a little while for the news to sink in. After we told her, she seemed quite ok with it but as we went to get some lunch, DW noticed that she had quietly disappeared. We went into her room and found her crying and cuddling her favourite teddy bear. The loss hit her hard and as can be expected, she started worrying about death for a little while, about losing DW and I, her grandparents and so on. After a while, she declared a moratorium on any discussion about dying and Kyah, which we have respected. It amazes me sometimes how astute and mature Princess actually is.

DW and I have been aware for sometime that Kyah was nearing the end of her life and had already decided that we would probably get a new puppy at some stage. I must admit, I find the idea of replacing Kyah a little difficult at the moment, but I know that a new puppy would actually be for the kids. I personally will never replace Kyah, but I have no problem with the kids having a pet of their own. I think it would be wonderful for them and an invaluable part of their growing up into happy, responsible, well-adjusted adults.

DW and I have decided that we would like to commemorate Kyah by planting a tree for her. We have confirmed with the vet that we are allowed to bury her on our property, the home she knew for nearly six years and probably where she has been most happy. I'm not one for pet cemetaries and so on, but it is important to me to celebrate her life in some manner and I can think of nothing better than returning her to the Earth in her own backyard, with a shadey tree above her.

May she rest in peace.


Thought for the Day: She walked like a duck, and talked like a duck...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

It's Sad but True: A Pepsi MAX lament

Here's my story, sad but true
It's about a drink that I once knew
It was the best that I ever found
I drank so much that I almost drowned

Ah, I should have known it from the very start
This drink will leave me with a broken heart
Now listen people while I give you the facts
A-keep away from-a Pepsi MAX

It could always put a smile on my face
And the sugar well there wasn't a trace
So if you don't wanna cry like I do
You will have to stop drinking it too

Ah, well the research is sound
It'll slowly put you into the ground
Now people let me put you wise
Its still safer than a burger and fries

Sodium benzoate kills mitochodria you know
Which may one day make your Parkinsons show
And with vitamin C on the scene
They can mix and make benzene

Ah, I should have known it from the very start
This drink will leave me with a broken heart
Now listen people while I give you the facts
A-keep away from-a Pepsi MAX

Here's the moral and the story from the guy who knows
I fell in love and its the cause of my woes
Now when the need for caffiene attacks
I keep away from-a Pepsi MAX


Thought for the Day: Must rename Pepsi MAX fridge