Ohhhhhh Kula girl.
It is so quiet around the house this morning. Noel our 9 year old black cat that we SOMEhow inherited after our daughter moved and whom we affectionately call “Demon Cat”, is wandering around aimlessly. For the last 9 years Noel HATED me – always biting the hand that fed him and cleaned his litter box EXCEPT when he wants to play ‘footsie’ under the closed bathroom door with you! But they say animals ‘know’…. and for the first time EVER Noel jumped up in my lap and nuzzled at my glasses, leaving her nose print. I let the tears flow freely.
Kula waltzed into our lives when Bill’s boss and wife, Dennis and Denise, took a two year assignment with Extreme Nazarene – Peru.
We told them Kula could come to stay and play along the river (and yes, we’d endlessly throw balls for her and take her on runs and long walks to Care’s Corner), along with their gianormous Christmas Cactus and equally gianormous (8 foot by 8 foot) quilt that Denise had lovingly made. Our lives would never be the same.
Kula was the most gentle, well trained yellow lab I have EVER been around. Now mind you – this comes from the woman who swore we would NEVER have a long haired yellow lab that shed all over the place come spring…..(Needless to say, Kula graciously came with a case of lint removers!!) Kula melted my heart. She quickly became my sidekick and eased the pain from our recent loss of our 17 year old Bouvier, Bo.
Like all dogs, Kula had her adventures. The biggest came when after a stay with family/friends and she took off. No one wanted to tell me because of my new diagnosis with cancer and the surgery/chemo to come. It would be two months before we knew Kula girl had bolted. I called Peru to see if anyone had checked Craigslist, even if a long-shot. No one had.
In my apprehensive and much dreaded day before chemo, I combed through Craigslist, more out of a need to do something than any expectation or hope in finding Kula. For hours I combed through over 750 lost dog postings. The next to the last entry tugged at my heart: Found: yellow dog – end of KGB. Loves kids, balls and riding in the car.
Could it be? Could I dare hope? Could it be Kula? It would mean she had been running and dumpster diving, chewing on sticks and eating moose nuggets to stay alive. When a sweet reunion occurred at a park with the family who had found her, we were both crying. Theirs was bittersweet as they had hoped no one would call….it was the price they paid for being dedicated AK Rescue volunteers whose hearts were equally attached to the incredible ‘at the end of her paws’ touch that seared each heart Kula connected with.
Chemo was bearable because Kula was at my side, keeping vigil laying beside my bed and on my worst days, ON the bed….without my asking. The love she imparted gave me the will to keep going. Our twice a day walks and relentless ball throwing helped me to look up to the mountains that surround Care’s Corner and know…..
The vet said the symptoms of her liver/kidney failure rarely show up until it is too late. We could choose to take extreme (and very costly) measures to ‘try’ to prolong her life, or try the possible road of steroids. Dennis/Denise and Bill and I never got the chance to try either. That night Kula lay still, except her heavy breathing. Her doe like brown eyes were longingly piercing my heart.
I said to her the next morning as she raised her head and gazed into mine: “Oh, Kula girl, I wish you could use words.” Minutes later she stood up and lay next to my bed, just as she had when she kept vigil over me, and breathed her last breath.
As tears cascade down my cheek a sunbeam falls on my desk. I smile and remind myself: “All dogs go to Heaven”. We love you, Kula girl. We always will.
Care Tuk is a nationally known speaker, educator, and retreat/workshop leader. She has been a school, hospital, and home health occupational therapist for more than 30 years. She has been named as a Top Business Woman in America and recognized for her work with youth, disability outreach and awareness, and the American Cancer Society.