In Memoriam: Kodiak

December 17th, 2020 by Laurie Brush

Kodiak’s Story:
My dear sweet boy, Kodiak. Rest well my dear pups; thank you for everything you’ve taught me about life & how to live it.

You were adopted as a 7 week old puppy in 2007 from a good friend of mine who passed away in 2015. I wasn’t a very good owner during the 1st year of your life, having no clue on how to raise a “Good Dog”. Fortunately for me, you were always a good dog who didn’t require me to be a good owner, and unfathomably smart as well, learning to be potty trained in around a week from adopting you, much to everyone’s surprise.

I had just turned 24 years old when I adopted you, simply to make my girlfriend at the time happy. Of course, like any pretentious & arrogant 24 year old, I smugly had “life” figured out w/ everything falling perfectly into place, where I viewed you more as an accessory / property that shouldn’t be a bother nor inconvenience to me, & certainly not a family member. I’d get mad when you knocked something over when trying to play inside or didn’t do as I asked, and especially if you annoyed me by pawing at my shoulder when I was busy doing “important” stuff for work to get ahead for the next promotion… I’d put cowardly put you in your crate in the back of my closet, whining & yipping for affection & comfort if you did something I thought was naughty, just so I could get back to work or having fun w/ “friends”… I was so selfish…

Then the recession of 2009 came where I found myself jobless, losing my girlfriend, our home, all of my prized possessions, a lot of “friends”, as well as my pride & self-respect; however, you were always there right by my side, like a shadow, pawing at my shoulder, eventually “noodling” under my arm & into my lap when I was hurting & needed comfort. Always with a wagging tail, bright happy eyes with your adorable face, and an infectious eagerness to do absolutely anything besides mope around w/ self-pity. You likely saved my life during those well needed (& deserved) hard times, Kodiak.

We became best friends over that following year while I looked for work, learning & earning each other’s respect, friendship, & love as we played in the backyard, using fetch as our way to earn each other’s lifelong camaraderie. We eventually grew bored of playing in the backyard & started going on longer & longer hikes thru the woods in our backyard, then the state park, & along the beach for miles on end, playing fetch every time I needed to take a break because you’d literally NEVER tire out, even after 10 to 15+ miles while playing fetch, doing flips & leaping 5 feet or more into the air to catch the frisby or ball mid-air, for hours on end!

You never left my side, nor would stray more than eye sight when off leash & encouraged to go explore while I lagged behind, always coming right back as fast as you could muster w/ tail wagging high & your bright happy eyes after just a quick whistle or soft click w/ my tongue to call you back, regardless of how enticing the smells & sights of the woods were. You did like to roll your back & neck fur in bear & coyote poop though, but were so sweet to everything from squirrels to cats & thankfully skunks & opossums too (Those minks would often throw you for a loop though w/ their odd behavior.)…

After that summer of bonding & founded friendship, I came close to having to give you up for adoption after receiving an offer out of state where the relatives I’d be staying with said, “Absolutely NO!” to having you come along too… I had no options left, as our home was foreclosed w/ forceful eviction coming soon. I lost over 30 lbs of weight, causing my parents & friends to be concerned about how skinny I was becoming in order to afford food to keep you fed & happy. It broke my heart having to consider losing you, where I very seriously thought about living in my car “down by the river” near my relative’s home out of state so we didn’t have to part ways. It was both a great year having you by my side, but also the worst time of my life…

God answered my prayers to provide a home and job that allowed me to keep you as my best friend at the literal last possible minute (bags packed, travel arrangements made for me, & agreements made for your adoption w/ a new family).

Over the next two years, all was well once again. We’d hike & explore our new town on the weekends & after work, playing fetch in the backyard & literally dropping jaws at every dog park we’d visit with how incredibly fast & tenacious you were in getting the ball before any other dog could, where every other dog would either tire or grow disinterested due to never being able to get the ball before you did. You were always the friendly alpha in every dog pack you’d find yourself in: Never mean or aggressive & always friendly & curious, but always had to be “top respected dog” w/ a harmless, albeit assertive “check” if another pups was acting out of place & becoming aggressive to you or other dogs that you believed to be in YOUR pack.

When you got sick in 2012, with a mysterious “abscess” on your chest (who’s cause was never figured out after lots of testing & lab work) that nearly killed you & required extensive surgery to remove, we started camping, backpacking, & hiking together into further & further away destinations in order to make “the best of the rest”, as I realized you were not going to be around forever…

We snowshoed deep into federal & state forest lands & wilderness areas, were you begrudgingly needed me to carry you on some stretches because the snow was too deep & you couldn’t hop high enough to get out of the hole you dug trying to get out. We would illegally hike & camp in Millennium park in the forested areas that no one ever goes to, making sure we were quiet w/ a tiny fire you’d tightly ball up next to w/ your eyes always on the watch for intruders, being as quiet as a fallen leaf so no one would find us. It was the start of something a bit more than just owning a dog; we had some awesome, & some scary, adventures over the next few years.

Fortunately, I once again found myself unemployed in 2015, after having selfishly wasted so much of your best years with me being only partially present in 2013 & 2014, treating our time together more like a chore when I was busy with “super important” work projects in attempts to chase the never ending goal of “being more important”… This time around though, I had the financial means to take some well needed time off from finding new employment to make it up to you.

We spent that following 18 months going on week’s long, & eventually month’s long adventures backpacking & camping every awesome trail, forest, & wilderness area I could find. From the GPS logs I’ve kept, I estimate we spent around 130 nights in the woods over that year from April to December, with an additional 40 nights the following March thru June. We had the best of times, except for that one night early November 2015 where we almost died from a sudden & unexpected freezing rain storm while we camped out on the beach w/ 75MPH wind gusts… That was more than scary, but you slept thru the whole thing without a care in the world, comfortable & sprawled out on my sleeping bag while I sat on my knees all night & early morning to hold the walls of our cheap $30 tent up with outstretched arms, borderlining on hypothermia due to being soaking wet.

You never tired in the slightest bit, always wanting to play fetch well into the evening & morning hours, even after constant 20+ mile a day hikes where I’d be half dead & too sore to gather much wood for a campfire. On nights I was too tired & sore to start a campfire, the milky way was bright w/ stars blanketing the sky in an awe inspiring display, or the moon would be out making the woods & dunes appear in an eery bluish cast as if we were on another planet. I’d throw the tiny twig that you’d gingerly bring to me into the pitch black darkness; you’d always come back w/ that same exact tiny, tattered, slobber soaked twig a minute or so later, without fail, wanting me to toss it “just one more time” for as long as I was willing to stay up with you. Unbeknownst to you, I’ve kept a lot of your small twigs & chewed up sticks in the basement that we’ve collected over the years from memorable trips & adventures taken over the years. I’d occasionally bring one up to play fetch w/ in the backyard, where you’d go absolutely nuts for them, as if you also remembered where they came from & the memories had fetching them at some of our favorite spots.

We did that year of work hiatus right, Kodiak; it’s been the most cherished time of my life thus far, doubt it could be topped. We kept it up this time too, as best as I could afford with my new job, for the past 5 years since then, always trying to “out do” our last trip. We succeeded in making memories & earning lessons in humility and self-reliance that few folks will ever have the privilege of experiencing or knowing. We’ve seen views & sites that few people know about, we’ve traveled & hiked areas that no one has visited in decades, bushwhacking & navigating our way thru dense thick forests for a promising spot I’d seen on the map, or sometimes just letting you lead the way until we found a clearing in the woods. You always loved when we’d “bushwhack” & navigate by compass or GPS off established trails to find our own “secret spots” & hidden gems that only we know about.

As you “grew old” over the past few years, showing signs of being tired & a bit sore after hikes & trails that you used to do without skipping a single beat, I bought an SUV so we could “overland” and do camping & hiking from a basecamp, allowing us to adventure to new areas with a heavy comfy tent, plush thick bed, & luxury gear to relax when we were done exploring & playing fetch for the day. The campfires grew in size, where I’d have to drag your blanket & pad further away than you wanted, as you always liked to snuggle right up to the fire like we used to do when we backpacked. I’d sometimes find in the morning that a small ember burned a small bald spot in your fur. I found it adorable, where over the next few months this bald spot would remind of our adventures & to start planning the next one.

Over this past year, you were such a happy & good boy, acting like your normal self when we were on the move or playing, but growing strangely more tired over the past 6 months, a bit less enthusiastic when I’d rattle your collar or bounce the tennis ball after a previous long hard day out in the woods…

I should have taken notice of the signs sooner & brought you into a vet for a checkup when I noticed these signs in July, but “COVID” panic caused pause in doing so, as no one was wanting to see you for a routine checkup & care (only emergencies), most wouldn’t even call back after leaving them a message……. I foolishly told myself you were just becoming an “Old Dog” as you were still in high spirits & acting like your usual self, just a bit more tired than the crazy, “never stop” self you once were as a pups.

We spent your 13th Birthday early September at our most favorite “secret spot” playing fetch while I setup camp, meeting lots of awesome new friends to go on trips with & their dogs when hiking trails and swimming in the nearby river; however, I could tell you were much more tired than you’ve ever been, not following me around like a shadow after we’d get back to camp. You wanted to play with as much enthusiasm & vigor as you’ve ever had when I’d waive your favorite toys & sticks that we’d bring along; however, you tired so quickly and needed to take a day long break in-between days of giving it your all…

The day you became sick at the end of September, nearly four weeks after your 13th birthday, I took the rest of the week off work to care for you, expecting things to pass w/ a bit of care & comfort; however, you didn’t get better after a few days… I wasn’t prepared for the diagnosis of end stage liver failure from an inoperable massive liver neoplasm…

The heartbreak was harsh, knowing that our time together was limited, but mostly of gut-wrenching regret & guilt for not having done something when I 1st noticed you were growing tired, as well as remembering all of those times over the past 13 years where you wanted to play, wagging your tail w/ your adorable face & bright eyes wanting my affection, but I was simply “too busy” to give anything more than annoyed pat on the head & telling you to go lay down, which you always did without fail, albeit not without a bit of whimpering & sad eyes to let me know that I was breaking your heart…

We had lots of good days since that heartbreaking diagnosis two months ago. We went on two more week long camping trips to our favorite spots, hiking & playing fetch as you’d see fit to do, nearly completing our bucket list of “one last time” visits to our “secret spots” around the state, plus countless illegal backyard bonfires where we’d play fetch for a few minutes at a time so you wouldn’t get too sore, while I smoked Salmon & chicken thighs for us to eat as treats over the following week. We made some lifelong memories over the past few months, pups; however, we were on borrowed time…

Last week, you were so tired when we’d play but just for a few minutes in the backyard. I set the date, once again, after having canceled several previous “last goodbye” times after a miraculous recovery after a few bad days… It broke my heart to do so, but I knew this was the final time… There’d be no miraculous recovery…

The day before you passed, I had a subconscious feeling that you were not going to make to our scheduled date to say our final goodbye. You were so tired & weak when we were playing fetch in the backyard that I had to stop things before you hurt yourself, as you wanted to keep going…

We spent that evening watching your favorite nature documentaries that you used to excitedly woof & wag your tail at, along with a few “tear jerker” dog movies for me, where you’d perk up occasionally & give a tired muffled “woof” seeing an animal on screen before falling back asleep. You nibbled on a bit of your favorite treat of smoked Salmon when it was time to go to bed, and intently watched me eat some ice-cream, but was too tired to get up & beg to lick the bowl after I was done like you used to…

The next morning, you gazingly watched me from your bed as I went about getting ready for the day as you always have, seemingly comfortable & content, but oh so tired & increasingly weak compared to the day before… For some inexplicable reason, I went to the hardware store to buy a bird feeder for the backyard, instead of spending these last moments of your time with you, knowing in the back of my mind that today was likely the last day I’d have to look into your bright eyes & thank you for being such a good boy to me…

I felt like such a coward having left you when I got back home, as it was an escape for the inevitable I’d be facing that day, finding you scared and struggling to breath after partially falling off your bed & getting into a bad position while I was away, likely from you trying to get up to come with me or see where I was… I should have been there for you, but once again I decided to childishly prioritize something foolish instead of prioritizing you.

I hastily brought you outside & tried to create “the scene” I had envisioned for your passing that was scheduled for the following day, with one of our illegal bonfires & some soft music playing in the background. We finally got you into a comfortable position on your bed that I brought outside for our last goodbye. I could see you watching my every move, as you usually did w/ your bright eyes, following every frantic step & gesture I made while I speaking on the phone w/ the doctor.

The doctor came… You were ready… I gazed into your fading bright eyes for one last glimpse of “you”, as you fell asleep for one last time. I held you softly until it didn’t feel like you anymore, then I held you some more… It felt like forever watching you disappear into the skies above me during your cremation; however, knowing you’ll be raining down & nourishing the Earth once again with your presence helps with the hurt.

I know you’ve forgiven me for every time I’ve broken your heart over the past 13 years. In time, I’ll forgive myself too… I hope that I’ve made you feel as loved & comforted, as much as you loved & comforted me. I miss you more than 13 year’s worth of memories and over 13 thousand photos I’ve taken can comfort. In exchange for teaching you some fancy tricks, you taught me a whole lot of life lessons.

Rest well, Kodiak. You’ll be loved & never forgotten. Can’t wait to see those bright happy eyes & wagging tail when we meet again to throw a few sticks.


 
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