Sunday, November 30, 2014

I have learned in this life is to expect the unexpected. Sometimes the unexpected turns out to be the better than the most expected.

I think it was in 1981. I was shopping with Phyllis’ mother in Rhode Island. On our way into a store, there was a boy with a wagon load of puppies. Of course, I had to stop. I fell in love immediately, but I went into the store empty-handed.

But the pups were still there when we were outbound. Compulsiveness is my middle name when it comes to animal adoption. I think I paid the kid five bucks for this little bundle of fur. Kahlua was to be my first dog of my own. Kahlua, aka Kal or Lou, was a German Shepherd Collie.

Phyllis wasn’t mad at me even though I hadn’t asked her if it was okay. But what was I thinking? We lived in a small apartment in Boston. At first, I used to have to carry Kahlua down the three flights of stairs. He didn’t have enough bladder control to walk down stairs without leaving a trail.

What an incredible dog Kahlua turned out to be. I could ride my bike and have him walk on the side walk. He learned that if the sidewalk ended, he stopped and wouldn’t cross until I gave him the go ahead. Later on during our Eugene years, he took this same lesson to the bike path. He could be way ahead of me when another bike, dog, or pedestrian would come by and the sit command dropped him in his tracks. Some people were amazed that he would do this. Other people would yell at me for having my dog off a leash even though the dog didn’t flinch.

While I was undergoing chemotherapy for Kidney Cancer, Kahlua suddenly had problems walking. Sylvia and I had to move him like he was a wheelbarrow. A heavy wheelbarrow. I took him to one of the best animal orthopedics in Eugene, Barclay Slocum. What an amazing man he turned out to be.

Dr. Slocum said that Kahlua needed a very expensive surgery to repair the paralysis, and even though he couldn’t give me more than a fifty-fifty odds that the surgery would be successful, I was not ready to end this priceless relationship I had developed. As a result of the stress that weighed heavy on my mind, I was hospitalized with an intense migraine, though when I called my dad from the hospital, I think that setting helped my chances of getting money from my dad.

The surgery was very successful and worth the couple of thousand that it cost to repair his back. I was released from the hospital in time to watch the surgery and spend every second with Kahlua while he recovered.

By 1991 I had regained my health and even finished my BA in English from the University of Oregon. Life was looking up. But then Kahlua was diagnosed with thyroid cancer; it looked like he had swollen several tennis balls. Typically my regular vet, Devon, would have treated Kahlua, but she was recuperating from a bad car accident, so I was referred to Westmoreland Veterinary. I recall being told that the treatment was not only effective, but that it wasn’t that costly. At least that’s probably what I wanted to hear.

We had finished the chemo and it seemed as though the treatment had worked. The FDA had just given the okay for this five hundred dollar drug that could be given to prevent the cancer from coming back. I really was at odds as to whether to buy the insurance treatment. I had recently met a dog that was undergoing the same cancer treatment, but the cancer came back.

And that’s exactly the same thing that happened to Kahlua. I had bought myself perhaps a year or so of time with him, but it’s impossible for me to put a price tag on something that I love.Kahlua and me 1983?



    1. I didn’t know that snow was in my blog window. Kahlua was the best. Never chewed anything. I could leave chicken bones in the garbage and he would not touch them; in fact, he helped me keep the cats from getting the bones.

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