Chronos & Kairos Part 1
Updated: Feb 27, 2018
I loved him the moment I laid eyes on him. I knew he was the one for me (for us). He was the largest of his litter, completely black except for a little white streak on his chest. He was all puppy fat, bouncy, and flopsy. He wasn’t sure he wanted to be held, or picked up, or nuzzled. But as I talked sweetly to him, snuggling his soft fur on my face, he squirmed less & less. I held him all the way home in the car, while he cried and whimpered in his sleep after being separated from his mother and remaining litter mates.
We named him Kairos. Kairos is an ancient Greek word meaning the most right or opportune moment in time. This name fit him perfectly because he came at just the right moment in my life. A time when I needed something that needed me. Even though he was a Bouvier des Flanders and would grow to be a big strong fella, at 8 weeks old he needed a lot of love and care which I was happy to provide. Once home he snooped around and we introduced him to our other dog, Happy, a Welsh Terrier. Being with another dog made him feel comfortable. They got along great and played a bit. Even though he had a great day and was tired by the end of it, that night he did little howls of loneliness being separated from his family. The sounds broke my heart. I found myself murmuring to him “it’s okay, it’s okay honey.” It took a couple of nights but he finally started settling in.
The next morning was Easter Sunday and we had quite a bit of snow overnight. Watching Kairos outside in the fresh snow was hysterical. His adorable black fur was a stark contrast to the white snow. As he and Happy ran around the yard and he would fall, and bounce around, and then he would stop. He’d look up at the falling snow as if questioning “What is this stuff?” We knew he would be smart, the breed is known for that. The questioning look in his eyes though told me he was an old soul.
Everyday he made me laugh. The trick was not letting him know I was laughing at him. He was a sensitive pup and the look in his eyes when I was laughing was so heartbreaking that I’d have to look away. He quickly learned that one of his favorite things was being loved up with massages and hugs. He seemed to learn everything very quickly including housebreaking and would jingle the bells on the doorknob to let us know he needed to be let out.
In May I began digging up my yard to create gardens. This was the first of many garden projects to come. While I moved the dirt and grass he’d sit by me and sleep. When I planted, he was alongside me. When I took a break, there he was. The only time he wasn’t by my side is if a child needed supervision or my husband came home from work. One day, in late spring, as the tulips were blooming, Kairos romped into the house with a freshly yanked bouquet from the garden. I believe it may have even been on Mother’s Day. As my vegetable gardens grew, he grew. He grew and grew. In my mind he was like Clifford the big red dog in the children’s book, and I was Emily the girl. Later in the summer I would be picking basil and he and Happy would chase each other through the herb garden. This did not amuse me, but what I did love was that when he came in the house, he smelled like fresh basil. I would hug and inhale him to savor the scent. He was big enough at 8 months old that seated I could hug him like you hug another person.
The years went by and he was a great & smart family dog. Big and powerful. Strangers that came to the door or drove down the alley were met with his powerful bark and stature. Despite his outward appearance, he was a love. If you were looking the other way, he unsuspectingly might swipe you with a lick on the face.
In the spring of 2012 when he was 4, he developed a rash on his skin. At first we thought it was because he loved to run through the lilac bushes chasing away cars. It seemed to get worse so we took him to the vet. They thought he had a skin infection so he was treated with a two week course of antibiotics. It cleared up but only for a week or so. When it came back, it was worse than the first time. I was worried. At the second doctor’s visit the blood work came back negative. They sent us home with another round of antibiotics stronger than the first. Again the rash went away. Again it came back more intensely than before. His scabs were thicker and taller. His beautiful fur was starting to look lackluster. The vet ran more tests. It had been 6 weeks. It felt like forever.
Something was wrong. Very wrong. The vets were stumped. They ran more tests, all of which came back negative. It was the end of May and one evening in the middle of the night I heard “Kai” walking around the house, which was unusual. When I found him, he had settled down on the floor in the living room. I sat down next to him and gently began to pet his scab covered skin, feelings of sadness and uncertainty washed over me. What could this mystery illness be? He was so healthy, so loved. We fed him good quality food. What is wrong with him? As if reading my mind he looked up at me and I heard him say “Our time is done, you are not going to be able to figure out what is wrong with me. You can’t save me, our time is done.” “What?” Surely I was imagining all of this right? I have had other experiences with animal communication but this was unlike anything I had received before. Was it my imagination? It was late, maybe I just needed some sleep? We both got up and went back into the bedroom. I woke the next day and told my husband about my experience. He looked at me sadly. What could he have said? Nothing would make this better.
June and July were met with more vet visits, blood tests, skin tests (all came back normal), and another round of antibiotics. Each treatment of antibiotics would work and then the rash would return with a vengeance. His skin was scaly. He lost quite a bit of weight. He looked like he has mange and I think I noticed a slight limp in his hip when he walked. He was turning into a shadow of the dog I knew and loved. Why couldn’t they figure out what was wrong with him? I was so worried about him, yet in the back of my mind was the conversation he had with me that night in May.
In July we took Kai to the University of Minnesota, where they have an excellent veterinarian school program. On the day of the appointment Kairos mustered up as much energy as he could for his team of doctors. Tail wagging, he liked them, and wanted to connect with them. They are warm and welcoming. They pet him as we discussed his case history. They did blood work, and took skin samples and scab samples. At this point we were all thinking it might be some type of cancer. My husband is out of town, and I am preparing myself for that conversation. I already know we will not treat for cancer since the treatment wouldn’t cure the disease, only possibly extend his life for a small time. The question became, what quality of prolonged life would he have? and to whose benefit would it serve? Kairos had suffered so much already, would that be fair to him?
I took Kairos home from the University. They were very kind, and very thorough. I was impressed with his treatment there. The next day I received a call that all of his tests came back negative. He didn’t seem to have cancer however they could do an MRI for a final determination. I thanked them for the option but had to decline. Sometimes, no matter how difficult, a line has to be drawn, and reality must be accepted. With Kairos stable on another round of antibiotics I headed up north to Ely for a few days of escape. Being hidden away at the cabin was just the break my worried mind and sad heart needed.
The next morning I woke to a text from my husband saying that Kairos had coughed up blood at some point in the middle of the night and he was on his way to the vet for x-rays. He would keep me posted. While I waited to hear back, I packed up the cabin and got ready to go. I was not prepared for the news that came for me. The x-rays indicated my sweet Kairos might have lung cancer. I needed to get home. Kairos was not doing well and the time of his passing might be near. The drive back was the fastest four hour in memory. I was praying to God to keep him alive until I got home. My heart was breaking. It was all I could do to stay focused on the road. I knew if I started to cry I wouldn’t stop.
When I walked through the door, there he was. Kairos. Perky! Happy to see me! He greeted me at the door like he always did. My mood instantly lifted. My heart soared. Surely this meant he must be feeling better. The antibiotics must be working this time! My husband couldn’t believe his perky energy either. We ate dinner, the conversation light. Kai was finally in a good place. After dinner Kairos went to the door signaling he wanted to go for a walk. When we asked him his nubby tail wagged like crazy. The walk was amazing. No longer limping, he had a stride in his step and good overall energy. It was like how he used to be - full of life and happy.
Why then did I have that forbidding voice in the back of my mind telling me something else? With the dark weight of reality slowly seeping into my world, I knew. This was his final burst of energy. He was saying goodbye...
To be continued next week
“Take time to nourish your mind, nurture your body and feed your soul.”