Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Death in the Family

Traveling. Phone rings at an odd time. Not a good sign. Not good news, at all. My tearful sister informs me that Kody has died. Kody was our beloved 11-year old Rottweiler. She was the bravest and most cowardly dog I have ever met. She was also the fiercest and most gentle; the smartest and the most stupid. The sanest and the craziest member of the family. She was, however, always happy, always loyal, and my best friend in travels around the world. She was a 100% goofball Rottweiler who, at her prime, weighed in at 110 lbs of lean, mean muscle, tooth, claw, and slobber. I will miss her greatly.

We got her when she was barely six weeks old from a slightly disreputable breeder in a poor Asian country. He told me he was bringing me a Lab, and showed up with a Russian-born Rottweiler, instead. My daughter fell in love with her instantly, and my dreams of having a hunting dog went down in flames. No way was my wife going to allow two dogs. One dog in the Foreign Service is already a logistical and financial nightmare. So, I had on my hands a "dangerous" breed, the kind that would make a delicate Marin County resident swoon in terror, and gun urge his Prius to its top speed (0 to 48 mph in 95 seconds, if the wind is favorable) to escape her jaws of death.

Kody's first official act as Diplodog was to eat my daughter's international school-owned recorder flute. That cost me a few bucks. Then she ate the corner off an embassy-owned carpet; that, too, cost me a few bucks. But, she was part of the family, and all was forgiven. As soon as she was eligible, I took her to a local obedience school run by a Filipino diplomat.  Kody was expelled from school for being too stupid. She learned to sit and shake paws, and that was it. She had much more interest in establishing herself as the Alpha queen of the crowd.  Constant fighting, snarling. The Filipino said, "She's too much trouble for what I charge. Go!" We went.

Bomb blasts did not disturb her in the least. We had a suicide bomber scatter himself to the winds and into the trees just a couple blocks away, and Kody barely acknowledged it. On the other hand, night-time thunder was something else. She became a quivering puppy at the sound of thunder, and had to be let into our bedroom and constantly reassured.

Her mock battles with the large monitor lizard that lived under the garage were legendary. That scary looking, but more or less harmless reptile would crawl out at certain hours and splay itself out on the driveway and absorb some rays. Kody did  not like this. She learned quickly that the lizard had a nasty whip-like tail, which needed to be avoided. Kody would walk slowly around the lizard, just out of range of the tail, barking and snarling, then declaring herself victorious when the lizard would eventually return to his hole under the garage. This went on almost every day. The guards thought it hilarious. We did not have cable TV.

Transferred to another country in Asia and Kody came along. There she quickly established herself as the invasive species.  The Embassy assigned me an enormous house with a huge yard full of feral cats, or as we came to discover, "targets." Kody decided to upset the ecological balance in that yard.  She hunted down and killed cat after cat. One she pulled off the backyard wall by the tail, and before any of us could stop her she had broken the thing's back. The disappearance of the cats knocked the ecosystem off balance. Rats and roosters appeared. Roosters. I hate roosters. The neighbor on one side had the nasty hobby of raising show roosters. Some of these beasts were quite large, colorful, and had long tails. They roamed free in the neighbor's yard and would jump up on the stone wall that separated the houses. They often would jump down onto our side, apparently feeling safe now that the cats were gone. They apparently had no experience with a Rottweiler. Kody quickly figured out that the roosters were stupid and slow, and soon they were dead. She would sit for hours, statue-like behind a tree near the wall, waiting, waiting, for one of those noisy bird-brains to come over for a visit. When it happened she would spring forward, a brief shower of feathers would engulf the scene, and then Kody would go for a run around the yard with a dead rooster in her jaws.  She would then either bury the bird, or drop it off at the front door of the house. This ferocity was in marked contrast with her treatment of a colleague's little Corgi, whom she let tug on her ears, and nip at her paws, and even steal one of her prize bones. Kody seemed bemused by the little guy, and seemed to condescend to his claim to being the same species.

She was incredibly gentle with people. She loved kids and would allow them to perform all sorts of indignities on her, e.g., placing a tiara on her big broad head, putting pink booties on her, and bathing her with scented shampoo. She would play with the local guards who would take her along on their nocturnal rounds of the property--of course, she also often stole their lunch, and they would come asking me to replace it. That gentleness with people could switch off in a second. On one occasion, we had a lot of violence in the city, crowds going around chanting "Death to America!" I had to sit in my house, shotgun across my lap, Kody crouched like a lion, her ears flat against her head, at my feet waiting, waiting. I could feel, rather than hear, the low, deep growl that vibrated from Kody. It filled the darkened room, and made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Anybody coming through that door would have a major problem, and that would be before I could rack-a-round in the 870.

Well, she's gone. Killed by cancer and an incompetent veterinarian. Best friend I ever had. I will miss her.


  1. Sounds as if Kody did an excellent job of training you, the guards and your family. Wondering if the recorder-flute was a put-up job with your daughter possibly egging her on. No? You might be right.

  2. I'm so sorry. She sounds like an wonderful friend.

  3. Oh, you have described a very good dog. I'm sorry she's gone.

  4. My sympathies, she sounds like a wonderful pet and friend. People who don't have dogs I think don't ever really understand how deep a bond can form.

  5. I'm sorry for the loss of a much loved pet. I've always said that losing a pet is losing a family member. Deepest sympathies.

  6. Deepest condolences. The longer I live, the more I prize my dogs.

  7. Just because they're furry doesn't mean that they don't live in our hearts.

    My condolences.


  8. I believe Lloyd Alexander said: "She had no particular breed in mind, no unusual requirements. Except the special sense of mutual recognition that tells dog
    and human they have both come to the right place."

    Your dog - your story!

    Deepest symphaties.


  9. Damn. I am truly sorry.

  10. As a cat lover, I send my condolences. Dogs are fine as long as they're someone else's responsibility.