Friday, July 22, 2005

Karma from dog heaven

Our home computer displays a slide show that pulls from a stored photo file. This morning, as I was getting dressed for work, it locked up on a picture of a very content Shetland sheepdog sunning in the back yard.

That was Kazbah, originally Lindsey's dog, but certainly a dog who became a big part of my life as Lindsey, Anne and I started our lives together.

I'm still misty-eyed when I think about him, although I'm sure I'll catch up with him on the other side of the rainbow and he'll be stealing manna sandwiches off our heavenly table.

Here's the original Kaz and Gumbo story from my News-Star archives, published 2/8/2004.

Kaz gave his best despite age’s toll

It seemed like a long time since Kazbah had stolen a sandwich from the kitchen table, sneaked out of the back yard to stroll the neighborhood or jumped on the back of the sofa to greet us in the afternoon.

In his youth, our Shetland sheepdog was the ultimate protector, patrolling the yard one last time every night before bedtime to make sure we were safe. He herded raccoons, armadillos and stray cats out of the yard, and always placed himself between us and strangers.

He was confident and smart, loved going to Mr. Robert, the groomer, and grew so large people actually thought he was a collie.

His eyes eventually clouded, and we could tell he was growing deaf. He no longer came when called, but responded to a loud clap. We joked that he could only hear the sound of the bread wrapper in the mornings when we made toast.

He turned 15 in December. He slept a lot his last few months, going outside briefly only a couple of times a day. A walk around the block left him breathless. His appetite drifted away. We nicknamed him "Speed Bump," because you’d just have to step over wherever he lay.

We expected to come home any day and find that Kazbah had drifted off in his sleep.

He finally could not get up anymore without help, and although he never complained, we knew he was hurting. We spent a painful two weeks talking over quality of life with our vet. We all finally decided it was time.

Kaz was too big to bury in our yard, so we chose to have him cremated. We considered scattering his ashes at Cormier’s, his favorite spot to escape to during crawfish season, but thought better of it when we considered the health implications. So Kazbah, our loving companion and family member, returned home in a tasteful, sealed urn from Best Friends Crematory.

The loss left a crater in our hearts, an ache that even weeks later brings tears to our eyes. I still look for him every morning, asleep on his round rug next to my bed, until I awaken enough to remember he’s gone.

But we are certain our faithful old Kaz is still looking out for us.

My husband Lindsey and I held a wake for Kaz, remembering his good days and all of the joy he brought to our lives. We told stories and laughed until we cried again.

"We really need to get another dog," Lindsey said. "When we’re ready, of course."

That prompted a discussion of what the right dog might be, and we went online to look at pets available for adoption from the Ouachita Parish Animal Shelter and the Humane Society. We couldn’t agree on a breed, we just knew we didn’t want a really big dog or a really small dog.

We checked The News-Star’s classified ads. Nothing jumped out at us. So we pulled out a book and started looking at the photos of hundreds of different types of dogs.

"I had a border collie when I was a little girl," I said. "Other than Kaz, that was the best dog I ever had."

"Those are great dogs," Lindsey said.

So we went online again and started searching for border collies. We were reading about the breed when the telephone rang.

It was my daughter, Anne, calling from Baton Rouge. A death in our family a few months ago was causing a niece and nephew to have to find two adult dogs and a litter of puppies a new home.

"I just thought y’all might want to consider taking one of the puppies," Anne said.

"What kind are they?" I asked.

"Border collies," she replied.

She sent pictures, and within days we adopted a 5-month-old male puppy whose freckled face and warm eyes mesmerized us.

He has a black stripe on the top of his head that looks like a Mohawk. We almost named him "Mo," but thought that sounded too much like "no." We looked up "spot" and "freckles" in French, and didn’t like that.

Somehow we hit upon Gumbo, and that just seemed to fit his personality. He’s an energetic mess of ingredients that, with love and training, will turn out to be somebody good for all of us.

We still miss Kaz very much, and no one will ever replace the fond memories we have of the time he shared with us. But we think he had a paw in what has happened since in our lives.

Gumbo is keeping us pretty busy, and I think that’s exactly what was meant to be.


Blogger Wayne's Mom said...

That one still makes me cry.

1:45 PM  

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