Last Friday, we lost a great presence in our hearts and lives. Our Kid, at 14-1/2 years old, lost his battle with cancer. You can imagine the space the loss of this 105-pound mastiff/pitbull mix, who snored louder than a man, has left in our house. The rumble of his sleep no longer comforts us, the bulk of his weight no longer takes our place on the couch. I can stretch out in our bed for the first time in years… and I hate it.
Fourteen and a half years ago, Jenn, my partner, was walking down the boardwalk at Venice Beach. She came upon a man who had thirteen puppies split up between a shopping cart and a little red wagon. It was one of the puppies in the little wagon that caught Jenn’s eye. This is how our Kid came to our home.
Kid was a sturdy little guy who enjoyed chewing on things such as iron gates and rawhides the size of a cow femur (once he swallowed one whole). Jenn used to take him to an outdoor café, and she’d loop Kid’s leash around the leg of a wrought iron patio chair. While frolicking around Jenn’s legs, Kid pulled his leash and this caused the iron chair to scrape against the patio floor. Startled, Kid jumped back and the chair scraped again—so he took off, tearing out of the café and into the adjacent park, the whole time the iron chair was skipping and bouncing behind him. He was just five months old. We suspect he ran out of fear that day, for from that point on he was unflappable.
Kid. When we walked our pack, people would utter exclamations under their breath and step to the side when they saw him. But he’d look at them with his huge panting smile, his soulful eyes, and that whip of a tail creating a small wind as it wagged from side to side. We’d always say he’s friendly, really friendly. And before we knew it, he’d be standing next to the no longer frightened individual, receiving the rub-down of his life. Kid was one of those monsters of a dog who taught people that it is the heart of the pup that matters, not the size or strength of his jaws.
And Kid sure had a big heart. He opened it to me when I met Jenn. The first time I went to her house, she opened the door and this behemoth came barreling down the terrace towards me. I remember his delight—the joy of running to meet a new person, tongue streaming from the side of mouth like a huge ribbon—and I wondered if I would survive the greeting. But Kid had an amazing ability to stop on a dime. I would soon learn that he was clueless, though, when it came to people feet. If you’ve ever had a 105-pound dog stand on your toes then you know what I mean.
Kid became fast friends with Jupiter, the dog I brought into our relationship. Somehow they’d manage to spoon each other on the couch, leaving Jenn and I to sit on the floor. Yet, when Jupiter was struck by his own cancer a year ago, Kid gave him the couch. He’d walk over to the sofa, stand eye-level with Jupiter, and sniff him gently, comforting him with his senses. And when Jupiter died, Kid climbed up onto the cushions and wouldn’t move from Jupiter’s pallet. He mourned for days.
When my mom came out to stay for a month last winter, Kid watched out for her. Because that’s what he did. He was the brick wall that protected her from the exuberant bouncing of younger pups, and he was Her Boy. When Mom rose in the morning, she’d walk over to Kid and you could almost hear him sigh as she softly rubbed his ears, whispering, “How’s my Boy?” And when she was getting ready to return home, he stopped her in the driveway, looked up at Mom with his gentle gaze, huge grin, and thwapping tail—if ever a dog could speak, could say how much they enjoyed knowing someone, Kid did that day. It was the last time my mom saw him.
For years, Kid was Jenn’s best friend. Through broken hearts and life changes, he was Jenn’s constant—going to work with her, staying up when she worked all night with the observatory, missing her with all his heart when she traveled (and the neighbors who were honored with his howls can tell you how much he longed for her to return). Now, it is our lot to miss him. And while the cancer had stolen much of his bulk, it never took his strength of character. Even though he was ailing, Kid help raise Billy. And he knew, with that perceptivity that animals have, that we dreaded losing him. So he stayed, perhaps longer than he should have.
The vet said that Kid had two months—Kid gave us nine. Gradually he grew frailer, gradually he slowed down, gradually he slept more and more. We realize now, of course, that he was allowing us to know life without the magnificent calm of his personality. It was as if he offered us a long and nearly soothing farewell. And when he stopped eating, we knew he was telling us he was ready, that he thought we were ready.
We had a whole day with him before the vet came out to the house. And with Jenn bowed over him, her arms wrapped around his great head, he slipped away, becoming one with the universe.