I made a new -- and very unlikely -- friend recently.
Her name is Kisa (often called Kisa Lu) and she's grey and speckly spotted and has floppy ears. She's taller than I am when she stands on her back legs (which she doesn't often do) because she is a Great Dane.
She belongs to a good friend of mine who was very worried about how she and I would get along when I visited recently.
Typically, Kisa scares everyone away with her size -- and if that doesn't -- her deep, chesty, persistent bark definitely does! If you're brave enough to stand near enough to her to hear it, her growl that follows her bark is the final signal that typically sends everyone running, according to my friend.
I admit that I am not typically a "dog person." I consider our (half King) German Shepherd, Shoka, an exception to that rule. I love him as dearly as if he is one of my children, but even so, am typically neutral on other people's dogs. Adding to my apprehension is my memory of being bitten by a neighbors Doberman Pinscher when I was a teenager. I knew the dog very well and one day he just walked up to me and bit my leg! Fortunately, it wasn't an injury that left a lasting physical scar, but it certainly left a mental one! From then on I have been very wary of dogs. Especially large and oversized dogs.
So when planning this visit to a home with a large enough dog to EAT ME for a snack, I have to admit, I was rather nervous.
I asked what I could do to gain Kisa's favor. The reply? "Bring snacks. And lots of them. But don't be scared because she will bark and growl at you -- no matter what." Um, okay. Following that conversation, I got busy packing some of Shokas favorite treats, and specifically, one of his very favorites: Texas Taffy. I instantly envisioned myself armed with one or two -- or maybe 10 -- of these when I greeted this new humongous, vicious, foaming at the mouth monster (as described by my very active and occasionally dramatic imagination.)
By the time we were on our way I realized that I was super nervous to meet this dog. A dog who once swiped and consumed every last scrap of a family pack of pork chops out of the kitchen sink, plastic wrap, bones, and all! What if I feared for my life upon meeting the dog and then had to tolerate its barking and growling for my entire visit? Oh ... What have I done?
As we were about to arrive, I felt it necessary to "brief" my kids on the large looming creature who would greet us upon arrival. Please note, I chose my words positively, not allowing them to sense any hint of my hesitation. I honestly figured they'd be fast friends with the lanky beast, leaving her to snack on me, so I didn't overly discuss her. I simply hoped to pre-warn them of her size, bark and growl. I did my best to prepare them, since I had never known or seen a Great Dane "up close and personal."
That problem was resolved quickly because just as we finished our discussion, the immense, tall, skinny boisterous canine approached our vehicle, right on cue.
I got out, and happily greeted my friends while unloading the car, doing my best to show no fear of her.
All attention suddenly turned to the dog, however, when it was noticed that she was limping and wasn't using her front right paw or leg. It appeared that she was injured, and as I reached for and gave a taffy treat to her, I genuinely felt for her in this compromised condition.
She snarfeled (not a word, but I use it often. Don't judge!) it up and continued to hop much like a big huge bunny, using only three legs.
She did not bark at me. She did not growl. My friends raised their eyebrows in surprise. Instead, she accepted her snack calmly and willingly, as her human mom inspected her sore limb.
That night it was clear that she wasn't operating at her typical bounding, barking, growling 100%. So after dinner was cleaned up I laid next to her on the floor, as she rested on the hugest dog bed I had ever seen. I rubbed her ears and scratched her while she inspected me with her (typical of Great Danes) red rimmed puppy dog eyes. I think she could sense my empathy for her condition.
She did not bark. She did not growl. My friends said they'd never seen a visitor brave enough to lie next to her.
The next day, and in my typical fashion with people or pets, I was determined to "win her over!" Following her visit to her vet I found her panting by the back door wanting to come in from the hot sun. Since no one in her family was nearby I opened the door and walked her to the bathroom sink. I turned on the faucet and allowed her to drink, as I had seen her family do. [Side note: the typical way Great Danes prefer to drink is from a running faucet, or so I was told.] She accepted the drink, but hilariously, when I went to wipe her mouth with the waiting towel (also part of the usual drink routine) she growled at me and backed up. I actually laughed and said "So you can accept my drink, but I can't wipe your mouth like your mom? Okay. Have it your way. Drip all over!" She did just that and walked away, leaving a trail of water droplets behind her.
By dinner time that evening I was accustomed to cooking with a tall sleek and furry presence looming nearby. Her back was the same height as the kitchen counters and her head would often rest on the counters awaiting a scrap of anything -- fruits, veggies or anything else.
Her long tail would whip my legs occasionally and make me yelp! All of this was quite a learning curve for me. My friends, who always enjoy my cooking, helped me cook while showing me Kisa's tricks -- using food scraps as incentives. Kisa can sit, speak, and lay down. It was really impressive.
One thing I noticed about myself, was the fact that I wasn't appalled by a dog standing next to me while I was chopping, mixing and cooking. It didn't bother me. Anyone who knows me, or anything about me, would assume a dog in the kitchen would have sent me and my germaphobia OCD tendencies running and screaming. It didn't. At all. Strange.
That evening, as we sat around talking, Kisa wandered into the guest room where I was staying, and where the kids also happened to be hanging out.
Previously I was told that room is "Kisa's room" and that she would naturally want to rest on the bed. My instructions were "keep your door shut" in order to keep her out.
As she made her way to the bed I clammed up -- because her encroachment into this area was infringing on a part of the house that was temporarily considered "my space." But she flashed us some very sad puppy eyes and before long, she was lying on the bed -- MY BED -- with us!
She was allowing me to come closer and closer to her and by night's end I had managed to lay my head on her neck while scratching her -- and even gave this enormous dog a kiss on the cheek.
She didn't bark at me. She didn't growl at me. And I think she even enjoyed the "Scooby Doo" voice I used when "making her talk."
While I was cooking, I'd make her silly Scooby voice say "Do you need help? I'll stir dinner ... with my tongue!"
Or, "I don't know who this girl is, but she kinda reminds me of my mom."
One night we played a joke on Kisa. The kids started ringing the front door bell while others simultaneously knocked on the back door. She'd bound (in one leap, I swear!) from the front door to the back door and back again, barking and growling. And in Kisa's Scooby Doo voice, I called out "Who's at the front door? Who's at the back door?" We all laughed because she couldn't figure it out, but played along and had fun too!
By the time our visit was over, Kisa watched us pack and gave her very best dejected sad look. I fished a dog hair out of my coffee and smiled. Yes, you read that correctly. By this point, I loved the dog that had lost the hair that landed in my coffee. I knew I was going to miss her as much as I always miss my friends when we part ways, until the next visit.
I already knew Shoka was a part of our family -- and friends and extended family love him as an extension of us. But now I understand how dogs everywhere, who are lucky enough to find a loving family, really do become a part of their family. In fact, they are such a big part that they are not only missed by their own family, but also by friends of the family too!
Are you close to any pets that are not your own?
Image via Kate Gosselin