Kimiko joined our family, Joshi, Irmi and me when she was nine weeks old. We had driven from Heidelberg, FRG to Belgium to buy her sight-unseen, basing our choice on having met her mother a year earlier. As we walked from the car to the house past the large kennel common area, a single Shiba pup waddled over to the fence through 20+ adult Shibas and Akitas. Her markings were not those of the classic Shiba Inu, Black and Tan, or Red with the Black puppy muzzle. Rather, she was of a non-descript gray-brown with white in her face. By Shiba standards, if there can be an ugly puppy, she was it. When I reached down and put my hand through the fence, she licked my fingers for the first of a thousand times. I said to Irmi, "I have a feeling this is my dog." |
Thirty minutes later, after formal introductions, I watched as she curled up and slept in the open mouth of a 100+ lb Champion Akita male, all the confidence in world. Mrs. Van de Meer remarked that she was a "special bitch". I named her Kimiko, because she was Japanese and the name sounded so musical. It was only before her passing that I looked it up and discovered that it meant "imperial" or "noble" child. No other name could have been more appropriate.
Kimiko moved in and took over the house. She established herself as the number two behind me, "the Big Dog". Irmi and Joshi were 3 and 4 respectively and while she loved them both, she deferred only to me. Secretly, I was always pleased, even when scolding her for not obeying Irmi. As for poor Joshi, he was "toast", although I suspected he was frequently just being a gentleman. It is fortunate that we love him so, because he is too nice to finish anywhere but last in the pack pecking order.
Kimiko started training us the first night at home. After waiting a reasonable time at the back door without a sound, she deposited a small pile directly in front of the door. That was the one and only time; we learned the lesson. We almost lost her to poison when she was about two. I suppose that I must consider myself extremely thankful for every day we had with her, but we thought her indestructible. I had read somewhere that some Shibas reach 20. Sadly, it was not to be. The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long and no little light ever burned brighter.
In the next year, the ugly duckling grew into a beautiful swan. The facial markings became so striking that strangers would approach to comment what a beautiful girl she was. We would joke that she was a creation of the STEIFF stuffed animals. She mastered all the obedience school commands in record time and her absolutely indomitable spirit began to manifest itself. She had and won her first and only fight with an older female twice her size. Throughout her life Kimiko never sought out a fight but never backed away and she considered her territory inviolate to everyone but her family. We joked about her being an Akita inside a Shiba body. During good weather she spent hours each day protecting her domain in the backyard. Any strange dog that entered her space or house or yard was in trouble, but she was never aggressive and with people she was always patient and tolerant, even with children who would ignorantly pull, push and fondle her. On neutral ground she could and did make friends. Her affection, however, was always reserved for Irmi, Joshi and me.
Kimiko and Joshi accompanied Irmi and I everywhere. In the beginning she became easily car sick but in the end become a veteran traveler: Belgium, Germany, Austria, and all the states between Virginia and Arizona and Utah. Many of her adventures were nerve-wracking for us although not without humor:
In Austria where dogs and cats are allowed in public buildings, restaurant personnel allowed Kimiko to sit at the table rather than under it.
After a run in with a spitting Llama in Austria, Kimiko showed a healthy respect for all non-canine animals larger than she was. She was never as good a hunter as Joshi, but she ate, usually alive, every mouse she ever caught. We were never able to wean her of this habit and took her to the Vet on numerous occasions for de-worming .
Usually, when we unleashed Kimiko, she stayed close while we worried about Joshi roaming too far, but not always.
On the ranch she ran off in tall grass once and refused to come out. We were so afraid we might run over her in the truck we didn't risk driving around the 100 acre field. Finally, in desperation, we unleashed Joshi who located her in less than 30 seconds sitting 100 ft from the truck watching us.
There was the time on the property in Pagosa Springs she jumped the fence to defend her territory against a barking dog, only to discover that the dog that appeared so small ¼ mile away was really a large shepherd-retriever mix that out-weighed her 3x and was on its territory. She was clearly relieved when I showed up in the pick-up to take her back to the RV.
Kimiko loved to fetch sticks, rocks, and especially balls. I enjoyed teasing her by throwing the ball into the waters of a stream, creek, or the waves of the Chesapeake Bay and watch her struggle to judge the right moment to dash into the water to retrieve the ball before the next big wave rolled in. Most of the time she won but occasionally she got drenched. She just shook it off, brought me back the ball and looked at me in anticipation of the next toss. The backyard worked almost as well, especially when I bounced the ball off the shed wall making it jump back and forth and high in the air. Irmi called her "Michael Air" for the spectacular catches she made. She never came across a tennis ball that didn't immediately belong to her. Only when age and breathing became labored because of the tumor was ball chasing over.
We noticed during our last trip to Colorado that Kimi was having some difficulty breathing through her nose and sneezing frequently. After unsuccessfully treating her for allergies, x-rays, and finally an endoscopy/biopsy disclosed an inoperable malignancy in an advanced state located in her nose/throat that was cutting off her nasal breathing. We were told it was just a matter of weeks.
Kimiko was full of life and fought valiantly to stay with Irmi, Joshi and especially with me rather than surrendering and going gently to the Rainbow Bridge. She lost weight, energy, appetite and at the very end, was unable to swallow or breathe through her nose and consequently could no longer sleep. I held her for hours her final night with me, knowing what I had to do and dreading it. The next day Irmi and I took her to the Vet and ended her suffering. We loved her so much we couldn't stand to see her suffer any further, even out of love for us. If we misjudged, if we sent her too soon, or if we made her suffer unnecessarily, then we ask God and our Kimiko for forgiveness. It was never our intention to provide anything but the best possible life for this beautiful, wonderful being who graced our lives for too short a time.
Even after she had gone on to the Rainbow Bridge, she remained in repose the most beautiful dog in the world, our Kimiko, our Noble Child.
We brought Kimiko's ashes home and placed them in our bedroom where she had spent most of her sleeping hours. We pray that this final act and this memorial will bring some closure to our grief and sorrow over the loss of our beloved Noble Child and allow the healing process to begin and may God bless us everyone.
Kimi, We brought home a new family member, Taifun. He is so much like you in personality, one could almost believe in reincarnation. He fetched the ball on his first night with us, uses his front paws like you did, has no fear of water and is very observant of those around him; he also doesn't care much for vacuum cleaners or other machines and seems a bit ticklish on his feet just as you were. He is a bit more outgoing; greets every person/dog like they are going to be life long friends. He is simply a wonderful little dog. It helps a lot; but, I still stop and think of you and then the tears flow and it seems only yesterday that you were with me. I know now the truth; that no dog ever replaces another in your heart. You simply love each one and each returns that love and the pleasure of its presense until the pain of passing. I can't help but think that I will love this special little creature until the day I must watch it go to the Rainbow Bridge, perhaps with my help, the way I helped you my beloved Kimi. When that time comes, be his friend, the way you were my friend and until then watch over us, Irmi, Joshi, Taifun and BD.
Kimi, Be on the look out for a black Lab name of Bird. He was too young to be at the bridge but was old and enfeebled beyond his years and his best friend eased his suffering and sent him. Be his friend. He was ours.
Today you would have been 14 and I miss you so much. Taifun is a wonderful puppy I love him but he will never replace my Kimiko. We took title on our Colorado home today; you never saw it but you were in our hearts and dreams because you always enjoyed Colorado so much.
Today was a day I have dreaded since you left us. Joshi is now with you at the Rainbow Bridge; look after him the way you did for the 13+ years in this world. He was old and tired and so frail. He suffered something like a stroke and could no longer walk. He never fully recovered from your leaving. Now he will be the beautiful Shiba boy we all remember and the two will have each other while you wait for us. I love you both.
Today is one year since we sent you to the Bridge. Whether time heals all wounds remains to be seen. It was the right decision; you were suffering, unable to eat, drink or sleep; but God, we handled it badly and you knew and fought to stay with us. Even with Taifun, wonderful little guy, I miss you so much. I am afraid I may never fully get over the guilt I feel for the manner of your passing. I hope and pray you have forgiven me Kimi. Irmi says we would never have gotten such a wonderful dog to fill your space if the "powers" had not recognized our love for you and Joshi. Forgive me and watch over us.
My God, it seems like only yesterday that we made that ill-fated botched mercy trip to that poor excuse of a Vet in Hampton. I seem to be unable to get over it -- that is why I haven't written since the anniversary of the event. It is not that I don't think of you; I look up daily at the urn that contains your earthly remains and long for the day that we will be reunited at the Bridge. I know it could be many years. Irmi understands that sentiment. Taifun and Sammy are wonderful boys; I suspect that I shall never have another girl Shiba; she could never measure up to my expectations. Then again..... Colorado is wonderful and you would enjoy keeping the boys in line. Keep watching over us with Joshi.
There is just no way around this date; I was signing a contract and there it was, the 3/19 date. I looked at Irmi and she nodded and said "I wasn't going to mention it". Time stood still and it was 5 years ago and the tears came.
Please also visit Joshi (We-Sedso Joshe).