Earlier this year, on June 10, 2018, we lost a dog that was very precious to me.
I’ve always LOVED that name. He was a dog that completely stole my heart…and broke it when he left. I’ve wanted to write this blog for a long time, but I just couldn’t. It just hurt too much and I couldn’t seem to get the words out. As I was looking at pictures of him this week and thinking again of writing this blog, I came across dozens and dozens of photos of him out hiking with me, running with me, snowshoeing with me and laying on the couch with me. I really, really, really loved this dog and it was difficult to let him go. One of the posts I came across was this one from a few years ago:
Today is obviously a day of introspective thought for me. And as I sit on the porch and look at this Kipling dog of mine I think about how circumstances brought him here.
I was not prepared or equipped to take in another dog. Nevermind two. But when one of my best friends died unexpectedly, the two dogs he left behind were of major concern to me. Pat’s family was, of course, also concerned and none of us had a perfect solution.
With four dogs of my own, taking in two more seemed insane. But I will tell you that the past year and a half with this dog in my life has been really fulfilling. He has so many angles and so many different nuances to him. Every day has been an adventure, and a learning experience, and there has never ever been a day that we have regretted taking him in here.
Not only does he keep a part of Pat Whitacre alive for me….but he reminds me so often of Pat’s words, and his lessons and his selfless spirit.
Kipling may be the most affectionate dog we’ve ever had. People that know him may be shocked to hear that …as they know his propensity for “bite first, think later” but when you recognize where it comes from you find that this is a wounded soul that just needed some patience and understanding. Pat saw that. Pat recognized who he was and how much he had to offer. And now I do too. He really is special.
And on days when I’m feeling melancholy, I like to look at Kipling and feel good about who is is today. Because Pat recognized the heart he had …and because Tommy and I took a chance on this dog and it has paid off in spades. He is one of the best dogs to ever come into my life.
He is a really good dog and he has grown a lot, and taught me a great deal, and he has really given me a lot to think about.
I know Pat saw this dog’s heart. I’m glad I do too. Kip is an old dog now but I’m quite sure he has a few more years left to show us a thing or two. I’m glad Pat adopted him and recognized who he was. I love having him here. He is infinitely special.
All of that was true. We used to call Kipling by his official Tommy-given “latin” name “Nippus Biteus” and then there was the famous exchange where Tommy texted me that Kipling was eating something he shouldn’t be and this was how it went:
When Pat died and Kipling and Timber came here I thought that yes, I would like them and take good care of them. But they would be Pat’s dogs…that were “staying” here. 🙂 Who knew I would absolutely fall in love with this amazing dog.
He has had a terrible life. Beaten almost every day of his life from 1 year to 5 years old. Neighbors reported hearing him screaming and crying for hours. Almost every bone in his body from his ribs back….broken from abuse. His pelvis shattered when his “owner” would grab him by his front paws and slam him into a concrete wall. (Reported by his girlfriend) No medical treatment ever sought for him. None.
When at the age of six he finally rebelled and attacked his owner and almost ripped his throat out, he was declared a “dangerous dog” and ordered euthanized. Really? Wow.
Thank god for Best Friends in Utah who stepped up to take him in, and a kind judge who saw the reality of the situation and offered Kipling clemency. And above all, thank god for Pat Whitacre who saw Kipling for who he REALLY was and who he had the potential to be. And for ultimately adopting him and welcoming him into his home. For truly saving his life and giving him a real life.
Still, prior to being adopted, life didn’t go easy for Kipling in his new sanctuary at Best Friends. He had many major medical issues, one being that he could not defecate on his own. His hind end had been so severely damaged that the medical staff at Best Friends mostly had to manually perform a “bowel movement” for Kipling. He underwent multiple surgeries for it, but in the end there was little hope he would ever be able to go normally, or walk normally. But someone forgot to tell Kipling that, and while he struggled a great deal, he would “get it all out” eventually, and he learned to walk on his shattered pelvis and shattered back legs although for the rest of his life he would always more “hop” than walk independently with those legs.
Over the years though he actually got better and better. When he joined my family I didn’t think it would be possible for him to come running or hiking but one day when he wouldn’t move from the car, and insisted on getting in, I decided to take him and just turn around when he started faltering. We did 6.5 miles that day and only turned around because it was getting dark. He was motivated, he wanted to go, and from then on I took him on most of my hikes and runs.
But prior to that, at Best Friends he was still struggling. Notes in his chart showed that because of his fearful, skittish and yet also submissive behavior with other dogs he often became a target of their bullying. He loved other dogs and wanted to be with them but he had spent his life without other dogs and really had no idea how to interact socially with them or behaviorally. He was attacked and beat up repeatedly no matter how many different groups they tried him with. Finally they moved him to a solo run for his own safety.
His aggressiveness and distrust of humans though was still a very big problem.
I have his chart from that time and it is peppered with comments like:
“Neurotic. Needs to gain some trust”.
“Tends to have the type of personality where he gets picked on.”
“Bared his teeth and wouldn’t allow himself to be leashed.”
“Has major collar-related aggression.”
“When returned to run tried biting me when I was trying to get the leash off.”
“Does not make eye contact.”
“Overly stimulated, needs a lot of time to settle.”
“Cannot live with Denali, Tito, Nero, Hairy, Nito….(and the list went on).”
Best Friends asked Pat to focus on him and make him a project dog. See if anything could be done, because staff could not even open his gate to feed him without him trying to bite them. And so Pat did. Kipling was on a lot of sedatives and anti-anxiety medication and Pat appealed to the medical board to remove him from these drugs, stating that they made him not feel normal and was enhancing the problem. Pat said if they agreed to allow him to take Kipling off all of these medications, he would take him home on weekends to continue to work with him one-on-one.
Within a few weeks, Pat was walking Kipling around and Kipling was interacting with people and other dogs and even cats, with very little issues. He still had occasional incidents – one person in Pat’s office space was Kipling’s favorite and he always ran to her to greet her when they came in on Monday morning. But one day she jumped suddenly at something and Kipling jumped up and bit her badly. The medical board put him back on his anti-anxiety medication. After a few months, Pat once again arranged a meeting and appealed the decision. Once again, they granted his request and took Kipling off the medications. Six uneventful months went by and Kipling was the model dog. He still had issues but with some patience and understanding he was doing very well.
A potential adopter had heard about his story and decided she wanted to adopt him. Pat had lengthy discussions with her and they both decided it would be a good match. She travelled a long distance and planned to stay a week to work with Pat and Kipling. On the last day she was preparing the back of her station wagon. Kipling was in there laying on pillows and blankets. She felt he looked “uncomfortable” and she tried to pull and shift the blankets/pillows under Kipling. Kipling promptly bit her arm.
And that was the end.
Kipling back on medication.
His chart shows that once again Pat appealed the decision.
This time it was denied.
Kipling would stay on medication, likely for the rest of his life.
The next, and LAST notation you see in Kipling’s chart is the very next day after the decision.
It says simply “Pat Whitacre adopted Kipling”.
And that was it. About a year or so after this, Pat came to work for me at the animal sanctuary I ran. Kipling and Timber along with him. When Pat went away he either took the dogs, or I would take care of them. I really loved both of his dogs and they did really well with me too. I never had a single issue with Kipling.
Pat never entirely trusted him with people, but once he told you to be cautious, he let you be intelligent enough to heed his words and he didn’t hover over you about it. Kipling and I became fast friends. When Pat died, I wasn’t sure what we would do exactly. Tommy and I had four dogs and frankly Tommy was great about me with all these animals, but he had ONE and only one request. He never wanted to live with a dog that he had to be afraid of. He never wanted to live with a dog that would bite him. He didn’t care if I brought home sick dogs, medical issues dogs, disabled dogs – but he didn’t want to live in a house with a dog he had to be concerned would hurt us. And so here was Kipling.
In the first few weeks after Pat died, I would leave his dogs in my office at night. One night we had a very late truckload of dogs coming in and my friend and adoption coordinator Sue was getting them. I asked if she would let Kipling and Timber out for me as I would normally go over there about 11 pm and then come back at 6 am then go back home and get ready for work, so that the dogs could go out in a decent time span. She said she would, as they were both pretty good with her. I got a call about 4 am. Sue had been in the office for over an hour, she was exhausted, she hated to call me, but Kipling wouldn’t let her get the leash off him. Because of his collar issues, we used a slip over the head leash, so you didn’t have to clip near his collar. She was able to get him out, and back in, but he was baring his teeth at her trying to get the leash off. She couldn’t leave him there because it was a slip lead and would tighten if he got caught on something. She had no choice but to wake me up. I said it was fine, and got up to go in and get him. Tommy got up too because it was the middle of a snowstorm and he was awake now anyway. The odd thing about Kipling was that from day one he absolutely LOVED Tommy. LOVED him! Would baby cry/squeal when he saw him and throw himself on the ground. Tommy never had any issues with him at all.
So we went in and I was so tired…it was snowing like crazy and Tommy suggested we just bring them home and keep them in the basement (away from our dogs) for the weekend. I was so grateful…and then something crazy happened. All my dogs, even my two dogs who mostly HATED other dogs, were absolutely fine with Kipling and Timber. And both of those dogs were fine with our other four. And sooooo….they stayed.
We never had any incidents with Kipling. Well he bit my friend Jim once, but Jim raises bears, so let’s face it, he probably smelled like a bear and knowing Jim, he probably had it coming. But it wasn’t too bad and Jim didn’t even seem to notice.
We did have one issue with Kipling that we had to warn people about though. He LOVED car rides. He LOVED adventures and going places. If you were unloading something or left your car door open, you were done. Kipling would go right in! There was NO WAY to get him out. None. He would show you every single one of his teeth and there was no way to grab his collar or pull him out. You had no choice but to at least drive him down the street and around the block. Then when you got back and opened the door he would happily jump out, wagging his tail.
I wish that I could say his passing was easy, but like much of Kipling’s life, it didn’t go very easily for him, and that haunts me a great deal. I hope that he went knowing how much we loved him and how much of my heart he was taking with him. And how much of it, he still has. I often wonder what kind of dog he COULD have been for someone early on, had he only been given the chance. Because he was one of the best dogs I ever had.
RIP Kipling. I miss you SO VERY MUCH, and I imagine I always will. Say hello to Pat for me and tell him when I get to heaven, you’re MY dog. After all, I had you much longer than he did…and I can’t imagine anyone could have loved you any more than me. So….that’s it. Enjoy your visit, but it’s my arms you’re spending eternity in.