Today we lost a member of our family.
We first saw Kita as a tiny brown puppy in the Pets Paradise at Hurstville. B desperately wanted to get a dog. I was not so eager for the responsibility, because I had to farewell too many dogs in the past when growing up as they were not suited to the family environment or due to accidents. We had poured through books, visited breeders and dog shows, looking for the right fit.
B loved to pop into the pet shop to admire the pups whenever we passed by. Here was this tiny, cute bundle of fluff that we immediately fell in love with. But I was cautious. We’d actually visited a Japanese Spitz breeder to learn more about what seemed to be a perfect breed for us, but what was this Finnish Lapphund that was the other half of his genetic makeup? I’d never heard of them before.
The shopkeeper brought out an encyclopedia of dog breeds and we looked up Finnish Lapphund. Also a Spitz breed, the book suggested no concerns.
“Can we please get him?” B pleaded.
Just looking at those cute blue eyes, the scallywag puppy face, sitting alone in his box. How could I refuse?
He was too young to take home immediately, so we paid the deposit and agreed to return in a couple of weeks. While we waited, someone else offered an even larger deposit, but, this is where contract law prevails!
We named our new puppy Kita in honour of his Japanese and Finnish heritage. It means north in Japanese and mouth in Finnish. He was indeed a mouthy pup, chewing apart virtually any toy given to him, but doing it with such relish and delight that we just had to buy him more. The only exception was his first toy, a soft ball. Kita gave that toy love, would chase and return, even tossing it up to himself in the back garden and running it down.
Right from the start Kita was a Good Dog. Toilet training proved very easy and he naturally heeled when walking. Kita was stubborn, but he did well at puppy preschool, though it took him until the last couple of lessons to make friends. He reminded us a lot of ourselves.
Through raising Kita I developed the self-confidence to believe that I could look after a human child. When Kita was two years old we had Alex. Kita was always very good with his new companion, keeping an eye on him, showing patience and love, making sure he kept up with Alex when we walked together.
Kita and I developed a special bond of love and trust. As he grew older he developed separation anxiety when I was not around, staring into walls in confusion, crying out for me to direct him, restless when I was not around.
It was exhausting, especially as Kita lost bladder control. There were times when I would have to take him out every half hour to do his ablutions, unable to do my own thing.
At the start of 2020 we took Kita on only his second holiday with us, driving down to Geelong via Gundagai. While spending the night at the Gundagai Motel he was too distracted by the noisy trucks, the smoke and the dust to obey my requests to do his business. But after the first night at the rental he calmed down and learned to enjoy his holiday.
Knowing that he was aging we tried to give Kita the best we could for his remaining time. 2020 complied by forcing us to work from home. Kita would seat himself at my feet below the desk or spend his time sunning himself on the deck. Each night I sat with him until he fell asleep.
Kita loved Christmas. We would present him with his gifts, toys and treats wrapped in paper. Afterwards he would hunt around beneath the Christmas tree, sniffing at any remaining presents.
This Christmas we wrapped his favourite treats, carefully broken up, and each of us presented them to him. Then for dinner he shared leftovers, fresh salmon, chicken, roast vegetables and rice, mixed with his biscuits. For the first time in a while his bowl was completely clean.
We gave him all the love in the world and he was happy.
Today we arrived home from a drive to St Albans and Wisemans Ferry to find Kita floating in the pool. He was fourteen years, four months old.
Though his body was stiff, the hair on his chest was still soft and comforting. I am so sad that I will never again have the chance to run my fingers through that chest hair as his head rests on my lap, his eyes shut in pleasure.
Twenty-twenty has saved its worst until last.
Rest in peace Kita. You were a good boy. The best.
Kita truly loved his toys. At night we would sit him atop a blanket at the end of our bed, along with his current favourite toy. He would chew it, snuggle it, but if he pushed it off he would cry for us to pick it up, or jump down after it and expect us to carry him up again.
When I took Kita downstairs I would often watch him follow me, an eager long brown furry fox or red panda, and think what an amazing, intelligent, beautiful friend he was, an animal, yes, but something more. A true member of the family.