This is for Kimba.
It might seem strange to have a kaddish for a dog, but she really was a part of the family. For more than 15 years, she was my companion. I lived with her longer than anyone except my mother and Kimba saw me through the heartache of three relationships as well as the death of both my parents and my former partner. For a dog that didn’t like to cuddle, she always knew when someone was down and would come to them for “pets” as if she knew that doing so would cheer them up. And it usually helped.
Kimba was a dignified “lady” – we would call her the Queen of the Backyard but woe to any rodent that crossed her path! I rescued her off the streets when she was just over six months old and it was clear that she’d survived on her own for some time as on our first walk, she brought down a duck! She’d been physically abused by her former owner, including two bullets in the chest, but after a short time together her fear of humans evaporated, replaced by separation anxiety when I’d leave the house! Meanwhile, as a puppy, she learned from the cat in the house and grew up with many cat-like tendencies, including the cold-shoulder when she was mad.
When she was about a year and a half, we moved to a new house which I encircled with a four foot fence to keep her in. The next week she showed me otherwise. I’d been entertaining and she scratched to get out. I did so and went back to my friends. Then over the din of the gathering, I could hear animals fighting on the side yard… I was concerned, as we had planted a vegetable garden and we were getting regular raids from the local raccoons; I was afraid my “creampuff” of a dog would be torn to shreds and I half-expected to find her with an eyeball hanging out. But she was nowhere in the yard! I got concerned and called and called to her, a little panicky — I know dogs hide when they are ready to die. Then I saw a large, white blur in the alleyway beyond the fence. I started and got ready to face some wild animal. Like a shot, Kimba (all 65 lbs) bounded to the TOP of the four foot fence and landed briefly on TOP of it with all four paws (like a cat) before bounding gracefully back down to the ground inside the yard. She had a content look on her face that said, “I’ve taken care of those silly raccoons, Dad. Oh, and that’s a nice fence; what’s it for?” She never hopped it again (that I knew of) though it was always clear that she could. Heck, she completely knew the property lines of that house and would walk JUST to the edge before turning back. Except for our friends across the way, if any of the neighbors (or their kids) would call her, she would walk to the boundary, look at them, and then look back at me as if to say “do they know the rules?”
Kimba responded to voice commands and I would often walk her off-leash where I could. Or we would race along with me on my bike and her running (and pulling me!), a throwback to her sledge-dog ancestry. She almost never barked and actually the first time I ever heard her it was when we had a burglar several years later. She was fierce but not combative; she’d play with dogs of any size, including a friend’s 100 lbs Rottweiler, but she’d never let herself lose. The closest she would come would be to just sit down and ignore the other dog. Invading rodents, however, were another matter and like a cat she’d leave “offerings” at the back door for me. A possum once surprised and scared my friend when in emerged from the wood pile. His scream brought Kimba the defender leaping to his rescue and with a single chomp she killed the beastie. She used to try to chase the cows on a friend’s property as well, although when we ran into the mountain lion, she was quiet.
For all her ferocity, she was amazingly patient with children and those afraid of dogs. When my godkids stayed with us for a month, they would pull her tail and ears, but the most she would do is yelp and run to hide behind my legs, even though her wagging tail was enough to topple them. She would stay with and almost guard the baby, licking him when he fell or was done eating (he was a messy eater 8-). If someone was afraid of dogs, she was quietly sit and watch them; a friend’s husband had been bitten as a child, but he learned to trust and even be comfortable about my “white lioness.” My mother used to really enjoy it when I brought her to the nursing home for a visit and the other residents would come to pet Kimba.
I have a million more stories because my Puppy Princess had such a personality. Her black-ringed brown eyes and serene look exuded an air of nobility, like an Egyptian pharaoh. If she were a person, she would be a Victorian aristocrat…that knew how to hunt, fight, and handle “the boys” but preferred to be demure. She hated the water and the only time she wouldn’t come when called was if I was in the pool. Yet when I would take my nephews to the lake, she would whine and watch us, coming as far in as her belly “in case we needed her.”
Kimba I will miss you. You will always have a place no other dog can share in my heart.
Kimba – November 1985 to November 19, 2011