Kodiak Golden Sunshine
April 29, 1997 -- January 12, 2010
When we brought home our second golden retriever puppy, we knew our family was finally complete. We just didn't know for sure what the little guy's name was going to be!
The soft, sweet, fluffy 8-week-old boy who looked like a polar bear cub had won our hearts immediately, but he had to go for a whole week without a name. We couldn't decide what to call him!
After struggling to choose just the right moniker for our new little one, we decided to continue with the island theme we began when we named our first golden after the island of Aruba. We learned that Kodiak Island in Alaska is known for its sunshine, but it's a gentle, quiet place, compared to the hot and saucy Aruba. And since Kodiak is also a kind of bear, it was a perfect fit for our sweet, gentle boy cub, whom we were already calling "little bear"! So Kodiak it was, Kody for short.
Our precious little blonde was just as much fun as his sister Ruby had been as a puppy, but his personality was quite the opposite. She moved fast; he ambled along at his own pace. She loved to play; he loved to eat. Ruby wasn't crazy about Dan's drums; Kody loved music and often stood or laid right next to Dan as he played. Ruby was content to spend time with our family; Kody lived to make friends with everyone he saw (people, dogs, cats, squirrels, horses, llamas, stuffed animals... you get the idea!).
Kody brought a sense of peaceful joy to our home... and lots of laughter! Every day of his life he did at least one cute or funny thing that made us laugh. If I remember any of the many lessons Kody taught us, I hope it will be these two: laughter is golden, and being a good friend is more important than anything.
Kody adored his big sister from the moment he arrived at our home. He followed her around, did whatever she did and tried his best to snuggle up next to her when she napped. (This might have worked better had he not also jumped on her head during a few of those naps...)
Fortunately, he also loved his "mama," who was thrilled when he wanted to cuddle. He didn't even mind being called a mama's boy!
Kody's sweet, gentle, intuitive spirit was too big for us to keep to ourselves, so he and I became a registered Pet Partners therapy team through Delta Society. We volunteered for six years with a local hospice where we provided companionship for hospice patients and their families and stress relief for the staff.
We also worked with children's grief groups -- Kody's favorite job -- giving love and comfort (and doggie kisses) to kids who had lost a parent. Kody adored kids and he was wonderful with them! He always gave everything he had on group night and was often fast asleep even before our car left the parking lot on the way home.
He often brought his work home, taking care of any of us when we were sad or sick. Once when Ruby was convalescing after jumping off a high river bank and injuring her knees, Kody took it upon himself to try to make her feel better. He went out into the yard, found Ruby's favorite swim toy and brought it to her, depositing it right on her front paws as she lay resting on her bed.
Being the social animal he was, Kody loved our family outings to the lake (more to socialize with strangers and search for disgusting snacks on the beach than to actually swim!) and he loved to play tug and chase-and-wrestle games with Ruby.
He was so excited when visitors came to our house -- whether human or canine. He even greeted delivery people with great joy. We have no doubt that he would have welcomed robbers with the same enthusiasm. Fortunately, he never had the opportunity!
Most of all, Kody loved to eat. It was his hobby, his greatest joy and, as he got older, his primary pastime! He loved eating corn right off the cob, licking dishes and plates, getting treats on our walks, and "working" us tirelessly until we finally relented, opening the cookie jar in the pantry for him. He really loved sharing Dan's food -- especially when he ate things like bakery-fresh bread, cheese sticks, sardines and popcorn. (Don't worry, all his meals were healthy!)
I have so many favorite memories of little things about Kody that made me smile: the way his tail would wag as he stood at the front window watching dogs walk by, the way he would "lick off the stress of the day" by gently kissing Dan's whole face daily after work, his "cry bark" that signaled his need for help climbing the icy steps of our deck, the soft cries in the morning that announced it was time for us to get out of bed, the snort proclaiming that I'd been at the computer too long and it was walk time!
Most of all, I will miss the way he looked so intently into my eyes. He loved it when I talked to him and I did it often. I know he wished he could talk to me, too!
We had fun celebrating Kody's birthday each year, mostly because he got sooooo excited about his cake or whatever special treats we had for him. And cake wasn't the only food he liked. I would often put down the bags of fresh veggies I'd just picked up from the farm, only to find somebody helping himself to the greenery!
Halloween was Kody's favorite holiday, because the doorbell kept ringing and kids came to visit! He didn't even mind wearing his court jester costume... well, for a little while anyway!
During Kody's final two years, he lived with lymphosarcoma, a cancer of the lymph system that is disturbingly common in goldens. But the diagnosis of 6-9 months that shocked and devastated us didn't even faze our brave little boy! He just kept on going -- for two more years! -- like a canine Energizer bunny. We supported him as best we could with acupuncture, herbs, nutritional supplements and healthy foods. And even though he had days in his final months when he didn't play much and it seemed as though he didn't feel very well, he never became impatient or grumpy. He never growled or snapped at anyone. He just wagged his tail and smiled that "Kody smile" right to the end.
Kody never turned down a walk, either. Even in his final weeks when he was having trouble breathing freely and his legs didn't work as well as they used to, he was ALWAYS excited to make his rounds through the neighborhood and greet his friends. He amazed us daily.
The only time during his illness we were really worried that he might leave us was in the first few months after we lost Ruby last May. He was so terribly, unbearably sad that just looking at his crestfallen face made us cry. He slept a lot and lost his smile for awhile, but he eventually picked himself up, gave himself a little shake and proceeded to take care of us.
Kody was the sweetest, gentlest, happiest dog I've ever known, all of which made him a wonderful companion and an excellent therapy dog. And when Ruby died, he became OUR therapy dog, even as he was fighting cancer himself. It was a big job for a little dog, but he did it beautifully and without complaint.
We were so grateful that God allowed him to stay with us through our first Christmas without Ruby. (It was really hard to celebrate without her -- she so loved opening presents!)
On Kody's last Christmas, it was a gloriously sunny day in Seattle. So Kody donned his Santa hat and we went down to the lake for a walk. I am sooo glad we took the camera. Little did we know that the above three photos would be among the last ones we would ever take of him, because he would be gone a few short weeks later. And we weren't the only ones taking photos -- several people stopped us along the way and asked if they could take pictures of our little Santa Paws. Kody was still making people smile right to the end of his life.
On Kody's last day, his friend Mandy (another golden) came for a visit. Ever true to his friendly nature, he got on his feet, wagged his tail and nuzzled her. We wondered if he was telling her he loved her one last time. He also never lost his appetite, making the journey from this world to the next with three scrambled eggs, two cheese sticks, a slice of peanut butter toast and a piece of his favorite fresh-baked bread in his tummy!
Kody had a full, happy life and he made our lives fuller and happier, too. And although our lives will never be the same without him, we journey forward with a heart full of precious memories and priceless life lessons. The privilege of caring for such a special creature has made us richer, kinder and better people.
Sleep peacefully, baby bear. You're forever in our hearts. (To read Ruby's story, click here.)
"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion." — Author Unknown