“You are amazing,” my vet would say with a reassuring smile.
Our oldest dog, Kona, had several lumps on his body but one was getting too big. We attempted surgery, but she couldn’t safely remove the mass.
I supposed it’s not unusual for a dog of his age. Kona turned 13 in August, though we never really knew his true age. My husband and I adopted him 12 years ago from the Coastal Humane Society to celebrate our first year of marriage. He was a stray, somewhere between 1 and 2 years old. Energetic and in need of a good home and a good meal.
We knew it was meant to be when Kona threw his rawhide bone at us from his kennel and continued to “talk” to us as we looked at other dogs.
It got to the point where we needed to bandage the large lump, and I had to purchase t-shirts from Goodwill to prevent Kona from messing with it.
We started to talk about dignity. No self-respecting Siberian Husky wants to wear a t-shirt. And during warm weather no less.
But Kona’s spirits were high. While we couldn’t take him on our off the grid camping trip, he was still up for hikes near our house.
He was always our lead dog.
“Most dog owners wouldn’t do what you are doing for Kona. He’s lucky to have you,” our vet would say.
I think Kona knew his time on Earth was limited. When he got Hana, our intention was for her to have time with Kona so she could learn from him. He taught this brother, Kailua, so well. That’s what the leader of the pack does.
But he held back and let Kailua do the teaching. (And Hana now lifts her leg up to pee just like her brother. Thanks, Kai.)
Some people say their dogs are their best friends. I always called Kona my first born.
He acted more human than dog. I joke that I don’t know what to do with “real” dogs. He was stubborn, independent and not overly affectionate. He was extremely vocal and told me off on more than one occasion. He complained about his food options and even turned down treats from well-intentioned passersby during walks.
Kona was handsome and serious, but he did have a playful side. I could fill a blog with stories from his life. The run-ins with skunks. His love for the finest meats and cheeses. That time he disembodied Mr. Potato Head.
The thing with Kona is that he was with me and my husband for just about every major milestone as a married couple. We’ve purchased two houses, had two children and welcomed two new dogs to our family since having Kona. We’ve gone on countless vacations, including a road trip to Tennessee with him.
Kona didn’t always like to be the center of attention (unless you were going to give him steak), but he was always there.
We said goodbye to Kona on Friday. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But we knew it was time.
It was peaceful and sad. He felt happy and loved. It was tough just to leave the room at the end.
When we walked outside the vet’s office, dark was just starting to set in. I held Kona’s collar tight and headed to the car. My husband and son, G, had stopped and were looking up at the sky. There was a lone star. It was big and bright and almost looked out of place. We stared at that star for what seemed like forever. We could feel Kona’s presence and said goodbye one more time.
We watched the star as we drove the short ride home. We stopped one more time so I could take a photo by the river he used to swim in.
Goodbye, Kona. My lead dog. My first born.
I’ll meet you on the rainbow bridge.
For my Giving Pledge this month, I will be donating to the Coastal Humane Society in honor of my first born and lead dog, Kona. I also donated to Crossroads at a recent fundraising gala that I helped to plan and executive.