As she has aged, Kila has gotten more willful, opinionated, generally difficult to control. She’s also gotten mellower and tired and less mobile. I’m striving everyday to tolerate her changes and be more empathetic to her aging. To be kinder with simple gestures like opening the kitchen door instead of making her go round to the dog door, to let her dictate the pace of our runs, and toss her lunchmeat for no good reason.
I’m still pissy when she misbehaves, over her knowing better yet continuing to be a perfect shit about it. Her ability to get into trouble and her desire to do so have grinded into wistful appreciation, frustration, apprehension, and dgaf for age and limitations over her disobedience. One might call this an amazingly well-behaved pet. She is not-so-needy, very sweet, very amenable, very calm. Very old.
We got Kila in 11-01, when she was mebbe 9 months. She walked shyly out of the kennel, not ready to look us in the eyes, but warmed up to us within minutes. I brought her up the elevator into my office to grab my laptop on the way back across the Valley, and she was remarkably easy. The rescue agency called her Valkyrie, she forgot that name the first night we took her for a walk to the Pink Park in our old Mesa neighborhood, and showed so much trustworthiness we let her sample offleash in the grass. The next day we took Kila for a hike in the Superstitions.
day2: still one of my very favorite pics of her
Tday, Pinetop, AZ, 2001
Tday, Pinetop, AZ, 2001
Salt River, 2-02
Kila has had years of offleash freedom, to grow, self-esteem, sniff and smell and sort signals and be a wild dog in a not-so-wild world, connected to Beckie and I, riding her gravytrain. Counting countless offleash runs in the desert would start at 365×12, minus 20% (for me, not Kila, Beckie had her back), minus maybe 4% for the days she didnt get out, plus 14% all the days camping or at the beach where there were no leashes.
Dogwalks with Kila were daily recenters into reality, living life in meatspace. Without regular connections to my nascent hunter-gatherer, my pack…what would today look like? Maybe much more successful and organized, maybe my brain would be smarter but my head dumber and duller without runzeheunding. Kila took me from Ultimate into Biking, my teammate. Thank you Shweetness for training me.
Summer, 2002, San Francisco. look at the long dog!
K-Dog: Rocket at Large. summer, 2002, east side of the Sierra Nevadas
She used to run Bulldog Canyon 20 miles end-to-end; she got me ticketed flying up to the Wind Cave in Usery Park; she outpaced our group through Sycamore Canyon and on the long downhill from KA Hill at Alex’s first Rancho Relaxo weekend in 2005. Byron talked about her wheels in his toast at our wedding. My Fantasy Football name for her was Rocket99.
Mt. Baldy, AZ, Aug 2004
Kila, Sweetness, aka Swedish Dog, aka, Snuggler: snuggling on the bed, Jan 05
I’ve watched Kila run for 12 years, getting a little slower and wearier every year. Pics havent changed much, unless you know what to look for. More calmness, more focus, more boredom, more stoicism, more pain. She’s closer, or she’s completely off on her own doing her owndamnthangherowndamnself. Only 3 paws touch the ground with authority now, her neck is thin, her hips brittle, her undercoat thicker, her back and her belly no longer hard, a benign tumor on her driver’s side front. Her weight is as low as when she nearly died of Valley Fever in 2010. I am sure other dogs notice.
middle age paunch, barrel chest, badattytoid for an alpha girl, Tday 2009
I was her best friend, who would do whatever she wanted. Her wanderings led to miles of suburban freeriding, granular gnarular explorations sniffing our way through our neighborhood and all the ledges it had to drop from, peeing on bushes and charging under sprinklers on golfcart paths. Now I grin while the kids splash in mudpuddles and roll in the milk chocolate dirt beside splashpads. My parenting philosophy is: kids and dogs will go insane if they do not play in the forest. If the girls knew better, they’d thank you Kila for us.
Arizona dog, enjoying a fresh lake the day after a storm, Feb 2010
Since I’ve had kids, I may have spent more 1-on-1 time with the dog than with my wife. Some of it is deeper, we will go through dying together first, and neither of us are afraid of the dark.
Durango CO, August 2010, happy to be out of the furnace
Durango, CO, March 2012
Kila and I had kids when we were 35. I’ve gotten drunker and fatter, she is dying. I have 7 years of pictures of tinyHumans and their nanny.
Kila, meet G, 02-15-06
Ever vigilant, she would set up perimeter and throw down if a dog got too close. June 2010
Aug 2010, Telluride, CO
New Years, 2011
New Years, 2011
I see my final 10 years in Kila’s last one, my prior 20 in her prior 3. Peaking, and dying. My knees and back and neck are weary, ache constantly. Kila stumbled climbing the stairs. She is afraid of the truck, which used to sit atop her cool-list of things guaranteeing FUN! What part of our identity dies when we can no longer be physical?
She doesn’t seem bothered by it. Tonight she shot out of the house and sprinted 100 yards. Ears back, teeth out, eyes squinty. She slowed, and picked up again, and repeated, then settled into a slow happy trot for the next 5 minutes. We wandered and nubby-nosed home for 30 more minutes. I hope that it fades so slowly, a little less desire everyday, so at the end I too am stoked for a good meal and to sleep on the cool tile floor for 18 hours.
Last year, a walk every few weeks ended with her disappearing and showing up at the house an hour later. It was stressful, infuriating, embarrassing. Screaming in an easeway between 4 houses for 10 minutes, whistling, howling, moving 200 yards and doing it again. I know the dog knows better, which made it so much more exasperating. It also kept her from a beating knowing she knew better – she was getting so old. One day i put a plate down on the tile floor and she didn’t move. I rattled a cup of change next to her head and she didn’t move. Another dog came into the house and she didn’t move.
A friend who is a vet says deafness is normal. She had a great life, and is living only under our patrimony. Walks are now leashed, and I wonder if she thinks it is the last indignity she shall endure along with her shitty hips and getting a pill down stuffed down her throat 2x a day for Valley Fever. I would have given up.
I attached a cowbell and a blinky to her collar, and carry a light now, so we can find eachother. She stays closer. The inability to hear me seems to have become the new norm. Old dogs...blah blah blah…she is scared and wants to stay close. Is the silence lonely for her? She’s muted the screaming kids in the car and their horrible dvds, 28 years of Dora and her fucking backpack, its almost a blessing. My maternal grandfather was a mean old bastard when he died, and was happiest in a soft chair in the living room, where everyone else was glad he slunk off to. Maybe she likes the silence.
May 2013, still herds the fuck out of horses if they know what’s good for them
Her last weekend in Rocky Point she huddled in front of the portable AC unit, leaving the house only to potty and sniff. Happy. Ish. Good meal and 18 hours on the cool tile floor. This will be me, someday.
This will be me, someday. Distilled down to a few photos. Kila won’t touch anyone beyond our family, and as i get closer to dying that too will end, as my benefactors will stop paying for my website. Then Kila will be gone forever.
I’m writing this while she is wandering, and wondering if I should pay attention to her and savor every last moment instead. But nothing has changed with Kila in the last 5 years. She wants to sniff and eat dead birds, she doesn’t give a shit if i’m watching. It’s definitely easier on me to see her still enjoying her moments, on her terms, and stay out of the way.
Recently I rode out for 3 hours searching central Scottsdale for a dog that disappeared 10 days ago, and seems to have been living off the land since. I read about it on Facebook. I didnt think id find her, but i had to help. I know coyote roads through that area so much better than everyone else. Shepherd mix. That dog was 10 months old, at the beginning of its life. Does Kila wonder why she is 3x older than she should be?
Kila is 91, she is beautiful, she still wants to run every night. She pants in the backseat for 5 hours and only shows displeasure the moment she can gtfo and piss herself sane. She takes my breath away, she chooses life. When she stops wanting treats, walks, or can no longer poop on her own i will put her down. What will my Obamacare end look like?
Spring Break, 2013