Pet owners are an interesting bunch, some should never have been one, some never intended to be one, some have them as trophies or virtue signalling toys only to dump them later, but most of us simply can’t live without them. In fact, the longer we have the privilege of owning a pet the more connected we become.
I was an accidental pet owner and what I write in this article will surprise those who know me, as they won’t know this side of me. After nearly fifteen years of undying loyalty and unconditional love my dog deserves this tribute before and not after he passes. He doesn’t have long to go.
In my case, when I first brought my dog, Kobe the Labrador, to my home, he initially was never meant to be mine. As in so many cases though, the intended plan didn’t work out and this cute bundle of joy had worked his way into my heart. I couldn’t give him up. I am guilty of making plenty of wrong decisions in my life but this one wasn’t one of them.
Dog’s can bring with them a number of burdens and a twelve-week old Labrador puppy can come with its fair share. It can be peeing on the floor, chewing socks, chewing pillows, chewing couch legs, chewing remote controls, chewing wallets and even chewing the fireplace. Kobe just never stopped chewing.
Kobe also loved to steal things – shoes, books, newspapers, magazines and one night when we had a few people around a handbag. When we realised that he had absconded with it, the contents of the handbag were strewn all over the backyard with credit cards hanging out of his mouth. Fortunately for me, the owner of the handbag was understanding.
Kobe’s inquisitive nature was also a personality trait he had which saw him on his walks in the park running up to anything that moved, human or animal. It didn’t even stop after a German Shepard put him in his place and put a hole in my wallet for the stitches he needed afterwards. One day while walking him at Dendy park I had stopped for a breather to watch one of the kid’s soccer matches as it usually took several laps of that damn park to drain down his energy. I was impressed by how well Kobe had heeled at my feet, that was until I saw him in the middle of the soccer pitch snatching the kid’s soccer ball. Somehow he had slipped his collar without me noticing and all of a sudden I was watching kids and parents chasing my dog instead of the ball.
I certainly discovered that the embarrassment of having adults yell “whose bloody dog is that?” can tempt you to walk the other way. We finally caught him and retrieved the ball a little more worn and a lot wetter. I couldn’t find a bigger hole to crawl into, on the other hand, Kobe’s strut couldn’t have been any prouder. Looking back now you laugh, back then you just wanted to cry.
Another tearful and costly episode occurred when I was advised that you needed to keep a dog out of your bedroom even if they howled all night, “He will soon stop” I was expertly advised. Kobe actually stopped on the first night I took this course of action. I was so happy with myself until I woke up the next morning and realised that the reason he had stopped howling was that he had been chewing the magnificent pillars on the timber fireplace frame all night. That sharpened his puppy teeth while costing me a few hundred to get that fireplace fixed. It also ensured Kobe got his wish as he has slept on my bed ever since.
I knew from that point who was running the house and it wasn’t me.
Kobe had always been a people-friendly dog, nearly everybody who has met him fell in love with him straight away. In fact, that is how he obtained his name. I was living by myself and when I left him home alone he would pee everywhere as a pup, so when I had basketball training, which was nearly every night at that point, I took Kobe along with me. If I didn’t I would have a pool of pee waiting for me to clean up and a number of items destroyed by chewing when I returned.
At that stage, I had no idea what name to give him and when asked I couldn’t answer, so one night I gave my U16 boys the chance to decide. Naturally enough the bunch of 14 and 15-year old basketballers chose Kobe, after Kobe Bryant who was at his peak at that time. The name obviously stuck.
From those puppy beginnings, I have enjoyed close to fifteen years of the most loving happy experiences with my Kobe. As a single man with no family, Kobe became exactly that for me and although I knew this deep inside I didn’t realise it properly until two months ago. Kobe, on the whole, had been a healthy dog, though his ears had cost me a fortune through infections, but other than that he has been a fit, energetic and most importantly a happy dog.
Eight weeks ago Kobe had woken up and as he usually does he placed his head on my feet to wake me up to get his breakfast. Normally a crazy dive at my face happens after that to get me up and going, but not this time, instead I received a sad glare, his forelegs stiffened and he rolled off the end of the bed onto the floor, losing his bladder control in the process.
One thing I have been very fortunate with was that one of the boys I coach has a Dad who is a vet. Damien McShane will be the first to admit that on a number of things we respectfully disagree, whether its how to coach, the principles of sports, politics, we have plenty of areas we would agree that we share different ground on.
Yet despite this, I wouldn’t take my dog to another vet and I have been to a few. We may disagree on some subject but on the most important ones, I suspect we are in furious agreement. Compassion, caring, generosity, sympathy from my dealings with Damien and his staff they have these traits in abundance. what price do you put on that?
Damien and his staff at East Bentleigh Vets have a genuine love of pets, Kobe hated going to every another Vet clinic, yet he loved Damien, his staff and his clinic. That was enough of a review for me. I have endured some challenging financial times over the last ten years, mostly not of my own making. Damian has kindly taken that into account when looking after Kobe and allowed me to pay when I was able. He has seen Kobe at home, in my car, given advice over the phone. I couldn’t recommend a vet or a vet clinic more highly.
Hours later after a mad rush to the vets my dog was on the surgery table having his spleen removed due to cancer. It was only when the vet was explaining the options to me before the operation that I finally realised how much this loving adorable animal meant to me. I am not too proud to admit, that at the thought that I may have to make the decision to put him down that night if the operation didn’t go well, made me choke up emotionally.
When Kobe needed surgery, Damien’s fellow veterinarian Doctor Michael Heath was simply incredible during this process. He was compassionate, informative and caring throughout. Fortunately, the operation went extremely well and a day later I was able to bring him home, I was so relieved. In fact, when Kobe came through the surgery, I could see that Michael was just as elated as me. When I went back after surgery to have him checked up post-surgery I knew how well all the staff had treated Kobe during this testing period for us, as he had a tour of the clinic greeting all the staff with his happy wagging tail. I saw how they greeted him, they truly cared. Normally he can’t get out of a vet clinic quick enough. This was fantastic for me to see as I knew then how well he had been cared for an incredible bunch of people.
For a number of blissful weeks, Kobe was returning to his normal self and being spoilt rotten by a grateful owner until last week. Last Friday Kobes condition deteriorated rapidly and in the space of one day, he collapsed four times, lost bladder control each time and was extremely lethargic.
I contacted Damian and he kindly came by once more for a home visit and brought some medications which perked him up dramatically to the point he was nearly back to his old self. Nearly.
I finally received the analysis today from Damien that while Kobe was recovering that I need to prepare myself for the inevitable which could come in days, weeks or months but I had to prepare for only a short period with an animal who proven to be my best mate for close to fifteen years. I am not ashamed to say I shed a number of tears once the realisation hit me that I had only limited time left with him. Even writing this article was emotional but for me necessary.
“Man’s best friend”, it’s such a simple saying isn’t it? but is so very true about dogs.
Kobe has greeted me every day of his life with a wagging tail and a big smile. When I am down he never misses me with a big wet kiss or a hug and he just loves resting on my lap while watching the telly and I love him doing so. It has always been so therapeutic. Over fourteen years Kobe became my shadow when I was cooking, when I was eating, washing the car, watching telly, in the car, on my bed and even in the shower and the toilet.
The worst time of day was when I had to go out and couldn’t take him with me. His sad eyes always ripped a hole through me. They still do now, but for far more foreboding reasons, his eyes aren’t sad any more because I am leaving, I believe they are sad now at times because he knows what’s about to come. They say dogs have a sense about this and I fear Kobe knows at the moment, he just hasn’t been his happy self, though he is trying so hard to do so. His tail never stops wagging even when he is crook.
I want Kobe to finish his life the way he has lived it, so for this short period, however long it may be, Kobe and I will spend some special time together at his favourite places, the park, the beach and the Macdonalds drive through. God, I would love a dollar for every smile he has given to Macca employees while waiting for his treat burger in the back of the Landcruiser. Simple, but very special moments.
Kobe has taught me so much, as I am sure other dogs have taught their owners. Love is cheap, plentiful, unconditional and easy to give, being happy is to be able to chew a wet stick, bone or ball relentlessly, finding joy in small things is a wonderful thing and things we find important in our lives aren’t really so.
Plenty of people don’t end up owning dogs or pets because of the supposed inconvenience yet, they are so very wrong. The dog hair, the drool, the picking up of dog poo, the walks, the vet bills, they are not an inconvenience at all, they instead have been a blessing in my life as I have been able to have the joy and love that only a dog can bring into it. Kobe has done that for me in a far greater way than I thought possible.
I had friends and family saying I shouldn’t have paid for Kobe’s operation eight weeks ago, “it has only put off the inevitable and cost me thousands” they said. I have made more than my fair share of mistakes with money but this wasn’t one f them. Those dollars were the best money I will ever spend, they bought me even more wonderful weeks with my loyal best mate and now it gives me the chance to provide him with the best send-off to his incredible life that I can and recognise the loyalty he has given me. It’s the least I can do.
My wish for when the time comes is for Kobe to pass on in a spot where we have spent our best moments together, with him going to sleep on my lap on our favourite couch. He will hopefully be happy when he passes, while I don’t mind saying that I will be inconsolable, at least for a while. I won’t be sad for Kobe, that’s the correct decision, but selfishly I will be sad for myself. All the joy, love and loyalty he has provided in my life over nearly fifteen years will suddenly be gone and I will be the poorer for it.
Kobe will be in a better place and I will pick up the pieces but things won’t be the same, my only direct family, my beautiful Kobe will be no longer be with me, but what he has given me will stay with me until my time is done as well. If you don’t understand this emotion about a dog or can’t comprehend what I have written or just think “what’s he so upset about, it’s just a dog?” I cannot help you.
If you are a dog or pet owner like me and they have had a similar impact on your life then I encourage you to appreciate them and love them with everything you have. Don’t be like me, don’t put off going for a walk, going to the beach, or for a long drive, grab those moments, enjoy them and cherish them while you can. Your dog deserves them and they can end suddenly.
One last bit of advice for those tempted to dump a dog. Dogs become even more incredible in their twilight years. I have my routines based around Kobe at home and he has his around mine, the older he has gotten the better we have grown as a team, he has become a better dog with every day, month and year he has lived. Even now in his last days, we have had some beautiful moments.
I now come into his final phase of life grateful for the gifts that he has been given to me throughout. I couldn’t have wished for a more wonderful, beautiful dog. What I know for sure, a bit of me will die with him when he does pass.
I love you Kobe boy!
P.S. If you need a GREAT vet, who cares about your pet nearly as much as you do, then consider the East Bentleigh Vet Clinic. their details and services can be found at this link www.eastbentleighvet.com.au my profound thanks for the care you have given to him.