Man's best friend
I have had Kona for almost ten years now. I had waited a long time to be personally ready and have an appropriate place to care for an animal. When that time came, I started casually looking online, but when I came across her picture, I didn’t need to look anymore. I knew she was the one. I adopted her from a rescue shelter back in San Diego called FOCAS (Friends of County Animal Shelters). I knew she was exceptional from the moment I saw her. It was quite a lengthy process to get her. I had an initial email and phone call with the FOCAS rep to be qualified to proceed, not to be approved. I then met with Kona and a handler in a public park for us to gauge her temperament with me. I then had to visit with Kona’s foster family in a small apartment outside of Balboa Park. I honestly believe it was to get their approval as well. I then had another phone call interview to complete the adoption process, pending a final home inspection to be done when Kona was delivered. This whole process just solidified that this dog was something special, and they knew it.
During the following decade, she wouldn’t disappoint. She would be loving and caring and, most importantly, understanding. We connected on a level that I didn’t think was possible with an animal. We were inseparable. Every person that I allowed into her life became attached to her. The love in her eyes was unquestionable. It completely overpowered the intimidating perception of a ferocious pit bull. She was a perfect balance.
When I first took Kona in, the shelter had informed me that she wasn’t the best with people and especially so with other dogs. They warned me to avoid large social gatherings with her and be extremely cautious when out in public. I couldn’t help but look down at her with a small grin and think, “Me too, girl, me too.” We worked together and trained every day from then on out. She gave me a purpose; maybe we gave that to each other. In no time at all, we were taking walks through the Sunset market every Thursday night in Oceanside, CA. Packed full of people, vendors, children, and even other dogs, my Kona could sit right by my side in the middle of it all and just enjoy the moment. We both could.
Through all the struggles, all the moves, all the failures, she was always there. It’s unreal how canines can sense the emotion of their owners. A dog’s ability to detect and protect it’s human is incredible. From people with diabetes to those with autism, a dog can sense things happening that we can’t even feel in our bodies. Kona only needed a human connection, and she didn’t care how. She just needed to be next to you, to have some point of contact with you. I feel like even if I yelled at her, it would fulfill her need for connection. For that, she gave me her unwavering loyalty. I only wish I would have given her more.
For years we went everywhere together, traveled together, ate together, and slept together. When I met my wife, she got a best friend in Dolce, but nothing else changed. Not long after we started dating, we all set out on a road trip that would take us through 21 states across the country. We were in Columbus, Ohio, just after Christmas, and walked by a gorgeous theater that was showing the Nutcracker. It was already in the middle of a showing, but the ticket office said for a disabled veteran, they would give us great seats for pennies that would also accommodate our animals. We thought, “why not.” As they usher us down a side aisle to our end row seats, in a pitch-black theater, you could still get a sense for the grandeur of this theater. Kona laid quietly at my feet as we watched a gorgeous rendition of a classic. When the lights came on for intermission, Danielle and I looked over at each other, trying our best not to laugh. We got up quietly and tried to find our way to an exit through the massive lobby. As we cut through the crowd, we both caught some odd glares. Men and women dressed in tuxedos and ball gowns were enjoying champagne and cocktails as we tried to squeeze by in jeans, heavy coats, and a beanie. Oh, with two pit bulls leading the way. We finally got outside and burst into laughter. Those dogs made our lives an adventure.
Goodbye Ol' Girl
Kona was with us every step of the way. Wherever we went, she went. Not until she got a little older, got a little slower, and we had children, did things begin to change. Our relationship slowly began to take a backseat to life. She was the best with kids and a perfect family dog. I can’t say in the last couple of years that I have been the best to her, and nothing compared to how we were years ago. As her health faded and it became apparent that each day she was in more pain, I found myself in a difficult decision. I had to ask myself what is selfish. I had to ask myself what is right. Every moment she was there for me with her undying loyalty is why I must be there for her now – to ease her pain. There is nothing easy about this process. As tough and as hardened as I may have considered myself to be, this moment brought me to me knees. This hurt.
Kona, you got me through times I am not sure I would have made alone. Many times you lifted me off the floor and asked me to keep going. You saw the darkest times in my life and still curled up by my side. Not an ounce of judgment, not a moment of weakness, not a second of anger, but endless forgiveness. Dogs are amazing, full of empathy, love, and loyalty — you were no exception. You were amazing and this was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. You don’t have to be tired anymore. No more pain ol’ girl. Thank you for blessing me with your life. We will miss you… I will miss you.