It was the summer of 2005 when we were visiting a close friend down in Kamloops BC, about 6 hours drive from our home. In the backyard that our friend shared with his neighbor was this scrawny little pup that was, for the most part, neglected by her owners. This pup was the friendliest little thing we had ever seen, with a complete love for people – even though people are the beings that neglected her to the point of near starvation, her ribs visible all down her gaunt frame. We approached the owners and offered to take her but they insisted that they would take care of her. When we left we ensured that there was some food on hand and that our friend would continue to feed her, as he had been, in the owners absence. On the drive home we talked about the pup, wondering if we should have stolen her even, but we decided that with our buddy watching out for her she was better off than in a shelter at least so we left the situation alone.
A couple of weeks after we had gotten home the phone rang with that fateful call; it was our friend from Kamloops. “Those guys dont want the dog” he said. “They told me to tell you that if you dont take her they will get rid of her.” Not wanting to know what they meant by “get rid of her” we quickly loaded up the truck and headed back down for the five hour drive to save the pup. Her name was Kita and at this point in time we had no way of knowing just how lucky we were for this chance series of events.
Once we got her home she very quickly bonded with us, eager to please after the months of neglect that had equaled her puppyhood. Carla, my wife, used pieces of hotdog as rewards and had her trained to do all of the basic commands inside of one day. Kita the wonderdog was earning her place in our hearts already. A trip to the vet gave her a clean bill of health and he told us that she hadnt been spayed so we should plan for that once she heated. He also warned that the poor upbringing may cause later health issues that were impossible to predict, and may in fact shorten her life. As for the breed, she was anybodys guess. Possibly a shephard cross, maybe some retriever; She was so skinny that the possibility of there being some greyhound in her was even mentioned. Whatever she was, she amazed us everyday with her love, good nature and willingness to learn.
For awhile there was nothing to do but let her put on some weight and settle in with our kids and other dog. And thats when we noticed the brain damage, or at least thats what I thought she had. Every now and then we would observe her running frantically in circles, head turned sideways, staring straight up in the sky and barking. As much as I looked, I could find no reason for this – there was never a bird or anything visible that would justify this insanity. We honestly figured that being starved may have stunted her brain development. Then one very quiet afternoon I DID notice something when she started her escapades: the faint rumble of a jet taking off at the distant airport. Once we started to pay attention, she did her crazy circles right on schedule with the airport departure flights. We then realized that the yard that she had been locked in for her puppy months was very close to the airport in Kamloops. The assumption is that the planes over head were one of her few sources of entertainment and stimulation when she was small, so she “played” with the planes when she heard them. Although it lessened over the years this strange behaviour never ended completely, with Kita chasing invisible planes she could hear in the distance right up to her last day. She even taught this ritual to one of our other puppies in later years; I always wished I could hear her thoughts for this.
Over the years Kita quickly learned her place in our “pack” as the protector of the kids. Whenever they were going for a walk or hike in the woods, we sent Kita along and had no worries that she would die before she would let anything happen to her “people”. She tangled with her share of animals on our acreage as well, with occasional trips to the vet for patching up after run ins with a bear, a fox and a porcupine. Her absolute trust in people amazed even the vets as she would simply look for you to say “its ok Keeds, you’re a good girl” and then she would lie there perfectly still for stitches or quill removal, whichever the situation warranted.
As life went on, the adventures continued and Kita took it all in stride. She loved chasing sticks and would fetch them until she would drop if you let her, her toys taking precedence over almost anything. Anything, that is, except food. As a side effect of being starved when she was younger, Kita never did fully understand that yes, there would in fact be another meal coming. Some dogs can be free fed, just taking a few bites when hungry, leaving thier bowl partially full at all times. This was not how Kita approached it. Her mentality was to err on the side of caution by wolfing down every last crumb in her dish and then check for more. Sometimes she found “more” in another dogs bowl or, if we were unfortunate enough to leave the food bin open, she hit the jackpot and could merrily pack away a week or two’s worth of food in one sitting. I guess she figured you just never know.
When picking a dog we always say you have to research the breed and pick one that suits your lifestyle. Too many times you see a dog that is completely out of its element, fighting its instincts and physical attributes to fit in with a lifestyle it wasnt meant for. Obviously we didnt have the luxury of being selective with Kita, but if we had we dont know how we could have made her fit our outdoor lifestyle any better. Kita was so perfectly at home with us out in the bush, be it Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter. Hiking, snowmobiling, quad rides, camping, berry picking, Christmas tree hunting: she did it all and loved every second of it. Kita trusted her people to never hurt her and as such would ride anywhere or do anything we asked her to: on the quad, on the snowmobile, in a skimmer towed behind the snowmobile, she was up for any challenge. At the lake Kita would often join Carla in the canoe, sitting in the bow for a morning paddle, watching the sun rise while the kids were still in bed. She knew that when she got back to the campsite she would be rewarded with campfire bacon and toast. I mean Kita not Carla of course, although Carla never shied away from the bacon either.
The soft side of Kita was also unmistakable as her empathy for everyone shone through. If you were upset or not feeling well she would lick your hand and lean against you just to let you know she was there. If you were in bed she would try to weasel under the covers in a not very subtle attempt at being sneaky. If a child cried she would be noticeably upset and would not settle down until you told her it was okay. She didnt always know what was going on but if you werent happy, she wasnt happy.
All was not perfection with this glorious beast however. She had a few small quirks that we grew to love as just being part of her charm. She never stopped wolfing her food down. She was always oily which, while it gave her a nice shiny coat, made her smell very strongly of “dog”. And lastly, she had this little habit of needing to poop about 15 seconds into a walk, wherever that happened to be. Everytime.
And now our time together has come to an end. Through failing eyes, failing ears, failing teeth and failing joints our superdog was tired from a life well lived on this planet. She was able to handle everything that life threw at her but, like the rest of us, time is the ultimate adversary and Kitas battle was a gloriously fought one. She is now resting peacefully high atop a mountain, overlooking the valley of lakes and rivers in one of her favourite areas, with her stick by her side. She exceeded expectations and gave us thirteen amazing years of love and friendship.
RIP adventure dog. We love you.