Category Archives: Pets

Lucky Girl

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Lucky (Copyright Writing Wahine, Living off Island 2017)

 

Lucky was a strawberry blonde Cocker Spaniel. I bestowed upon her the title, “The Sweetest Thing God Ever Made.” She made me a believer in all the incredible, corny pet stories that people tell.

When my son was about eight years old, he wore me down asking for a dog, so one day during summer vacation, I took my son and daughter to a city animal shelter.

Lucky was in a pen with several other dogs that were dominated by an alpha female that would not let the dogs approach the gate to meet humans. A shelter worker brought Lucky out to meet with us at a grassy area of the shelter. He told me Lucky was two or three years old. Her recent adoption by a family with young children failed. Her spotted tongue and coloring might make Lucky part Chow Chow.

Shell-shocked by the circumstances that led to her stays at the shelter and by the aggressive barking of the alpha female in her pen, Lucky was friendly but subdued in her interaction with us. We went home, I talked to my husband about Lucky that evening, and the kids and I went back to the shelter the next day.

Lucky was still timid, but her sweetness won us over. As I was filling out adoption paperwork, a gentleman in a postal service uniform came to check on Lucky. I learned that he was also interested in adopting her. The disappointed look on the man’s face touched me, but I was glad the kids and I had come back that day.

Over the course of the next nine years, Lucky blossomed into a tomboy older sibling to my kids. She wasn’t a cuddler. She liked her space. She slept with her legs in the air like a dead bug. She was afraid of the ocean – I think it was the noisy waves moving toward her. She liked to herd us and watch us from a short distance. Unlike our current Cocker Spaniel, Lucky didn’t like swimming or playing fetch. Also unlike our current Cocker, she loved snow, navigating snowdrifts by hopping, sinking, and launching herself back out only to sink into another spot. She liked digging shallow holes in the dirt under shrubs and lying there when it was hot. Most of all, she loved to roll over on her back and ask for belly rubs.

In early 2012, we took Lucky to the vet because she had a persistent cough. Lucky’s vet noticed a heart murmur and ran tests. Then came the diagnosis that made my knees buckle: Lucky had congestive heart failure and could live a few more months with medication. Our son was in his senior year of high school, but our daughter was away at college, and I wondered if she would get to see Lucky again.

Three months later my daughter came home for my son’s high school graduation and saw Lucky one last time. After a long weekend visit, my daughter took an evening flight back to her summer job. Lucky passed away at dawn the next day. My son, my husband, and I were with her.

I like to think that Lucky needed to herd us one last time before she left us. Seeing us all together, she might have felt that we were safe, and if she needed to leave, we would be okay.

Believing in irrational, sentimental stories about the things that dogs do for their humans isn’t about believing in preposterous things, it’s about believing in love. Pets help us exercise our ability to love and to experience being loved.

So on this day, June 13, 2017, the fifth anniversary of Lucky’s passing, I celebrate The Sweetest Thing God Ever Made. I celebrate Lucky, I celebrate love.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2017.

 

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Kai Loa

Kai

Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016. 

A little more than two years ago, my husband’s uncle Don passed away and left his parakeet orphaned. Don’s neighbors and friends weren’t able to take the parakeet, so we drove the little guy seven hours north from Long Beach, California, to live with us in northern California. No one knew the parakeet’s name or age, but we learned from the Internet that a blue beak meant he was male. We named him Kai Loa: kahakai means beach in Hawaiian, and loa means long.

Parakeets are social birds, so we decided the best place for Kai’s cage was in our family room, the social hub of our home. Since parakeets also like to be the loudest thing in the room, we sometimes moved Kai’s cage to the guest bathroom in order to hear our TV. Kai sang at the top of his lungs when he heard me practicing hula, and he alerted whenever he heard our dog run by.

Recently Kai stopped singing and vocalizing. We booked the first available appointment for Kai to see a bird vet recommended by our dog vet. After poking around the Internet, we guessed that Kai had a respiratory and throat infection that is common in parakeets.

Yesterday I had a vision: Kai was lying on his side on the floor of his cage. I immediately went to his cage and found him sitting on the floor, a sign that he was too weak to balance himself on his perches. It took some time, but Kai eventually mustered up the energy to climb back on his perches.

Today I saw Kai hobbling around the floor of his cage, and I hoped he would manage to climb back up again. It pained me to see him getting weaker, and I knew it was time to pick him up.

As Kai sat in my cupped hands, his breathing very shallow, he half-opened his eyes a few times. I whispered to him and lightly stroked his back. It takes a lot of effort to stroke a parakeet gently. This went on for some time, but just when I thought his breathing was slowing down, he opened his eyes, raised his head, and tried to spread his wings. “Wow,” I thought, “Kai is making a comeback!” But just as suddenly, Kai slumped over onto his side and stopped breathing.

Parakeets don’t garner the type of sentiment that dogs and cats do, but Kai was the only other living thing in Don’s home. Kai was loved by a human being. This has to count for something. Being loved gives us value. Giving love gives us value.

They say all dogs go to heaven. I hope parakeets do, too, and that Kai and Don are together again.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.