To all the dogs who have made an impact in our lives.
My dearest Koda,
The dog that changed my life, at first through utter chaos as you exploded into my life and showed me things won’t always be as you expect and sometimes you just need to make the most out of what you have and enjoy the chaos whilst it lasts. You were not the dog I was looking for or expecting to bring into my life but that’s how some of the best ones come about. I was young had just bought my first house with my partner at the time and was ready to take the next step of adult life and get a puppy. My dream dog was a female black and white husky with sky blue eyes so I made the steps and found a breeder, the requirement was to meet her adult dogs and her before we could go on the list for a puppy. Whilst I was there, she offered me to meet you as you had been returned for rehoming, I agreed so long as she understood I was not going to take you. I left with my name on the list for a puppy and one week later I came back to collect my red-headed little firecracker!
It’s true the dog chooses us we don’t choose them!
I was told your previous owner returned you as she was sick but after a few weeks I discovered it may have just been that she was sick of you. You were utter chaos and determined not to make training you easy or smooth or as I had expected it to be. I had been a Vet nurse for quite some-time before you and had just begun my journey studying dog behaviour and training with a goal to start a business that would allow me to help people and their dogs work through issues. I got you as my training example dog, but you decided to teach me to expand and diversify my skills and learn to adapt all of the usual conventional methods to find what works for the individual dog. You taught me some amazing skills that an easy dog would never have challenged me to learn, I didn’t realize a dog could be so determined until I met you. Through all the chaos you brought into my life I also experienced your unconditional love and loyalty with the amazing bond we had.
The first few weeks were not easy with you escaping the yard, coming home with stolen goods, opening the crate I was training you to be in and helping yourself to food in the house as you would also open doors and go wherever you wanted. The screaming and tantrums were also great fun, the first time I introduced you to a dog and you were not appropriate with how you interacted and even the day you locked yourself in the toilet and covered yourself and the blue toilet cleaner and potpourri. It was an interesting start to our relationship. I now knew we had a lot of work to do but together we worked through it, my career was in its early stages with me doing some private appointments for training and minor behavioural issues with a goal to grow from there.
As I was establishing myself, I needed to gain a formal qualification, during the course of this we were required to attend a weeks intensive hands on training and could bring a dog. I brought you along with me which instantly caused me to become an outcast amongst fellow students with a small number of people willing to be around you and I. Even the instructors teaching us did not have the patience you and your chaos, I honestly don’t blame them you were not easy (I reminded myself many times it was not your fault no-one taught you how to behave). I volunteered at a dog training club and was allowed to attend some lessons at a different time with you but because of your screaming and throwing yourself around whenever you became stressed, I needed to walk around the outside of the park and keep far away from the group, unfortunately they did not have the capacity to have a trainer check-in on the outer dogs and owners like us.
After much pain and hard work, I had most of your training and behavioural concerns mostly under control and we were making good progress implementing techniques I studied, tried, and tested. At this stage another dog came up that I wanted so badly to adopt, the only condition was that I would drive to Melbourne and pick him up, unsure if it would work, I made the decision to drive with you to Melbourne and if you two got along we would take him. Instantly you were best friends, and I knew it was the perfect match. Saaba was a calm, easy going dog and he helped you continue to improve and provided a stable non-confrontational dog to help me with the dogs I would work with for their behavioural issues. You also helped many dogs learn how to play and interact nicely and I believe you understood them more as you remembered what it was like when you didn’t know how to do it.
Together we started building ABT with Saaba often by my side and you coming to help us whenever you could. You learnt so many tricks and loved to show off whilst Saaba preferred looking after the puppies or helping the dogs that were too scared to interact yet and just needed a dog to sit with. So many memories were made both in our personal lives and the work you both helped me with, not many people are lucky enough to have their dog as their first and main colleague. Some of our memories included: moving from one chapter to another in our lives, at times braving an uncomfortable trip. Or the day you chewed the roof lining off the inside of the top of my car because I left you in there for a moment whilst I went inside to get something. The times you decided to run off whilst I tried my best to call you but would end up chasing you down the street in pyjamas. Or the day we went to the snow and you got to try sled dog racing in real snow.
All the adventures and all the trouble you caused along the way, but you were there by my side for every up and every down, every relationship and every time a relationship fell apart or I had other pain or loss to deal with in life to have a dog just sit by your side in those moments where you feel so broken all you can do is cry, I am very grateful. Things didn’t always go to plan, but I knew you and Saaba would always be there and would stay by my side no matter what. As I grew the business so did the presence of you two, my boys, always there to help. We experienced some very difficult times a long the way as I sacrificed a lot to make it work and for many of the early years the business did not make any money and paying the bills was an ongoing struggle. There was a period of time where I chose to sleep at work so I could stay with you as I couldn’t afford a house as well as the business and didn’t want you two to sleep in a warehouse alone at night since the places I could stay I couldn’t bring you two. I’m so glad I had my dogs and understood how valuable that relationship could truly be as my dedication to achieving this life goal caused a lot of other relationships to fail. ABT was never just a business it was a goal to help as many dogs and people possible to live their best lives.
I did adopt another puppy once you and Saaba reached middle age with the goal of him taking over your job once he grew up and you two grew too old. Unfortunately, Saaba could not stay in our lives for too long and we lost him at the young age of 7 to liver cancer, it was very unexpected he was fine one day and within days we were saying our goodbyes. Mavro was still a puppy but even he understood what was happening as we had to let him go. I didn’t understand before this, how dogs will all grieve and deal with loss differently, you hardly got out of bed for weeks and just seemed sad and down and like you’d lost a big part of who you were. Not only were you grieving but you had to step up and take on the extra workload Saaba had done for me. Soon after losing Saaba we discovered Mavro was losing his sight and only had a few months till he’d be blind, Kayan came to join our lives and took the pressure off of everyone as we helped Mav through his adjustment period and you gained a new best friend. You bonded with Kayan like you had with Saaba and Kayan seemed to know that his purpose was to take over that role. No-one knew much about Kayan only he was found on the streets by the RSPCA and there was no room for him at the rescue, I offered for him to stay a week and then adopted him as our new furry friend.
Later on, we added another addition to our lives little Zuto and had many more adventures and life experiences together. I had my red-dogs, who were more emotional little sparks and my black and whites the perfect little group. Determination was always your stength and you continued working with dogs and even in daycare until you were close to 11 years old, you did not want to give up, even though at times you were becoming a grumpy old man.
Eventually it got to a point you were ready to retire, you would still come to work but stay in your bed and observe and have more days that you’d be happier to stay at home. The senior years are the hardest, watching your once strong, stoic dogs body deteriorate but their mind is still wanting to do the same things. You wish for one more chewed couch or coffee table leg, the things you once hated, to forget how frail and weak they have become. We forget they ever did anything wrong as we car for a now old and slow dog. As you got older dementia kicked in and you became a bit mad, there was also the incontinence, meaning back to puppy pads and even nappies at times, it was not easy but you were still my Koda and as long as you were happy and determined to keep kicking on I would do everything you needed to look after you. It wasn’t the easiest or most convenient, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat for one more day with you. The last times were the hardest where you would fall of your bed during the day or night and sometimes you couldn’t get back up so would scream at me until I came and helped you, or some days your legs would just give up and you’d have to lie on the floor until I came and helped you up, but there were so many good days where you moved around like nothing was wrong. I knew when you were ready as you made it clear you’d had enough and didn’t want to fight your ageing body anymore. Like I did for Saaba we had the Vet come to us with the other boys and let you choose your place in the home to say our final goodbyes.
The hardest part is the final goodbye!
The pain of saying goodbye was so very hard but I would do it over again without question, it was worth every second that I got to spend with you and every life lesson I learnt from having you in my life and everything that went wrong along the way. The least I could do for you after all you did for me was to be by your side for your final moments and allow you to do things your way!
To my stubborn old Koda I love you!
You were not the perfect dog but you were perfect for me and you were the best dog you could be.
If you’re still reading this, go and hug your dog and remind them how much you love them!