Thursday, July 11, 2013


Kaibab was never going to be an adventure dog voluntarily. While we lived in Flagstaff, it seemed like everyone around us had an adventure dog. We had Luna (our shop namesake) who despite being congenitally deaf and blind in one eye was always up for hours of mountain biking, trail running, hiking and hanging out in coffee shops and bars. There were dogs that loved going skiing and skijoring, there were river dogs that went for rafting trips down the Colorado River and other rivers in the Southwest and Rocky Mountains. There were all around adventure dogs that went everywhere with their owners forming a kind of unit, one never seen without the other. But that was not the life for Kaibab.

Kai and his litter mates were abandoned on the Navajo Reservation and made their way to a Humane Society display cage in a local pet shop. A typical mix of the herding dog breeds prevalent on the rez, they all appeared to be mixtures of border collie and heeler. I was smitten, Golden not so much. Kai was the last of his litter mates to get adopted, his odd mix of barrel shaped heeler body, skinny border collie legs and completely incongruous bat ears made our destinies hopelessly intertwined as I am a sucker for misfit animals (see: aforementioned deaf, half-blind dog, also see: crippled cat named Koshka, etc...).

We named him Kaibab, the Paiute indian name for the Grand Canyon, which translates to "mountain lying down". He did, in fact, resemble a mountain lying down as his physique tended toward bulbous and he was a layabout when it came to most things except food.  The tales of Kaibab's eating are legion and legendary. If you knew Kai, you had a story about him eating something usually something that you would have thought to be inedible.

Kai worked on the guideline that all things are edible until proven fatal. He ate half of a coke can, the leather piping from the driver's seat of our Land Cruiser FJ-60 (we saw the car jerking side to side and found him with the piping in his mouth like a spaghetti noodle, swallowing a bit then jerking more free from the seat...), he ate a quarter pound of fresh roasted coffee beans, he ate fabric, he ate rags, he slurped the grease laden sand that accumulated around the drain in the back of the Mexican restaurant we lived above. We found him in a 40 pound bag of dog food that was in our neighbor's mud room, his rear legs the only thing visible as they stuck straight out from the top of the open bag (it is estimated that he consumed at least 10 lbs. of the food before we got him out of the bag). He wandered into the 6 lanes of Route 66, his snout firmly buried in a Baskin-Robbins sundae cup, his eyes obstructed by it's rim as he lifted his snout upward and walked forward in an attempt to get his tongue just a little closer to the specks of hot fudge clinging to the bottom. He ate poop from every animal known to man, including man. His palate was as wide open as the world itself.

He ate until his stomach was distended and the only position of comfort he could possibly find was to be on his back, his spindly legs spread wide in all directions and a mixed moan of utter discomfort and sheer bliss whistled out of his nose. The vet explained to us that puppies deprived of food at a young age lost their ability to recognize fullness and reset their appetites to eat everything they possibly could whenever they had the chance. For Kai, every meal was potentially his last as far as he was concerned. We honestly thought that he would some day die due to something he ate, but that was not the case.

Kaibab was a reluctant mountain bike dog and an indifferent trail running companion. He went his pace regardless of what you were doing and had utterly no qualms about laying down in the middle of the trail and forcing you to sling him over your shoulders and carry him back to the car. He swam with the most graceless, stiff-legged Frankenstein like posture and only managed to survive being in the water due to his incredible buoyancy. He loved sleeping in the driving rain and dumping snow, his astonishingly thick fur impervious to water in any form. And yet, this runty mutt from the rez walked and ran through the beautiful mountains of the desert southwest, the Black Hills of South Dakota, the mountains of Montana, the rain forest on the Olympic Peninsula in the Pacific Northwest, the Red Rocks of Oregon, Yosemite and countless other places that we dragged him to.

I'll miss his breath that smelled like fresh turned soil after a rain. I'll miss watching him on his back wiggling around in a patch of grass where earthworms have risen to the surface, a satisfied tongue lolling out of his mouth and little grunty noises coming from his mouth. I'll miss "that damn dog" who always seemed to get into something he shouldn't in the pursuit of just one more morsel of food. I'll miss our reluctant adventure dog.
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