Kona & Boozer

I met two of the most important women in my life at the same time. True, I had met Tina (my Wife) a few times before but it was on our first date that I met the precious creature who proved over 13 years, to be my greatest friend. I have lost my “best” friend and best man because of political differences and many others have betrayed me, crossed me or just plain grown apart but Kona never left me, despite my unworthiness. Her passing will never heal and I will always regret the things I did not do with her or the things I did wrong to her.
I had my first date with my wife Tina at her house; she made me a dinner (I think she did that one or two more times since). The course was Halibut with a side of couscous. Before dinner we sat on her couch and talked, you know, time to start asking those questions that reveal if this is a good idea or that one of you is a complete nut. I gradually became aware of a noise that was interrupting our conversation. As I tuned into this noise, I realized that it had been going on for some time but I was probably tuning it out. However, it was a noise I could no longer ignore. THUMP! . . . Look around . . . THUMP! Do you hear that?
Tina “Hear what?”
THUMP! That! What is that? Now as I turned to her back door I noticed movement. The upper part of the back door was a window and something definitely moved. THUMP! . . . EARS! I saw ears! . . . THUMP! A nose, no, a snout, I saw a snout.
“Do you have a dog?” I asked.
“Why, do you like . . . dogs?”
“Yes, of course, who doesn’t . . . why is the dog outside?”
“Well” said Tina “She’s just a puppy and she’s a bit strong willed. She likes to jump on people.”
“Let her in!” I said, “I can handle it!”
Tina opened the door and a brown blur of energy with a whip like tail sped into the living room. Before I could react, the brown blur leapt up on top of me, pinning me to the couch with her two front paws. With Special Forces like skill and speed, the blur then extracted it kissing whip and proceeded to give me the most ferocious but tender doggie kisses I have ever known. The blur’s name was Kona. She was a Chocolate Lab, about ten months old. Just about fully grown at 65 lbs and for some reason that no one can explain, she was instantly in love with me . . . and I with her.
Kona never left me alone, quite literally. The only way she would accept separation was by force. Going to work and leaving her at home was one approach but in the beginning, this was met with the destruction of private property. Needing privacy meant using evil human tricks and devices . . . like doors. However, this just meant that once you opened the door, there was Kona, curled up in a ball waiting for me to exit. If Tina and I were sitting on the couch holding hands, Kona would try to pry our grip apart with her wet nose. She would nudge and push until one of us broke the chain and then she pressed for head pets.
I eventually married Tina; Kona probably had a hand in that as well. Anyhow, since Tina and I worked crazy hours – at the time Tina was a Producer and I was a Director – we decided that Kona should have a companion. Enter Boozer, the runt of a 16 pup litter that 15 survived, he grew to a weight of 85 lbs. Boozer and Kona have been our best friends for 13 years now. About eight years into the journey, our other children started to arrive. You know, the ones you can’t put outside when they make a mess. We now have three and one on the way and it is here that my story takes its toll on me, my heart . . . and my soul.
In 2008 I lost my contract position just before the “historic” election. My daughter was born 14 days into my unemployment so I can accurately keep tabs on the length of my unemployment by her birthday . . . I don’t recommend such a memory technique. As a result of my job loss, my wife (who has a very good job) and I were buried by a huge mortgage which was affordable with the two incomes but not so with only one. We did what people do; we burned through our savings, tried to modify the loan and then cried uncle and did a short sale. Our buyer backed out after waiting six months, we managed a second cash offer a week later for just 10k less than the first buyer but the bank refused the offer and eventually we were foreclosed on.
Stick with me here, I have a point to airing our dirty laundry and it comes back to Kona.
We found a rental and were lucky to get approved before the foreclosure took effect. So, let’s recap: unemployed for two years, trying to raise three kids while one is in school and the other two are in diapers . . . oh yeah and volunteering for the Conservative Party USA while also looking for a job. I have never felt so low in all my life. Desperately looking at any kind of work but getting nothing, I have over 15 years experience in broadcast television production and management and a B.F.A. in Visual Communications and Digital Design and I can barely get phone interviews. What’s worse is, I don’t feel sorry for myself, I know it par for the course and common right now but that doesn’t make it any less scary and frustrating.
Kona was consistently pushed down the totem pole as the kids came along, she and Boozer were always great with the kids but Boozer knew when to keep his distance while Kona was still keeping me in her sights. At 13 years old she still has a puppy spazz or two, she jumps on the door if you leave her outside too long and she still loves to play catch. My ever constant companion, she has no idea how the click of her nails on the laminate floor grate at my already fried nerves or how sitting down in the hallway just before I reach her can irritate me when one child is screaming and the other is not listening. Kona has no idea how much I love her but how desperately I need her to stand clear as I worry about never working again, going broke, not providing for my children and a hundred other things that make me snap at the most loyal and loving member of a family that anyone has ever had. She doesn’t know and if she did, it wouldn’t matter, she wouldn’t leave me alone if I could tell her in ten languages . . . she just wants to be near me, like it was in the beginning, before the kids even before Boozer. In a time when I was a night owl, I would stay up while Tina retired. In our first home with old furniture, Kona would jump up on the couch and put her head in my lap. If I got up to go to the little boy’s room, even though she knew I was coming back, she was always sitting outside the bathroom door, waiting for me to come out. Zip! Back to the couch with her head in my lap. When Tina’s schedule and mine changed dramatically, one of us rising at weird hours while the other slept, I needn’t fear sleeping alone. Kona would wait until Tina left the house and then jump up on the bed and lay down next to me. A practice I did not notice being a sound sleeper but one my Wife detected early on as the usual hairs left on her pillow changed from red to chocolate. For 13 years, no matter what I said or did, Kona would never let me be alone; she would never let me be without her . . . until now.
Arriving home Monday night (I finally landed full time hours at half pay and just started working full time for the first time in over two years), Kona was nowhere to be seen. Usually first to greet me unless blocked by some object like a gate or back door, she was absent and stranger was that Boozer was in the garage. If he was there but Kona wasn’t . . . what’s going on? My answer came soon enough when I went inside and saw Tina mopping the floor. Kona, she informed me had gotten sick all over the house while we were out. Where is she I asked? “She’s in the garage” Tina said.
Now I knew something was wrong, I went back out and saw the dog door in the side door was open. I went outside to the dog run (which came with the rental, our dogs are indoor dogs except under extreme circumstances) only to shockingly see Kona lying down, in the rain on the cement. She looked pathetic, more so than I had ever seen her and here’s the part I will never forgive myself for, she stayed put. She did not come to me, she looked at me with hurt and sick in her eyes and I thought, wow she’s really got a bug or something. The dogs get them, you know if you have dogs, they eat stuff, they eat all the stuff and sometimes they get sick. I went to her and gave her a pat and tried to coax her in to the garage. She didn’t budge. I went in and retrieved her bed and Boozer’s and brought them out to the garage with water. I tried again to get her in and she came in. Content that I had done what I could to make my friend comfortable and under the impression that she was having another “sick as a dog” day. I blew her a kiss and went inside. Before going to bed, Tina and I discussed it and said let’s leave her and boozer out in the garage for the night, something . . . we had never done in 13 years. The mess was that great.
I got up the next morning and just started brushing my teeth when I was spun around by my wife and I saw a sight I had never seen before on her face, devastation and deep sorrow. Shaking and unable to talk, she finally managed to get out three words that shattered my heart, “Kona is dead!”
Kona was lying on her side outside the garage just outside the dog door, in the rain again. I kneeled down beside her . . . she was stiff and cold and the tears blinded me immediately. “Kona?”, “Kona!” I am 41 years old. My parents were both dead by the time I was 18. My best friend died when I was four, I have lost all my grandparents and a cousin. I have even lost friends long before their time. I have seen and felt a lot of pain and loss in my life, so much that I thought I was hardened by it. I wept like a baby and I am still doing so as I write this. I force myself to remember the great times when Kona and I were allowed to enjoy each other’s company without screaming kids or unemployment looming in the background. But unfortunately, what I keep seeing is my poor friend in pain in the rain and all the times I snapped at her because she was underfoot or being a pest (by my standards). Now I realize, that when I came home and found her outside, that look she gave me wasn’t I am sick and ashamed, it was I’m dying, please leave me alone. I know it’s selfish but I wish I hadn’t.
Kona, I never got to say good bye and it’s eating me up inside. You were my best friend and there will never be another like you. I am eternally grateful for your love, your companionship and your unconditional devotion. I am so sorry I was not worthy of it but despite that fact, I am painfully aware of what a gift it was. It is with this that I say, please Kona, couldn’t you try to be with me, one last time. I won’t yell, I won’t snap, I will put the kids in a room for ten minutes and hug you like you deserve. Alas, this will not happen. I had to take my friend to the vet and arrange for her ashes to come back to me. She died on Monday night but the Sunday before, I saw her her jump up and head butt the back door to get let in. It was entirely too quick.
For all you dog lovers out there, hear me please. I know that times are tough. I am living them now. We all lose patience and we are all human and thus imperfect, that’s alright. However, if you find yourself yelling a little too much or losing patience with one of your four legged miracles, try to imagine how you will feel on that fateful day when they leave. When’s the last time you stopped and let your older dog climb up on the bed or sit in your lap? Yeah, they are older and stinky and sometimes they have messes but they never let you down. I just went to get a glass of water as I usually do at this time of night. I usually grab ice from the icemaker and the sound ALWAYS brings my Kona who knows it’s time for a cube or two. She never came tonight and I started crying with my head in the freezer.
For 13 years, no matter what I said or did, Kona would never let me be alone; she would never let me be without her . . . until now. Kona, I don’t want to be alone, I love you and I hope you will forgive me for being such a flawed man. You were and will always be one of the brightest lights in my life.
Goodnight my Kona Bear.

— Chris from Sacramento, CA