Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Tribute to Kora | How to Live Like a Dog

Kora's Story

When I was in undergrad, I knew I wanted a dog.  But living in rented apartments and moving each year was not the time to do it.  So, I started volunteering with a local rescue to get my "dog time" in and try to make a difference since I could not adopt.  During that time, I was asked to take a dog we had in foster to an event so she could get some exposure.  I was told she was 10 and had been with the rescue for over a year but nobody wanted to adopt her.  She was a rugged and outdoorsy dog, and by that I mean that she needed a bath and a brush.  When I took her to the event she leaned on my side the whole time.  There were kids and other dogs around playing with toys and she cautiously watched them and looked back at me.  A rescue member who had met her before commented on how attached to me she seemed to be and how she was behaving so much better than she normally does (i.e. should would normally try to eat those dogs and kids for breakfast).  And then came the innocent "Ha!  Maybe you should adopt her!"  (Oh the risks of working in rescue!  They will tell you anything to get you to adopt!)  I told them I couldn't because I lived in an apartment, but that I would be moving into a house in 6 months so we'll see then.  I really didn't think she would still be around.  And honestly, I always pictured adopting a puppy when the time came.  So, in comes skepticism.

Over the next 6 months I took her to a few more events, some visits being several months apart, and she remembered me every time.  Not only did she remember me, she was elated to see me.  I loved seeing her, but also was getting more and more saddened that she still remained in rescue after all these months, with no interest.  With the move into the new house a few weeks out, I started to consider that I might be the one who adopts her.  I was 23 at the time and almost everybody thought I was crazy to want to adopt a 10 year old dog….who stunk and looked a little rough around the edges.  My roommates at the time were less than thrilled, as was my boyfriend, and some family members gave me fair warning that it was going to be hard to have an older dog.  When I explained that everyone who knows her says that she acts different around me, they said "They will tell you anything to get you to adopt."

I adopted her anyway.  There was one other woman interested in her but that fizzled out and by the time I moved, she was still available.  I had no idea what I was getting into.  She was on regular medication, and had lumps and bumps all over, panted and drooled like CRAZY, but otherwise had TONS of energy.  Almost puppy-like.  I was told she loved to swim, hike, and run…and was a great cuddler.  All those things were true.  People soon began to see that it was also true that she was just "different" around me.  She would not leave my side and hardly listened to anyone else.  I could tell she was always tempted to be aggressive towards other dogs when a toy was involved that she thought was rightfully hers.  I was told to be careful around her and other dogs.  But instead, she just kind of looked at me, waiting for approval to pounce.

Playing in the mountains

When Kora's foster mom brought her to me on the day I adopted her, she came with some papers.  A lot of them were just vet records from her previous owner, with their information blacked out.  But all other information pertaining to Kora was left intact (other than her original name).  I learned that Kora was in fact only 8 years old, going on 9.  Supposedly born on November 11, 1999.  We were now in August of 2008.  I also learned from her foster mom that Kora made her way into rescue at such an old age because her owner recently got married and the wife was no longer okay with having dogs around.  So her, and her yellow lab brother, who was 2 years her senior, were dropped off to our rescue at a PetSmart, with a $1000 donation, because he "could not go back to the car with them."  I now see why the previous owner's information is blacked out on all of their paperwork - to prevent people like me from paying them a little visit.  At any rate, after I learned that, it was no wonder that she was glued to my side every moment, and made sure I never left her behind.

We had many great years together - more than I could have asked for.  For some reason, I always told myself that I thought she would make it to 14, and I hoped she made it to 14.  And she did make it to 14.  I don't know what the significance of that number was - maybe it's just my definition of what I perceive a "good, long life" for a dog to be.  Maybe that's when I felt I would be satisfied with the amount of time we had together, who knows.  But up until that time, she hiked like crazy, wouldn't leave the water, fetched like a mad woman, licked my tears when I cried and was almost glued to my side every second of every day.  Along the way there are things that I surely wish I did differently - it's what I would imagine having your first child to be.  You make a lot of mistakes, and you learn a lot about yourself that you wish wasn't true, but you love them like crazy.

Kora swimming circles around my canoe.  Makes it tough to paddle :)
(Two summers ago.  Age 12)

How To Live Like a Dog

This portion of the post, I started writing many months ago when I realized Kora wasn't going to be around forever.  (Some days it was easy to think she would have).  My years with her taught me that dogs, especially Kora, innately possess qualities in their short lives that it takes many humans a lifetime to learn, if they learn them at all.  I will consider myself to have reached enlightenment if I could master even half of these things.

-Always be excited to see the ones you love when they come home
-Always try to please the ones you love
-Forgive and forget
-Love the one you're with
-Stay loyal
-Sleep often
-Play often
-Sense when someone needs help
-Lower your expectations:  you have food, water, and someone who loves you.  Why be unhappy?
-Power through until you can't anymore.  And even when you can't anymore.
-Don't complain

Could you imagine what the world would be like if we all possessed these qualities?

Am I sad that Kora is no longer with me?  Hell yes.  You have no idea (or maybe you do).  But a dog will never admit defeat, although you can see it coming.  And it gives me great relief to have been able to help her at a time when she needed it most but would have never asked for it.

Kora and I camping.  Thank you Jason for taking this photo.  It remains one of my favorites.

Hug your dogs.  Adopt a dog.  Love a dog.  Or any animal for that matter.  These things are not wasted on them.