Thursday, August 16, 2007

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons, The Bay News, Morro Bay, CA, for August 15, 07


His name, Kifani a Jameel – likeness of Jameel –stood for years as an example of the folly of naming something after something else. As a puppy, he was the spitting image of his uncle, Jameel Sadeeq. When grown, he looked like no one in his family. He was indeed, sui generis, with his slender build, long legs and deep red coat. But he earned other names as the years went by.

My Little Boomerang Boy was soon applied, since he had been sold to a couple in Ventura who, despite my best efforts at education and counsel, turned out to be idiots. Mercifully, he came back to me, but not without some suspected hard handling while there, a possibility that haunted both of us to the end.

Then, when my friend Nancy needed a dog to take to dog training class, she asked to take Kifani. The idea of a Basenji doing anything but flunking out of any training class made the request startling, but Nancy’s skills earned him yet another name, The Bestest Little Guy In The World. And for years, every time she came to the house, he raced to the front door, waiting to go with her to a class that had long since been over.

And it was that sweet enthusiastic sensibility that kept him his own gentle self, an optimistic belief that the end of any road will surely hold wonderful things, perhaps even tasty eats. And so he soldiered on, even when beset by adult onset epilepsy of a weird pattern – grand mal seizures strangely spaced about a month apart, almost to the day, hitting usually at 2 a.m. Since the treatment would have been worse than the malady itself, I made do with Rescue Remedy, herbal tinctures, swaddling, which lessened the severity of the attacks, and whisperings in the dark that he was safe and was to have no fear. When the body-rattling electrical storms were over, I held him tight until sleep came and the next morning he was up and about, gazing at a new world with a happy countenance and a Hoovering nose looking for breakfast.

But I’m sure that after 14 years, those attacks took their toll. When some accident – a fall? being banged into by the hurtling greyhound? – put a crick in his neck and back, chiropractic treatments returned to him a good range of motion, but there followed nerve problems of some sort that left him tottering with wildly uncoordinated hind legs on a feed-back loop that clearly wasn’t working properly. Still his gentle and sturdy optimism kept him going and fully engaged with his surroundings until it quickly became clear that something far more fearsome was closing in on him fast.

His sister knew. She kept by his side for several days, sleeping next to him at night, her head on his shoulder as his breathing grew more labored. And she was there with him on the day when he finally decided that he’d had enough. When I carried him into the veterinary clinic, he roused only long enough for one last sniff of the fresh air and to blink for a bit in the brilliant sunlight. Then his doctor helped him go as I whispered a final judgment into his ear. That he was, indeed, The Bestest Little Guy In The World.

By coincidence, on the morning of his death, I had picked up a California native grape vine, a gorgeous plant with green as well as red leaves the color of Kifani’s deep red coat. I had planned on putting it in the far corner of the yard near the yellow Adirondack chair. Now, Kifani’s ashes are buried there as well to become one with the vine, coil up the fence and trellis out towards the sun.

And once again I will resolve to spend more time in that chair, to revel in the beauty of the day, the colors of the Four ‘O Clocks wildly blooming, to listen to the humming bumble of the bees bobbing on the sun-sweetened lavender spears, and to watch the remaining dogs race around the flower beds, oblivious to everything except the joy of the day, the warmth of the sun, and the sheer fun of the chase, until darkness comes, and time runs out, and we can stay there no longer.


Area51 said...

As my own "bestest little girl in the world" lies curled on the couch in one of her ever increasing naps, or gingerly waddles down the hallway protecting her sore hind end, I sometimes get overwhelmed with sadness at the thought of her continued inevitable decline after 13 years, and fear the decisions that will have to made one day as you made with Kifani. (Or it seems Kifani made for you.)

Thank you for sharing Kifani's story Ann. I'm sure she now sings in unison with the humming bumble of the bees.

Ron said...

Beautiful dogs... sniff.

Bev. De Witt-Moylan said...

Dear Ann,

Reading your lovely tribute to your Kifani got me to thinking about the dependable observation that the attraction of dogs to us humans is their unconditional acceptance of us. We love them because they love us - just the way we are, so they say.

I wonder if it is more their in-the-moment joie de vivre that we crave, we who spend most of our time dissociating, obsessing, self-medicating, planning, worrying, and avoiding the present tense altogether by most any means available. It’s the dogs who remind us that there really is time to smell the roses – or just sniff the air – if we make time. Yesterday from my back deck I watched little Coco, the perfectly groomed and coiffed blonde cocker spaniel next door as she slept on her own bright back deck. Looking a little white around the muzzle now, she emerged from her dreams, raised her head with barely opened eyes, tipped her nose upward, nostrils taking the measure of the breeze for a full five seconds. Laying her head back down, she drifted once again into her dreams.

Kifani taught his lessons patiently and faithfully by living the Tao of the Dog. Now he gets to play at the Rainbow Bridge with his ancestors. Bless him and bless them all.

Mike Green said...

Where we end up
Everything goes
Where we are heading
Nobody knows
The wind blows
The sea flows

And nobody knows

My heartfelt condolences Ann.


TCG said...

I can't let my wife see your memo above, or we will have ANOTHER rescue by the weekend! Thanks for sharing your story.

Sewertoons said...

A lovely, gentle tribute Ann. Thank you so much for sharing it with all of us. Your words comfort me again that they are gone only in the bones and that the joy of happy memories is always my solace. Dogs always have good lessons for us!

Churadogs said...

/sewertoons sez: "Your words comfort me again that they are gone only in the bones and that the joy of happy memories is always my solace. Dogs always have good lessons for us!"

Yes, the dogs have many, many lessons for us if we but take the time to learn. And the sorrow we feel is a fair price to pay. Bless them all, every one.

Here's William Blake:

"When despair for the world grows in me
I go and lie down where the wood drake
Rests in his beauty on the water.
And the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things
Who do not tax their lives
With forethought of grief.

I come into the presence of still water
And feel above me the day-blind stars,
Waiting with their light.
And for a time I rest
In the Peace of the World
And am free.

*PG-13 said...

Remembering dogs who have passed through my life but still reside closely and warmly in my heart: Ruby Begonia, Athena, Daisy Dog & Buddy. They're no longer with me but they are all loved now, today, just as much as they ever were. Our bond is timeless. Thanks Ann.

Churadogs said...

Pg13 sez:"Ruby Begonia, Athena, Daisy Dog & Buddy. They're no longer with me but they are all loved now, today, just as much as they ever were. Our bond is timeless."

Great names. Bless them all.

SayethDog said...

By ineffable circumstance this landed in my mailbox this morning and I thought it appropriate to post here. It came to me via somebody else who recently lost their precious companion Teddy. There are many many stories and tales based on dogs and the human/dog/god connection. There is just something about that dynamic – for those who feel it – that makes everything else in this world a whole lot clearer. Happy Trails all.

Dog Philosophy

The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue.

Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.
-Ann Landers

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.
-Will Rogers

There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.
-Ben Williams

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.
-Josh Billings

The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.
-Andy Rooney

We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare
and love we can spare.
And in return, dogs give us their all.
It's the best deal man has ever made.
-M. Acklam

Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate.
-Sigmund Freud

I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult.
-Rita Rudner

A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.
-Robert Benchley

Anybody who doesn't know what soap tastes like never washed a dog.
-Franklin P. Jones

If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have
known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons.
-James Thurber

If your dog is fat, you aren't getting enough exercise

My dog is worried about the economy because Alpo is up to $3.00 a can.
That's almost $21.00 in dog money.
-Joe Weinstein

Ever consider what our dogs must think of us?
I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul, chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we're the greatest hunters on earth!
-Anne Tyler

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
-Mark Twain

You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, 'Wow, you're right! I never would've thought of that!'
- Dave Barry

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.
-Roger Caras

If you think dogs can't count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then give him only two of them.
-Phil Pastoret

My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already
thinks I am.
-a magnet on my refrigerator