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D'Elle

My Sweet Kit

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Forgive me for the length of this. I just couldn't keep it short. No need to read the whole thing, of course, but I felt I had to do her justice.

KIT

December 2001 – January 2019

Kit came to me at the worst possible time in my life for me to adopt a new dog, and at the time when it was the most perfect for me to have her come.

One month previously, my house had burned. I was staying with my border collie Jester with my closest friend, sleeping on the living room floor of her single-wide one bedroom trailer. My friend had two cattle dogs, one of whom was violently dog-reactive, so we were constantly doing fancy footwork to keep the dogs apart. Clearly it was unthinkable for me to bring in another dog, and it would never have crossed my mind.

I went to pick up something from my vet, and she came out from the back and approached me, saying “Now, understand, I am not asking you to take another dog....but would you be willing to meet a dog I have here?”

I like to say that at that point I should have turned and run...but of course, instead I said yes, and she brought the dog out to the lobby to meet me.

Out came this skinny female border collie in a huge cone. One whole hindquarter was shaved, and she had a line of stitches almost a foot long. The second she saw me, she made a beeline for me and when I got down on the floor she immediately crawled up onto my lap and tried to get inside my shirt.

I suppose I was a goner right then, although I didn't know it. But I did know in that first moment that I absolutely had to help this dog. Her story was that she'd been living with a man who had several dogs, and two of the larger ones continually beat up on this border collie. When the man brought her in for the third time to get stitched up from a major wound, the vet refused to give her back and was trying to find her a new home.

I said I could not possibly take her, but would take her for a walk out in the country and get good photos of her to put up on the BC rescue website. My friend and I took her for a walk, which she was hardly able to do at all, having been in recovery on crate rest at the vet for 5 weeks, and naturally I forgot my camera. So I called the vet, and said I would keep her over night and return her the next day. My friend said she could come stay at the trailer one night if she were respectful of the cat.

Kit walked into the trailer and looked around, and made no more notice of the cat than she did of the couch, so she passed the test. That night I barricaded her into the kitchen, not knowing how she would behave over night. The moment I turned out the light, the most pitiful sounds emerged from the kitchen.

“I'm alooooooone! Ooooooh, they left me all aloooooooooone!”

I sighed, and went and let her out. She ran to the makeshift bed on the floor, and curled up in an unimaginably tight and tiny ball on one corner of it, and gazed up at me with big liquid eyes. By morning, I knew she wasn't going anywhere.

My Jester was used to having foster dogs come and go, and thought she was another one at first. Kit, for her part, fell almost instantly in love with Jester and wanted to be near him wherever he went, especially when he was fetching a ball or frisbee. Only 2 years his junior, Kit thought Jester hung the moon.

Now to Jester, frisbee was very serious work. He was Not To Be Disturbed, and there was a lot of growling and snarling and putting-of-Kit-in-her-place before Kit learned the precise distance she needed to keep from Jes in order to follow him without his being bothered by it. Eventually, Kit developed her very own pattern of play while Jester was fetching. She ran out, circled around ahead, doubled back, crossed his path, doubled back again and ended up where she started, behind a creosote bush, with one eye looking out just like those wolf posters with one eye peering from behind a tree. She was so precise in her pattern that she wore a little trench path in my yard.

Kit was sweetness personified with everyone she met, however many legs they had. One of her goals in life was to get as much love from as many individuals as she could, and very few people could resist her. Any time she found me on the floor, she had a very endearing way of coming to put her shout under my chin and standing silently there to be petted. I don't think there was ever a time when I did not stop what I was doing to pet her. One just could not ignore something like that.

Her other goal in life, it always seemed to me, was to be a Good Dog in every situation in which she found herself. Coming into a new place, she would always look around blinking, as if she were figuring out how she could be the best dog possible in this place. And she was a good dog. In her whole life with me, she only a few times did something that annoyed me. She was very sensitive, and would immediately go to anyone who was feeling bad, and get as close as possible in a way that was very comforting.

But Kit was not only sweetness. She was fierce, too. I didn't know that until one time my partner and I were looking for a place to buy. We were out in the desert with both dogs off leash, wandering around on a 7 acre piece we were considering, when I heard a low growl and looked up to see a very large dog rapidly headed our way with a full display of violent intent. On instinct, I moved so my body was between my dogs and the dog approaching, and asked my partner to grab the dogs' collars. She got Jester, but Kit was already on the move.

Before I knew what was happening, she shot out from behind me making the most horrific and terrible snarls I had ever heard. Sounds I never would have thought she was capable of making, and she ran full tilt at that huge dog. My heart in my throat, I screamed her name, but she kept going. That big dog stood his ground for about two seconds, and then turned and ran with Kit right on his tail.

Of course, my first thought was that he might lead her away and then turn on her and kill her, or lead her to a pack of dogs who would tear her apart, and I ran after then, calling her name, “Come! Come!”, but I quickly gave up. No one can catch up with two muscled and athletic dogs running at full extension. I stood there in that field, uable to see where they went, holding my head in my hands, certain I would never see my beautiful dog again, but continuing to call her. In only a matter of seconds I saw a blur headed my way and then Kit was there, throwing herself into my arms as if she were saying, “Did I do good?”

It was as if she had said, “Oh no you don't. Not MY family. Not on MY watch!”, and made good on that. Of course, I praised her to the skies. After that, I knew that dog had many depths, some of which I would probably never know.

Like many border collies, Kit was amazingly strong, fast, clever, and athletic. Her favorite play apart from following Jester was tug, and I never saw a dog love that game more. She would dig in her back feet, and her eyes would gleam like stars. She just loved it so much. I couldn't believe how strong she was. One time, I decided not to give in, no matter how long it took, just to see how long she could keep it up; how long it would take to wear her out. It took 45 minutes and at the end of it I was just about dead. I never did that again!

No one else could tug when Kit was around; she would come take over. So that the foster dogs who wanted to could have tug play, I trained Kit to wait until I said her name before taking the toy for her turn. Her eyes would be glued to the toy, and when I finally whispered her name in the tiniest voice I could manage, I had to be very well braced, feet planted wide apart and with a firm grip on that toy, because she would rocket in and take that tug toy just like a shark taking prey. She could knock you off your feet if you weren't ready for her.

She had border collie focus, and sometimes it was funny. In the morning I would let the dogs out, have coffee, and then come out to throw something for them. Jester would curl up by the front door, knowing I couldn't get out without his knowing, and wait. But Kit would stand several feet away and become a statue, staring at Jester. One day I decided to see how long she would stand there. I had coffee next to the window, and dawdled, read a book checking out the window every few seconds. Kit never moved. An hour went by, and Kit did not move one paw. She never took her eyes off Jester.

Kit and Jes and I traveled together, and hiked in the mountains every chance we got. We went camping in the National forest. We went to the river in summer and cooled off. They never needed a leash when we were in the wilderness. We saw Monument Valley together, and all of southern Utah. At night, whether in a tent or at home, I slept with Jes on one side of my body and Kit on the other. I was a border collie sandwich.

When Jester died at the age of 15, Kit was inconsolable. I showed her his body, wanting her to understand that I had not just taken him away for some reason and failed to bring him back. And I showed her where he was going to be buried. For almost a month after that, every time I let her out the door she made a straight line for that grave and tried to dig him up again. It was heartbreaking. I let her do it each time, and put the dirt and rocks back afterward. I figured it was part of her grieving and I shouldn't interfere, and she eventually gave it up, although she never passed the grave without staring at it and sniffing.

Kit lived to be 17, and we celebrated her 17th birthday party with cake that she could eat, and she shared it (slightly unwillingly) with the other dogs. It was a joyful occasion, but I knew her time was not far off. She had been with me for 11 years. She had lost her strength, although never her loving nature or her joy in a good game of tug.

When the time came, she died very peacefully in my arms as if she had simply fallen asleep. I buried her next to Jester and put red rocks and pink flowers on her grave. I don't believe in such things, but before she died I whispered in her ear to go and find Jester. Well, you never know.

Kit lives on in my heart and in the hearts of all who knew her. I was more fortunate than I ever deserved to be, to have had such a one as she to love and be loved by for so many years.

 

 

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Beautiful tribute. I read it all the way to the end, but not without tears. I am so glad Kit ended up with you. She was so clearly loved.

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Once I started reading, I could not stop.

I am so terribly sorry for your loss, but also happy that you had 11 wonderful years with such a very special dog.  The two of you were clearly meant to be.  I hope in time the great memories of your time together help the pain.

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