this was our last photo.
today is a few days from what would be kaiser's 15th birthday. i thought of him this morning as i wrote to a friend who was asking for help with her pit bull. kaiser was half pit bull. all perfect. he was the worst puppy who grew to become better than chocolate. he grew into my soul. all those years i spent alone, trying to figure out where i wanted to be, what i wanted to do, and who i wanted to love, i wasn't really alone. my sweetest brown boy was always there.
kaiser left me on may 7, 2012. he was 12. my first and only human child—my boy who was all creases and rolls and perfectly puffed lips—was four months old. i lost one great love as i was just getting to know another. this was the season of my life. in the year before, i had left behind career, friendships, and a time zone. the earth opened up and sucked me into the hollows. what else to do but feel my way back out. the light comes and goes along the way. my kaiser, he was a bright spot ready to fade. i guess it was as good a time as any.
i didn't know it was coming, unless you count the moment in the vet's office when the phrase mass in his lungs and my heart collided. the vet said i could take him home for the weekend and bring him back monday. no. unlike my past—twisted up with goodbyes stretched far too long—i did this one right. i let go when it was best for both of us.
the grass was so green outside the vet's office, which was tucked away in an alley. it was just me and my kaiser out there in the rectangular patch of yard about a week overdue for mowing. as i was trying to take a picture, i accidentally hit the video button on my phone. i still have that video. only visible is the grass, and only audible is kaiser's labored breathing. i've listened to it a few times. not many.
kaiser wasn't the most manageable dog. he didn't obey commands very well, if at all. he took forever to find the perfect spot to poop, which was often with his brown butt propped up against a fence or a bush or a tree. he would run away at the mere hint of opportunity, and i'd have to chase him until he was done playing hide and seek. he whined at my bed and my desk chair until i did whatever particular thing it was that he needed, which could only be determined upon me doing a bunch of things in hopes one was right.
as i evolved from college girl to curious woman, kaiser went along for the ride. back roads were our way. we hit some dead ends, found some great friends, and made memories a million.
this morning as i was remembering kaiser, as i was missing him terribly, i thought about the lessons. they're always there, of course. vivid in hindsight. i spent a lot of time by myself in the years kaiser was with me. i lived alone; i was mostly single; i moved far away from west virginia and my family. powerful years that reconfigured the shape of my world. the relationship we had, unlike the love between humans, needed no language to communicate its depth. in all its silence, that relationship opened my heart, which often becomes occluded by direct communication with other humans.
the love of a dog allows you to behold togetherness in a unique way. from kaiser i learned that perfect circumstances and perfect behavior don't define love. maybe love is about being there at a time when you can love each other in the most perfectly imperfect way possible. it might last for a very long time; it might not.
purpose: sometimes i turn up my nose at the significance we assign that word. yet when i think of kaiser, i know he fulfilled an incredible purpose in my life. the sorrow of loss is of course unwelcome, but i take comfort in knowing our timing was just right.
thank you for all you never knew you did. i will love you always, my sweetest friend.