April 27, 2009

This is not an easy story to tell.  Kenya has been gone just a little over a year now, and in preparation for this post, I went to an old blog of mine where I had written about her being lost, and then her death.  There were so many tiny details I had forgotten, and they all came flooding back to me as I read.

And I type now with the tears tumbling down my cheeks…the pain is just as raw now as it was the day she was found, dead.

I wont be able to sit here and write this story at one go.  This is going to take time.  A long time I think.  It still hurts beyond words.  Beyond…beyond any pain imaginable, unless you’ve experienced the sudden death of a beloved pet yourself.

All of my work now is focused on doing every thing I can to benefit Pit Bulls–from education to rescue.  It’s a long and difficult road, but every step is so worth the effort, because I do it in memory of my beloved Kenya.  I do it all in her honor, a special pup who was full of love, whose life was proof positive that the myths surrounding Pit Bulls are just that–myths!

Please join me on this journey, and please help if you can.

Kenya’s Story

Part 1  The Pre-Kenya days

Many, many years before I met Kenya, I met another rescued pooch  which was destined to change my narrow mind about certain breeds of dogs.   It was she who opened my heart, so that when Kenya popped into my life, I no longer judged by the Pitbull media stereotypes, but by the individual personality.

My children and I had just returned from living for a year in Egypt, and I’d gotten a job teaching in Philadelphia.  I’d never been in that city before, and the school administration was very helpful in locating me a house to rent.  The school, frankly, was located in a ghetto in the Northern Liberties area, and I found a house within walking distance of work.   I guess I was living then in a fool’s paradise, having just come from Egypt where every place is relatively safe, and living in a ghetto–from a security standpoint– is not much different than living in a high-class area.  There was almost no chance of being harassed, attacked, robbed or worse in Egypt.  After a year of living like that, I’d forgotten about the dangers in the USA.  My innocence was short-lived however.

I found myself living across the street from a notorious Philly drug dealer.  If you know anything about northern Philly, you know the urban areas are mostly tiny streets lined with old rowhouses.  You can practically lean out the window and shake hands with your neighbor across the street.  Thus it was hard to ignore the goings-on at the dealer’s house, people coming and going at all hours of the say and night, people who even now make me shudder to remember them.  The dealer and his family lived without fear of intervention from the police.  I remember one day the police were called to settle some disturbance the neighbor’s had with the dealer–the police refused to come!  Many calls were made throughout the day in an an effort to bring the police, but they were ignored.  I found out later from an officer moonlighting as a security guard at a local market that the no officer was willing to risk his life–or his pension–by going up against the dealer.  We were basically at the mercy of the dealer’s antics.  Days went on and it came to be known that the dealer had an enemy.  I wont get into specifics but it was during this time, when my family and I were feeling particularly vulnerable, that Rottie came into my life.

My husband and youngest son had to run an errand one winter Saturday morning.  It was snowing hard and on the way they passed a Rottweiler sitting on our street corner.  My husband was a dog lover and took note that she had no collar or tags.  She was a big, beautiful girl, just sitting there looking forlorn as the snow piled up around her feet.  He told my son that if she was still there when they got back, he’d stop to investigate.  When he found her still there after an hour’s time, he bought a can of dog food, opened it and lured her into our van with it.  She was ravenous and ate the whole big can.  And then they brought her home.  To me.  Honestly, I was scared to death of her and quite appalled.  A stray dog!  And a huge Rottweiler too!  What were they thinking???  In addition we  had 2 cats and I just couldnt imagine life with this monster in the house.  I was woefully ignorant–these were the days before Pitbulls were the media demons–back then it was Rotties and Dobermans.  I wouldnt even consider having this dangerous dog in my house!

My husband and son took me aside and spoke quietly.  They told me I seriously needed to reconsider.  There was something going on that I didn’t know about.  Seems the neighbors the previous night had seen a sniper with a rifle perched on the roof next door, aiming a gun at the dealer’s house.  Someone wanted to off the dealer.  To convince me they were telling the truth, they asked me to look at the dealer’s house.  There on the front window was a target, with the words “BRING IT ON” scrawled across it!

The only way the sniper could have reached the roof of the neighbor’s house was by climbing up onto the roof of the first rowhouse at the end of the street, and walking across the roofs.  That meant he had also been on our roof!  What was most frightening to me was the fact that our house was the only 3-story on the block.  That meant the sniper had crossed via the second floor roof just outside of our bathroom window.  He could have easily, had he wanted to, entered our home!  It didnt take me long to realize we might need protection.  Or at the very least, the dog warning us that someone was on our property.  So I reluctantly agreed to take the dog in, but still looked at her as if she were a danger.  The media had scared me to death with story after story of Rotties killing children and attacking for no reason.  Just exactly like the bad press that now surrounds the Pitbull.

My husband and sons bathed the dog, bought her food, a collar and a leash, and generally had a lot of fun welcoming her into the family.  I, however remained scared and skeptical.  I worked up the nerve to pet her, noticing she had huge nipples and a drooping stomach.  Someone told us she had probably recently given birth, and when the pups were old enough to survive without her milk, she was probably turned out into the street–no longer needed or wanted.

As an animal lover, I wanted to love this dog.  She was the first dog I’d owned in years, preferring to keep cats which were easy to travel with as we went back and forth between Egypt and the USA.  I began to do research on the internet about taking in a stray dog, and as luck would have it made the aquaintance of a woman who bred Rotties.  She calmed my fears and told me they made wonderful pets–among the many other facts with which she enlightened me–and so I came to love this stray girl with all my heart!  I was able to get to know her as a dog with a distinct personality, rather than fearing her as a member of a breed with a bad reputation.  She certainly dispelled the myths I had once believed.  She became my companion and friend…she was family!

Part 2  A New Dog, Lulu

Fast forward a decade and I find myself facing an emergency.  I am called back to my hometown to care for a critically ill family member.  I leave my now high school age sons in the care of a friend to finish the school year, and I return home.  I am alone in a big house until my relative is released from the hospital.  He had always had a dog, but the last one died at a ripe old age a few months before my relative took ill.  Neighbors told me they didnt think it was a good idea to stay there without the protection a dog could bring and I agreed.  I set out for the local animal shelters to find the biggest and scariest looking dog I could adopt.  And it was then I met Lulu.

Lulu was a mix of what I would later learn was half Akita and half Norwegian Elkhound.  She was huge…nearly 100 pounds.  She had the coloring of a German Shepherd, the fine featured face of an Elkhound, the fur and tail of an Akita, and the personality of an angel.  Amazingly, she hadnt even been in the shelter 24 hours.  Apparently her owner had a hip problem and found it increasingly difficult to walk her.  She was a big dog who needed exercise and he couldnt handle her anymore.  When I was taken to see her, she came right up to the front of the cage, tail wagging furiously and with a big smile on her face!  She was licking my hand through the bars, her back end all atwitter, and her eyes were telling me “Pick me, pick me, oh pleeasssssse pick me!

The adoption counselor suggested I might want to take her for a walk to see if I could handle her and so off we went down the alley in back of the shelter.  She had been leash trained–she didnt tug but she had and still has this funny habit of weaving back and forth in front of me, sniffing the ground.  She was thrilled to be outside and there were just so many smells to smell.  A big world out there and so much to explore!  She was just pleased as punch.  So for $60, I got the best friend I ever had.  She is absolutely my loving and devoted friend.

All the dogs my family previous owned were family dogs–they didnt take to one or the other of us-they “belonged” to us all.  But Lulu was different.  She was and totally is attached to me only.  She’s most comfortable if she’s laying at my feet.  She wont go to anyone with out my permission.  When I’ve had to leave her with friends, they swear to God she looks all over the house for me, then lays down in the spot I last sat, and gets tears in her eyes!  Do dogs cry?  I never believed it but my friends say it is true.

Everyone who knows us, knows she is totally devoted to me.  There have been some circumstances where I was in danger, and she has put herself between me and the offender–be it man or beast–and barked threateningly.  I feel so safe with Lulu and cant imagine ever having a dog like her again.  She’s 10 years old now.  I got her when she was two, and I fear the day when she may no longer be with us.  I cant imagine my life without Lulu.

When we made the decision to move back to Egypt, our flight plans revolved totally around Lulu.  As big as she is, there was only one airplane that could handle the size of her crate.  Only Northwest/KLM could provide that.  So we took a long, 3-legged journey to get here, and I have to say that airline was great!  They have a wonderful Pet Program and the pet hotel in Amsterdam was great.  I wouldnt hesitate to use them again.

Lulu hates cats.  If an errant stray happens into our garden, she flies after them.  Escaping through the iron bars of the fence here is their only reprieve.  Needless to say this doesnt happen often and so far they’ve managed to get out unharmed.  And she gets a good workout barking like mad at the donkey and horse carts that pass by our gate every day.  Lulu herself just isnt an animal lover, which is why I was surprised when she took to Kenya so readily.  Ah, they were a pair–for the short few years they were together.  Lulu the guardian…and Kenya the clown! To be continued…

Part 3  Kenya, the Clown Dog


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: