As the years went by, Nolemana and I found that Kukui was the perfect doggie for us. Well, except for her garbage mouth, that is. Every single minute it seemed that she was snorfling (yes, that is a real word because I made it up!) all the time, trying to find the least little crumb that she could eat. Sometimes it drove us crazy, the way she would snorfle, as if she weren’t getting fed enough. But if she had any faults, that was the only one, and it paled in the light of all her other good qualities.
She was a good traveler, she was calm and quiet, and never really got into too much pilikia. She never ran away, always wanting to stay nearby. The furthest she’d go was down the driveway, but she’d always come back and we never had to worry about her.
Kukui was a wonderful model for my knitting, and though I never knit her anything, she loved being in photos of my projects, like this one, a pair of hand warmers. I love this photo, love the way she’s looking up at me.
Here she models a cowl I knit for Lurkah; it looked so good on her he’s lucky I actually mailed it to him! But she had lots of fur to keep her warm, and he lives in plenny snow country. So off it went.
Zipper came to stay with us again. I was folding clothes in the laundry room and the two of them lay in the doorway and cuddled up together.
The next time Zipper stayed with us, I took this photo of the two of them watching me while I was out on the deck spinning. Zipper was a real escape artist, so he could only come outside on a leash. But I loved watching them watching me.
As the years went by, Kukui began to get a little more grey, but she was still active and happy. Here she is at Pup Scrub in Gresham.
She loved the snow, and lying down in it didn’t bother her at all.
In 2009, I wanted to go see my auntie dem in Montana; we were going to be gone for a week, and we didn’t want to leave her in a kennel, so so I made motel reservations where they had rooms for pets. This was going to be our first really long trip with her. It was wonderful to be able to go online and plan our motel stops in advance!
Our first stop was in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, and Kukui did great in the motel. She was quiet and calm, and slept beside our bed without causing any trouble at all.
The next day, we set off for Montana, and she rode along peacefully, just like always. We stopped frequently to give her water and let her go shi shi; she enjoyed the outings, but was still perfectly content to lie in the back seat of the car the rest of the time. She always loved to rest her head on something; the armrest, an ice chest, watevahs.
We took a side trip through Helena, and then headed down to Bozeman to see my auntie dem, and for the two and a half days that we were there, Kukui was a perfect lady.
All too soon we had to leave, and we drove east and south down through Yellowstone Park, which was a fabulous adventure. It had just snowed the night before, and the weather was cold, but inside the car, we were all warm and cozy.
Oh, how I wish we’d taken photos of Kukui at our various stops! Like at Yellowstone Lake, and the Continental Divide. That is my only regret about the trip. But it was so cold, and we were in a huge hurry to get to our next motel, that I didn’t take the time. Ho da wai maka about dat now.
But one thing I got was this video of some bison; and you can hear her woofing softly from the back seat as she looked at them, not knowing watdaheck was dat!
That night we stayed in Blackfoot, Idaho. And once again, Kukui traveled beautifully, and calm as ever. It was such a pleasure to take her along with us! It had been a really long day on the road; we’d left Bozeman about 10:30 a.m., traveled through Yellowstone Park, and were now in Idaho, twelve hours later. But oh, was it ever worth the long day! The three of us fell asleep fast, and were excited about our next day on the road.
The next day, we left Blackfoot and headed to Twin Falls, Idaho, where we used to live. We stayed that night with some really special friends of ours, who we’ve known ever since we were all first married. We had a wonderful visit with them, and all too soon we were on the road again, visiting other friends in Meridian for about an hour (we’d never met before in person, and that was exciting!) Clare’s boys adored Kukui, and were delighted to take her for a walk. She loved it too!
From there we headed on home. This is how Kukui traveled in the car for a good part of the trip.
We stayed overnight in Ontario, then headed home through Baker City. Kukui traveled so well, and she was so calm, and such a delight to have along. She just made herself comfortable in the back seat as always.
When we got back home, we took up our regular life again. Kukui lost her sister ʻUkulele last year…it was a sad time for all of us, and seemed so strange not to have a kitty upstairs with us. But after some time of grieving, I brought home three new kitties, as you know.
Kukui was so gentle with all of them, and after the first few days, everyone got along just fine. Noelani was the one who adored Kukui. She loved to rub up against her, lie down with her, and cuddle with her. It was really hard to get a photo because Noelani wouldn’t stay still! She’d just keep rubbing Kukui all over.
I got lucky with this photo.
Our girl was getting grayer. When she was thirteen years old, in 2009, she developed a mammary tumor. It was a lot of money to have the surgery done, but we strongly felt that she deserved a chance even though she was elderly. She survived it just fine, and we were so happy that we made the decision that we did.
She did really well after surgery, but then last year, our groomer discovered that another mammary tumor had appeared, which, I found out later, is common in 50% of cases. By this time, Kukui was sixteen, and we decided not to go ahead with surgery. She had also come down with Vestibular Disease shortly before this, which means that something was going on with her inner ears, causing a tremendous amount of dizziness for her. The vet said it’d last about three weeks on the meds he prescribed, and he was right. In three weeks, she was remarkably better.
But then three and a half weeks later, it came back again. The vet said that it wasn’t really common, but that it did happen. But unfortunately, there was also the chance that the tumor had metathesized to Kukui’s brain. We treated her again with Dramamine and cortisone, and she’d have good days and bad. But her eyes were lively and she was happy, so we just took one day at a time. She spent her days lying down near me while I worked, and I was really glad for her company.
Kukui did really, really, well for several months. But then she began falling over again, and her back legs would give way unexpectedly. She was so dizzy that she was afraid to go down stairs, and the meds weren’t doing any good at all. We knew her time was short with us.
I began to think about her years with us. I remembered how good a companion she was, both in the house and in the car. I remembered the sound of her toenails clicking on the tile and flagstone as she followed me around the house, my Velcro doggie. I remembered how, when I’d take her with me to run errands, she’d move to the driver’s seat to wait for me. I remembered how she’d sleep on the floor next to me at night. I remembered how she loved to chase squirrels away from the bird feeders, and how, if we were in the kitchen, I’d say, “Get it!” and she’d charge down the length of the hallway to bark at the pesky varmints. I remembered how she’d always just look into my eyes, waiting to see what I would say or where I’d want to go next.
I remembered how quickly she learned Hawaiian words and Hawaiian pidgin. She knew “kaukau”, and “holoholo kaʻa” (she even knew the song, too), and “shi shi”, and “hele aku” and “hele mai”.
But became obvious that the spark had gone out of her. She was weary and tired.
So finally, on the 20th of August, after taking her to the groomer’s for a final bath, I took her to our vet for a consultation. He agreed that it was the right decision to let her go (ho, da wai maka trying to rite dis!), and that I would making the hardest decision for me but the best decision for her.
I left my girl there after she crossed the Rainbow Bridge, holding Musubi all the way home. I thought of this poem, tears falling hard and fast down my cheeks.
When old dog had to die
After long years filled with love and honour
When the weight of time grew wearying
and she was content to have it finished
I brought my old dog to our friend.
Old dog lay soft against me
old eyes already closed, waiting.
Our friends hand was gentle
on the weary body with its ragged fur.
So gentle to find the frail small vein
where death could enter.
Old blood runs sluggish,
old veins slackly resisting.
So patient, our friend, his knowing hands
all I can see through silent tears.
I watch capable strong hands lightly coaxing
and at the last the small red flower
blooms briefly in the crystal
before he eases the plunger in.
Old dog only sighs very softly.
The weary heart slows and stops
as the joyful spirit leaps free.
We wait a quiet moment, my tears
dropping unheeded into the soft fur.
Our friend withdraws, his gentle hands
leaving old dog’s cast-off body.
My head bowed over the weathered white mask
for a moment
before I let her lie by herself
and draw the blanket over her.
I wish the old dog had made it easier for him
To bring even a kindly death brings sadness.
He asked how many years she had, and
I heard more than that in his voice.
I wish I could thank him
for keeping zest in her years
for making a good end of them
for his capable hands
for gentle words
for caring heart.
I took the old dog home
and laid her as if sleeping
wrapped in her worn blanket
and sheltered deep in the kindly silent earth.
My daughters were so supportive, and Leilani gave me these lovely bracelets in Kukui’s colors to wear.
It would be almost a month before I could bring myself to pick up Kukui’s ashes; they came in this beautiful carved wooden box…
…with this card attached.
We will scatter her ashes here at home when I’m ready, and will take some of them to the beach, which she loved. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll save some to scatter in Oregon and Washington and Idaho and Montana and Wyoming…
…and this is how I will remember her, running free and happy along the beach, grateful that for short, all too short years, we had the privilege of caring for this wonderful girl, who will always live in my heart.