I have always had dogs my whole life, some I tolerated because Kris loved them and a few of them I really loved. I had a Border Collie, Shayla, that was extremely attached to me, extremely intelligent and a beautiful dog. She was an abused dog that I had rescued and I loved her with all my heart; but none of them ever compared to Kato.
He is so stoic and proud, when we walk you can tell he is trying to not limp and if he can get the right pace going he can stride along pretty good but he tires quickly; then you can tell how much he is really hurting, even then he doesn’t want to stop. He just wants to plod along not wanting to admit it’s too much for him.
As long as I have had him I have never taken him for a walk without someone stopping me to say what a handsome dog he is and how proud and regal he looks. My mom didn’t believe me, or thought I was exaggerating until we went to visit my son in Calgary a few years ago, and every where we went people were commenting on Kato. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a man, woman, young or old; Kato draws attention. He’s a man’s man kinda dog and yet women love him, small children hug him and guys you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley will yell out, “Beautiful dog lady!” He walks with purpose, tail straight up, head held high, staring straight ahead except to take quick glances to the side for danger. He was never like Laila, all tail wagging, drooling puppy wanna lick your face and jump up on you; Kato always had dignity, he would sit and wait to be petted but he had too much pride to ever grovel for affection. Kato has never jumped up on anyone, never licked a face, never chewed a shoe, never scratched a door, and never barked unnecessarily.
Kato was born the runt of the litter and the guy I got him from said that from day one Kato stood out from the rest. When he told me that, I had my doubts, everyone thinks their dog is special, but it was true, Kato is a dog like no other. It isn’t that he is so smart, even though he is pretty smart for a dog, it isn’t that he is so well behaved, and he can get a real attitude sometimes and be really stubborn and drive me to the edge of sanity when he refuses to come or get in the truck. Kato has something special you don’t see very often, he has an old soul; he can speak with his eyes, those deep brown eyes that reveal his pain, joy, concern and love. He is God’s gift to me and the best gift I have ever gotten.
I used to say Kato’s purpose in life was to make people smile and my purpose was to facilitate that. He used to sit tall in the seat looking straight ahead and then at lights he would stare at the person in the vehicle beside us until invariably they would look over and he’d be looking at them and they would have to smile if not laugh. One time I remember I laughed so hard because a Telus van was beside us and on the side of the van was a picture of an iguana about twice the size of Kato, the van was keeping pace with us and every time it got beside us Kato would start to snort and huff (shar-pei’s tend to sound like pigs, or Rocky Balboa (spelling?) before a fight, because they snort a lot). Well we get to a light and that iguana is right beside us and Kato is having a snort fest when the Telus guy looks over and starts laughing, he has a partner in the van with him and they are both having a good belly laugh over Kato.
Or one time a guy drove past and yelled, “Hey Sharpie! (pronounced like Sharpie the pen) I see you” Kato was looking every where and couldn’t see where it had come from. Then we hear, “Yeah I mean you Sharpie!” Kato is snorting and looking and the guy is laughing so hard he almost drove off the road. That’s what life with Kato has been like.
When we used to go to the river he would run through the waves that the tug boats make and he would have a look of unadulterated joy on his face, he would be smiling from ear to ear and would run until he couldn’t any more. Every time I watched him my heart would fill with delight for him. All I had to say was “river?” and his eye brows would arch up and he’d have the look on his face that said, “You aren’t messing with me are you? We’re really going to the river?” and I would say, “Do the river dance.” The river dance is when he would stand on the seat of the truck facing forward and he would take one step to the left, one to the right and then turn in a complete circle, then one step to the left, one to the right and then a circle and he would do that until we got parked at the river, he never changed his routine. I tried to video it a few times but he was just to close to me in the truck and of course he won’t do it if we aren’t in the truck on the way to the river. Every time we go to the river he runs in a few feet and then scans the horizon looking for tug boats, if one is coming he gets so excited he has to go have a pee and pooh, so he runs back into the bushes and is trying to hurry so he doesn’t miss the waves.
When the waves started crashing in he’d run through them trying to catch them in his mouth; sometimes making himself choke; he just loved the river. He still does but now he takes it a lot slower and will dig in the sand, chew on a stick, lay in the sun, sniff and pee to his heart’s content but Amix has barges off the shore so the tugs don’t make waves any more; probably just as well because he wouldn’t be able to run and I know he’d try. When we would get home he would have to pee to badly and so much his leg would start to shake and he’d end up squatting because his leg got so tired he peed for long; all that river water he swallowed.
Some people have said its time to put him down and I have thought of it but he has his good days and maybe I am selfish, I’m not ready to let him go. I wish I had a place where he could lay in the sun until he just fell asleep and didn’t wake up again. I feel guilty making him ride in the truck all day and I have tried to leave him at home but it just breaks his heart to be left behind, I feel guilty because Laila bugs him and he has had to share my attention. I would sell Laila even though I don’t want to and the main reason I got Roxy was so her and Kato could mate and I would have a part of Kato in one of the puppies. That was another well laid plan that totally fell apart!!
Every day he has been in my life has been a blessing and a gift because it was predicted he wouldn’t live past 2 and I was told when he was one that I was cruel to keep him alive.
You see when he was about 6 months old, before I got him, he was attacked by 3 rotties, one of them got him when he stuck his head through a fence and held his head while the other two went around the fence and literally gutted him. He had to have 80 stitches and almost died. I got him about 5 weeks after the attack so I never knew what his personally was like prior to being injured, he seemed timid and lacking energy but I thought maybe that was just his way. A couple of weeks went by and some days he could barely walk so I took him back to the vet and they said he had an infection from the wounds and put him on antibiotics, he’d have good days but mostly bad and didn’t fully recover. The previous owner feeds all his dogs raw meat so I was buying Kato steaks and giving him high protein food thinking he needed protein for energy. Some days he was pretty peppy but it seemed every time we went to visit his previous owner he would relapse and by the time we got home he would be barely able to walk. One time he had tried to jump out of the truck and his legs just crumpled under him and he laid there helpless. In the mornings I would let him out for a pee, if he couldn’t walk I would pack him, some days he was quite strong and would be able to raise his leg to pee and walk on all 4’s other days I had to pack him then he would crawl under a tree and lay there. On his good days I was hopeful.
The previous owner mentioned he might have Shar-pei Fever so I researched it on the net and could only find the same results, it is a death sentence, they never live past two if they have it and it is a painful slow death that affects their kidneys and liver and eventually causes kidney failure. It is impossible to test for until the animal is dead and then they can do a test to determine if it was Shar-pei Fever. Apparently many Shar-Pei carry the gene and it never manifests itself, but is often brought on by a serious injury or stressful situations. One of the symptoms is a very high fever, swollen hocks, a limp and lethargy. The fevers can get so high that they will cause brain damage and seizures. There were times I had cold compresses on Kato’s head trying to bring his fever down but no where could I find a cure. Then on another site I read that Shar-pei’s have a low tolerance to protein, they can’t process many proteins and the protein will calcify in their joints, liver and kidneys. I noticed the correlation between that and the liver and kidney problems they have with Shar-pei fever and decided to try a low protein diet with Kato. I started to make him a stew using chicken or beef bone and lots of vegetables. He loved his veggie stew and there were days he seemed to be getting better but he would always relapse. I was determined to figure out how to save him but I was losing hope.
He started to walk more and more using only his two front legs; he could walk over gravel, and go any where with his bum in the air basically doing a walking handstand. His toe nails on the back feet were getting so long they were curling inward. I kept taking him to the vet and this time I took him so they could trim his toe nails but the vet said, “There is no need to trim his nails, he isn’t going to live long enough for it to be a problem.” Finally he said he figured he had Shar-pei Fever, I was told the kindest thing I could do was to put him down. I started to sob, I just couldn’t do it. The vet said to give Kato low dose aspirin, that ordinarily it would be very hard on a dog’s stomach but he wouldn’t live long enough for a problem to develop and it would help keep him out of pain. I left in tears and after much thought I called the vets and said I would bring him in on Monday to be put down; it was Wednesday. I took the rest of the week off except for one new job I had to go check out on the Thursday.
I took Kato with me to the job and lifted him out of the truck, he was having a good day and was walking around when the customer asked me how old he was. When I said just over a year old the guy’s mouth dropped open; he had thought he was a very old dog. He asked why he was limping so I told him the story, his brother was standing by listening and piped up. He said that Kato was walking like he used to because he used to get severe pain in his kidneys. He said that the first 18 years of his life he suffered debilitating pain in his kidneys and his parents had taken him to all kinds of doctors and no one had been able to help him until he went to see a naturopath. He went on to say the naturopath prescribed digestive enzymes and from the first one he took he has never looked back; he has never had that kind of pain again. I asked if he would mind giving one to Kato and he went in the house and came back with a handful of them. I gave one to Kato, (yes, he is the only dog in the world who likes medicine well except for now Laila because if Daddy eats it she wants one too) and he swallowed it, by the time we got home an hour later he had an appetite and ate more than I had ever seen him eat. By Monday morning, the morning of his “appointment” I was in the kitchen preparing his breakfast when I swore I heard his toenails on the hardwood floor. I thought to myself that my mind must be playing tricks on me but I looked down and there he was looking up at me, tail wagging furiously, smiling, yes he was smiling……..as if to say…..”See!! you can cancel that appointment!!” which I did.
Inspired by his marked improvement I cut ALL protein out of his diet and fed him straight veggie stew with brown rice, barley and beans for filler and gave him a digestive enzyme and two low dose aspirin with every meal. About 3 months later I took him in to see the vet who had told me to put him down and he thought I was trying to trick him by switching dogs. The nurse at the front desk started to cry as Kato walked around the office.
He continued to get better and I slowly introduced tuna into his diet and basically that has been his only protein aside from legumes for his whole life. I buy vegetarian dog food and make his veggie stew; he is the only dog I know who will beg for a brussel sprout. After a while I cut out the aspirin unless he had a really good run at the beach and was limping, and I cut out the digestive enzymes unless he ate something he shouldn’t and he has been healthy for over 6 years. I have noticed a decline in him the past year and especially the last couple of months. I knew the day was coming but the time went by so fast, so much has happened and at times I was so self absorbed I didn’t give him the attention he deserved and was short tempered with him. at times he would take off on me and I would be crying and calling but he always came back. One time when we were in the little holiday trailer and I had lost a contact lens and couldn’t see he disappeared. James and his son Allen took off in the Kenworth looking for him and Allen saw him in a cemetery. As James pulled into the cemetery a guy stopped him and said, “You can’t bring that thing in here.” James had replied, “See that dog over there? That’s my wife’s dog, if I don’t go get that dog I will be coming back here in a pine box.” The guy let him in.
He has ridden with me every day, been with me through breakups and reunions with James, slept with me and protected me; no one ever gets near the truck when he’s in it. I haven’t had to worry about spiders, mice or rats since he came into my life; all I have to do is let out a little eek! And he comes running to kill it; whatever “it’ is.
It took him all summer but at the end of summer he finally caught himself a gold fish in the pond at the last place James and I lived. He would wade into the pond and the gold fish would all move under his belly and he couldn’t get them, with mice; he’d see one, put his head down to catch it and the loose skin would fall forward and block his vision and he’d lose it.
I found him a teddy once in the Pets Mart dumpster; it was a square patchwork looking thing with a squeaker in each square and a duck’s head on it that rattled when you shook it. One look at this stupid thing and he fell in love with it, we called it his squeaky duck and he would gently preen the feathers on the ducks head and he loved to shake it and hear the rattle in the duck’s head. Tragically the first time he saw a chicken he thought he could shake it and its head would rattle and he could preen it’s feathers. The chickens didn’t take too kindly to his loving attention and it would create quite a ruckus. He was extremely disappointed when shaking them didn’t make their heads rattle like his teddy. One day I went out to go to work and all the chickens were around my truck, I said to Allen, “Where’s Kato?” and we looked at each other in total horror when at the same time we yelled, “chicken coop!” and ran to the barn. There was not one chicken to be found only feathers every where, the rooster feathers were especially plentiful! We hunted every where and couldn’t find any chickens, dead or alive so we left for work. When we got back we confessed to the woman that owned the chickens what happened and she said she hadn’t found any dead ones either and there were at least 8 chickens missing. As the days passed more chickens started showing up, a little tattered and lacking in plumage but no worse for the wear (except they weren’t laying any eggs) then the rooster appeared practically bald and so horse he couldn’t crow; he sounded more like he was clearing his throat than his usual proud declaration that the day had begun.
Kato treasured and cared for his squeaky duck for a long time, until it’s Mohawk type feathers on it’s head were stiff with dog slobber and it was missing an eye; his squeaky duck went every where he went for several years even in the Kenworth ½ way across Canada, until he finally forgot it somewhere. Every toy I ever bought for Kato was intact, maybe a little stiff from being “cleaned” but intact none the less some of them were over 8 years old and then Roxy came into our lives. Kato proudly brought her one of his teddies and she proceeded to rip it to shreds and one by one she destroyed every teddy he had, then she shredded his bed. I felt so bad for him I went out one day and left them at home; I went to buy Kato something special. I bought him a turkey with a squeaker in it and a nice new bed. When I got home he was on the couch and had a “deer in the headlights” look on his face.
I said, “It’s ok buddy, I bought you a present!” He cocked his head to the side and arched his eyes brows and his expression said, “Really? For me? What is it?” and he sat up and waited. I threw the bed down on the floor and he immediately jumped down and laid in it and gave me a look of gratitude. I said, ”That’s not all, I have something else for you.” He sat up, “Really??” I pulled the turkey out of the bag and he grabbed it right out of my hand and laid down on his bed and started preening it. I sat on the couch watching him smiling; every so often he would look up at me as if to say, “gee thanks” and then go back to his turkey. He stayed on that bed holding his turkey for 12 hours straight, when he slept he had his head on it. I made sure it was Kato’s teddy and Roxy was not allowed to touch it.
Whenever I bought him something new he would immediately take it and then look at me as if to ask, “This is mine right? Like, I can have it right?” and wait for me to say, “It’s for you, go ahead.” Even with food, he wouldn’t eat until I said it was ok. I could leave a plate of food on the coffee table all day and he wouldn’t touch it. The only thing he ate that he wasn’t supposed to was a box of timbits from Tim Horton’s and even then he didn’t exactly eat them, he took them out of the box while I was working and hid them under his blanket in the truck. When I got back in the truck the timbit box was on the seat and when I moved it to get in it seemed a little light. I looked inside to find one chocolate timbit. I looked at Kato and he was sitting straight up looking out the window. I said, “Katooo…..what did you do?” and he looked at me with a “Whaaaat?” look on his face. I thought he had eaten them all until later in the day I caught him digging in his blanket and took a look at what he was after. There in the folds of his blanket were 7 timbits.
He gets angry with me if he is left alone in the truck too long, he won’t destroy anything, he will hide something of mine. At first I thought it was just coincidence but after 8 years I know he knows what he is doing. I would have my reading glasses or my cheque from Amix sitting on the seat beside me, get out to do a job and when I go to grab my glasses or to cash the cheque I can’t find them. I used to tear the truck apart, franticly looking for whatever it was I’d lost, sometimes it was my glasses, other times, my cheque or smokes, or lighter; finally in desperation I would make Kato move and there it would be under his bum. I am forever losing gloves, that is until I take his bed out of the truck and shake it and out falls glasses, gloves, my business cards, you name it he’s got it stashed.
James told me that whenever I left him home he would lie looking out the window in the direction I went and not even go out for a pee until I returned. On the two occasions that I was gone for more than a day he would lay waiting for me and if he went outside he would lay in the driveway waiting for me. If I leave him in the truck and go into a store when I come out he is still staring at the door I went into.
And of course there is his “do you love me” look; when we are in the truck and he needs some attention he looks at me by turning his head upside down and staring at me until I notice; that is my cue to give him head rubs and then he is happy.
Yesterday he slept until noon and seemed to be feeling much better, I gave him his digestive enzymes and later we went for a walk. He was stiff but able to trot along without much of a limp but we weren’t gone 10 minutes when he started to limp so badly he could barely walk. A distance that took 5 minutes to get to took us 15 minutes to get back and I knew it was just wishful thinking on my part. I am sure he could live another year or more but he needs to be out of the truck and someplace he can lay in the sun and I don’t want him to suffer in silence; I guess I will know when the time is right and I will be right by his side when he takes his final breath.
I will miss him so much I can’t even think about it, he has seen it all, been my rock when I didn’t think I could go on, he was my special gift from God and I know God broke the mold when he made him, even people that don’t like dogs love Kato, because he isn’t just a dog, he has a soul.
Posted by Carrie the Lady Witha Truck using WordPress for BlackBerry.