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.