There is a new star in the sky tonight. You will most certainly recognize it as the brindle one flipping us the middle toe with an exasperated sigh.
Kiwi put the bulldog in French Bulldog. There was nothing she couldn’t do – but it had best be her idea and you had better make it worth her effort. It wasn’t that she was stubborn, per se. No, Kiwi clearly and effectively communicated her specific list of reinforcers and how frequently those reinforcers should be made available. Her preference for rotisserie chicken skin minced into easily snarfled bits of greasy goodness delivered every other repetition, but preferably every single repetition, was a well known fact among those of us granted the privilege of her time. There would be consequences for failure to meet her terms. Big bulldog consequences. I loved her for it.
Kiwi and I had a thing. It started almost as soon as I met she and Naniece. Kiwi looked at me with an expression that said, “Are you serious?” and I answered with, “Challenge accepted!” We became fast friends. Kiwi would show me how she saw a problem and in turn, I would reframe the picture. Then she would show me how she saw that new problem and in turn, I would reframe the picture. My job was to set her up for success. Her job was to tell me what success was. I loved her for it. No matter how hard we worked, how much sassy side eye she gave, she was profoundly happy to see me and would snort, wiggle and nibble with great enthusiasm and then she would humble me with Frenchie flare. And I was always elated to see her. I never felt dread approaching our training sessions. I had no issues calling a session short because Kiwi flat out said, “Nope. You lost it. You find it.” I loved our back and forth. I talked to Kiwi as I would another human because I wasn’t entirely convinced she was a dog. I loved seeing she and Naniece grow as a team in sports. I loved that no matter how much Kiwi said, “You can fuck right off and find it yourself,” Naniece was willing to try but never at the expense of her teammate.
Naniece was generous in sharing Kiwi’s time with me, allowing me to handle her not only in local competitions but also spiriting away the Brindle Bomber throughout the US and Canada. Kiwi always returned home a bit (okay, a lot) more feral than when she left and while we earned titles and legs and ribbons the last leg of Senior Barn Hunt remained elusive. But that was okay. She was the best. She helped me grow as a handler and trainer in new and different ways. She made me laugh. She made me roll my eyes…and laugh. I never felt pressured to perform or achieve a specific goal. We always made incremental progress, even if it was sometimes barely perceptible to the uninitiated, but most of all, it was clear that Kiwi was having fun. For Naniece and I, that was the most important thing of all.
Kiwi did many, many things in her life. She found rats. She found antler sheds. She found lost items. She found birch, anise and clove. She told me to get more chicken skin or fuck off. She told me she loved running on the beach and splashing in not one but two oceans. She told me terriers were okay but Quick, her German Shepherd Bestie, was the most magical creature of all. She wore costumes but would never wear clothes no matter if it was -30 in Saskatchewan. She made challenged me to be creative, to be precise, to be patient, to not interrupt while she was working a complex puzzle, to laugh often.
She was never the fastest. She was never the dog diving into a new challenge. She was the dog that stood quietly at the start line, assessed the situation, did some math and then began. She is one of the dogs that taught me the importance of not stepping out of the start box in barn hunt before the dog. We needed every second we could get. When released, she would stand for several seconds considering the puzzle before her, shake off and then leaving the box to do the thing. I could easily save 10-15 seconds each run by starting at the back of the box. She was meticulous and precise with laser pointers for eyes that could tell you a hide was suspended 12’ in the air or buried in the earth. She wasn’t stubborn. She was an engineer and a problem solver. She wasted no effort or energy. She was perfect.
When I received the call that Kiwi had been diagnosed with lymphoma, I swore. I swore so loudly and with the clear horror of someone about to lose a beloved companion that people in the parking lot at my own vet turned to look with sad, worried eyes. It took me only a few moments to process a thousand emotions and thoughts before I asked Naniece if I could steal Kiwi for one last adventure while she was still feeling good and wanted to eat. This adventure would be Kiwi’s Bucket List Day and it would be a day entirely dictated by this brindle beast, which was pretty much item number one on her bucket list.
We both knew we didn’t have much time so that Saturday, I met Naniece at Starbucks with a van full of things and several pounds of rotisserie chicken and chicken skin. It was the most perfect fall day. It was crisp, clear and with a bit of frost. It was precisely the weather Kiwi would want. It was a magical day. We went hiking. We walked on the beach. We went had a latte and sausage roll on the patio and watched people walking by. We went shopping. We posed for silly photos. We found some things, heavily paired with chicken skin as it should be. We hiked some more. We sat on rocks and contemplated a lifetime of fuck offs, well fine thens, and finally you got more chicken skin. And when she was tired, we took the long way home.
The one flaw Kiwi had is that she couldn’t live forever.
Kiwi left this world with love and dignity. The weather was cold, crisp and windy – exactly as she would have wanted it. She has left a Frenchie sized hole in all our hearts.
I am profoundly grateful to Naniece for her kindness and generosity through the years, for trusting me with a precious soul and for giving me the gift of Kiwi’s presence and spirit. I say often that we need to enjoy every moment because we don’t get enough time with these wonderful creatures. It’s never enough, but I am so grateful for the time we had.
Dog speed, Kiwi. When you find Rat Four, she’ll have some extra chicken skin with her from me.