I haven’t written a blog since mid-February, not because I’ve had nothing to say but rather because I had closed down a part of my heart and it was damming up my urge to put fingers on keys. On March 1, I lost my dearly beloved canine companion Koko. She was twelve and a half years old, or close to ninety in human years. I did not write or post about her until now because I wanted to mourn her privately and wait until that closed part of my heart opened again. I am so grateful to Tom and Kyla and to our cat Emma for helping me through this period. She loved Koko deeply in her own feline way. Tiko, our chinchilla, Fred, our turtle and our fish also helped me. But the house felt empty without Koko who would always lay beside me in her bed when I was writing. Emma has taken that physical place (in a slightly smaller bed) but I kept longing to see Koko’s bright eyes and wagging tail.
I love all of my relations in the animal kingdom but dogs particularly have a way of putting roots so deeply into our hearts that their loss is a mighty one. On the Medicine Wheel, the wolf, ancestor to the dog, represents love because of the close connection in wolf packs. I remember hearing several stories about why the dog is so close to humans. My favorite tells how once the animals came together in council to talk about the human animals and how they were disrupting the sacred circle. Most of the animals were in favor of getting rid of humans. But the dog saw the potential for love in human hearts . They told the humans what the animals were planning. Consequently the humans were able to defend themselves and continue living. As a punishment for going against the animal council, dogs were ousted from it. From that time on dogs stayed with human, protecting them and trying to teach them how to grow that love in their hearts.
I called Koko “the love sponge”. She had the ability to both give and receive an endless amount of love to everyone who crossed her path. I don’t remember her ever growling or showing meanness to anyone or anything. She loved all of our other animals and only was frustrated by ones that did not want to play with her. Her frustration came our as barking as though she was saying, “Come on, play with me. Have fun.” She also did her best to make sure I took walks in nature and remembered to play. She was loving, loyal, playful and kind.
We got Koko in the old days from a pet store (before such did not exist) which Kyla and I had often frequented just to look at the puppies and kittens, sometimes with longing. When we got Koko we already had three cats, turtles and fish. I say we got her because I had a rotational concussion from my car being hard hit by a van in the snow. Hence my sales resistance was low. But the truth is that she was supposed to be ours. She was a brown standard poodle who had been passed over in the pre-Christmas sales season. We had seen her then and both had thought that if she were still there, maybe …. She was there. We were smitten. We checked with Tom and a dog trainer friend and brought her home. We wanted Kyla to experience the love of a dog while she was still young. Yes, Koko was a puppy mill dog and she had the physical problems to prove it. She always had gastrointestinal issues and for the past years I had been cooking her dog food. We have a close relationship with Dr. Rose DiLeva, of Animal Wellness Center our holistic vet, the captain of her care team until the hour car ride was more than Koko could take. But none of her health problems interfered with Koko’s love of life, and of people.
She got sick last Christmas Eve night and we took her to multiple vets to try to determine the cause. She had to stop eating the stew I made her and begin eating Hills Digestive Care Food (I mention them because they were so decent they refunded us the cost of the last case of uneaten food we bought and asked us to donate it to a shelter, which we did along with all of Koko’s equipment and medicine).
On March 1 Koko was going to our close-to-home vet Unity Animal Hospital for x-rays. She was fine when she left home and very sick when she arrived at the vet. At Dr. Abby Schutzman’s advice, we took her to a full-specialist emergency hospital (Hope Veterinary Specialists) where they had the ability to pin her bloated stomach. In examining Koko, they found she had badly metasticized adrenal cancer, something that would only show on ultrasound. I had Kyla and Tom come to their center and, with many tears and great sadness, we decided that the kindest thing was to let her pass gently there rather than bring her home and let her violently die in one of the three most likely ways her condition predicted. Because of her stomach problems Koko had never been able to have a hamburger so I sent Tom to a hamburger place nearby to get her that and French fries and ice cream, all of which she joyously devoured before she passed, surrounded by the people she had so generously and deeply loved.
With her passing I felt a part of my heart close up. Now I have lost wonderful dogs before – like Shasta, the great white dog of Bear Tribe history and his soulmate Tsacha, and a number of others from my younger days. I knew that it is possible to mourn dogs more deeply and openly than we even mourn our dear human relations. I think this is because the dog is pure love and devotion, and so few human relationships are that uncomplicated.
I wanted to write about Koko, the love sponge, but the time hasn’t been right until now. Why now? Life arranged for me to force open the part of my heart I had closed . A few weeks ago our friend Brad came into our pottery class with a carrier. Out of it came four kittens who had been born in his garage, mothered by a feral female. He had cared for them and was looking for homes. One of them looked like a Siamese and Kyla had long wanted a Siamese cat. I had had one a long time ago and knew the decibel level a pure Siamese could reach. I’m also in favor of animals that are mixed breeds because they often need homes and that mixing can avoid the health issues pure breeds can have. So my heart opened and I said, “I want him”. But he was already spoken for. I told Brad if that home fell through, let me know. I forgot about all of this until a week ago I saw a message from Brad on my phone. I did not need to listen to know what it said.
So now we have Emma, the gift of the crows (see February 19, 2016), and Oliver, my gift of heart healing (plus Tiko the ninja chinchilla, Fred the sixteen year old aquatic turtle, our fish, and the crows and other birds who come for daily feedings). Thus far, despite Oliver’s excellent vet report, we are keeping these two gifts separate until Emma realizes that Ollie might be a fun playmate and decides to open her kitty heart to him.
He has opened mine enough to say a loving fare well to Koko and to share this animal story with you. Having pried open this part of my heart, my creativity is now flowing freely and I have a number of other stories that I must tell you really soon. While that part of my heart was closed, many other parts were open and helping me teach some wonderful people in France. Soon I’ll write about that. And I will keep you up-to-date with how the kitties are getting along. Life is magical.
Initial photo of Koko by RJ Walter.