The first-born of the litter was willful and a little aggressive. The second-born was less so and seemed better suited for a pet. Jeremy’s mom chose carefully, administering all of the puppy personality tests. She took the second-born home and in one week’s time had her potty-trained, started her socialization, and had gotten all of her required shots. Mom said this was an anniversary gift from her and Pop.
I felt like my nerves would reduce me to a heap on the floor: the drive from Ithaca to Syracuse, the wait for her flight to land, watching everyone on the flight pick up their luggage and then finally seeing the oversized luggage doors open. Skis, some large boxes, and then a large blue kennel rolled out. It was all a flurry of activity. Jeremy calmly, yet quickly walked up to the kennel and took a quick peek through the holes. Blackness inside. We could barely see a thing. He picked up the kennel and we walked outside to a patch of green lawn.
first visit to the cornell plantations
My hands were shaking. I had wanted a dog for so long and here she was. We opened the door and waited. Jeremy and I strained to see until two big eyes began to materialize deep in the kennel, catching the light of the February winter skies. This chunky, fluffy black puppy ambled out clumsily onto the grass. She heard my squeal and bounded toward me, hopping onto my lap, licking my hands, turning in little circles over and over. Soft. She was sooooo soft and wiggly. Jeremy laughed and she stopped in her tracks, spun around and bounced over to him. Our puppy.
jeremy taking kaweah for a walk
“What do we name her?” we asked each other on the drive home. She was asleep in my arms and then at some point, stretched across the emergency brake to settle her chin on Jeremy’s forearm before falling back asleep. He looked down at her then at me with the “I’m hopelessly smitten!” look. Scout? Bonkers? After a few days, Bonkers seemed more appropriate. It still seems appropriate today, but we decided on Kaweah, after the Kaweah Ridge Range in the Sierra Nevada of California.
out in the snow
She was on track to be a good-sized Labrador Retriever growing 1-2 pounds a week, giant paws, a 90-pound field champion for a father. After her spaying, she just stopped growing – frozen at 6 months with giant paws that she never grew into. And because Kaweah is over the moon with excitement and energy when she meets ANYONE, people always asked if she was a puppy… even when she was ten years old.
along for the fall shoot – and happy, always happy
Kaweah has been a healthy pup for all of her thirteen years. She doesn’t care for being petted, although she loves nothing more than to cuddle up with you on the couch, bed, floor. She’s a cuddler. She LOVES the vet (any vet, but especially her current awesome vet). She thinks drive-thrus are the best thing ever, especially when the bank teller has dog treats. She’s a quiet dog although her bark sounds like it should be coming from a dog twice her size.
a fan of flannel quilts
This pup will scavenge for garbage the moment she is out the door, but will leave any food in the house alone unless you tell her she can have it – even when we are gone for the whole day. For over a decade, she thoroughly enjoyed hiking mountain trails and running leaps into icy cold alpine lakes. She really loves kitty cats, though they aren’t so keen on her. Kaweah is not an aggressive dog, she just wants to play, take naps, eat (anything), and be with others.
playing gently with a puppy
During the bad nights of my chemotherapy when I was sick in the bathroom, she’d come and quietly sit by me for hours, gently leaning against me. Whenever I coughed, she would rest her paw on me. She watched over me when I slept or put her chin on my lap and softly sighed when I cried. Woman’s best friend.
These days Kaweah can’t hike or walk more than four miles on a good day. Her back legs are arthritic, her trachea is slowly collapsing, and her kidneys are starting to decline. It’s old age. A couple of white whiskers have replaced the black ones and her chin is turning white. We don’t let her go up or down the stairs without an escort anymore. She’s still in pretty good shape for a senior citizen. What matters most is that she is happy and comfortable, which she seems to be.
waiting for her release word
Happy birthday, my sweet little ‘weah. May your day be filled with romps in the snow, a special birthday plate with APPLES and CARROTS, naps on soft and fluffy blankies, belly rubs, squeaky hedgehogs, and dreams of chasing bunnies and squirrels.
make a wish, kaweah!
happy birthday, silly pup