As I continue to count my blessings as another year approaches its end, I must include Kamala, who became my trusty canine companion almost exactly a year ago.
My grief over losing Sophie and Iniesta had softened. While isolating with no end to the pandemic in sight, I realized I needed another dog. Not a puppy, because I didn’t want to fool with potty training or endure months of destructive chewing. I needed an adult dog with a least a smidgen of maturity. The pickings at the animal shelter were slim. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one in search of a four-legged companion. So I visited the All About Rescue and Fixin’ (A.A.R.F.) website and found Dee-Dee.
“You don’t have to call her that if you adopt her,” the foster mother told me. “We have no idea what her real name is.” When the dog became mine, I decided to name her after our first-ever female Vice President of the United States.
It’s a shame dogs can’t talk. All I know of Kamala’s backstory is that she was found roaming a neighborhood in Algood. A family who’d been sporadically feeding her moved away, leaving her behind. That’s when A.A.R.F. stepped in. It was obvious this dog had recently been nursing puppies because her mammary glands almost dragged the ground. Her ribs showed. She was filthy and her toenails needed trimming.
But sometime and somewhere, humans must have been kind to Kamala. She was friendly and not the least bit shy or cowering. She knew how to walk on a leash, though not without pulling. She could jump up into the cargo area of an SUV and then climb over the seats into the driver’s lap, which was how we travelled together the day I claimed her. When we turned into my driveway, she began whining in a way I can only describe as joyful.
Kamala and I were home.
She quickly learned that she wasn’t allowed on the furniture. That Watson the cat was not to be messed with. How to enter and exit the screened porch through the doggy door. And she quickly discovered that the nearby woods and waters teemed with all kinds of interesting wildlife. Squirrels. Rabbits. Foxes. Groundhogs. Deer. Turtles. Snakes. Canada geese. Buzzards. Most interesting of all were the many other dogs in our neighborhood, which has proved a challenge for her and therefore for me. She becomes so excited when encountering other dogs that it’s sometimes all I can do to hold onto her. But with lots of long walks, my pockets bulging with mini-Milk Bones, and plenty of time at doggy day care where she can play to her heart’s content, she’s coming around.
Sometimes on these long, dark autumn nights, I sit and study Kamala. She’s tri-color, mostly black with a good deal of white and a smattering of tan mixed in. Her left side is a mirror image of her right. It’s as though she was folded in half in utero while her markings were being formed and then unfolded when she was born. She has identical tan spots on her black cheeks. Each side of her white chest is perfectly symmetrical, as is the white triangle on the back of her neck. Ditto for the markings on her front legs and two back legs.
Once I’m finished admiring her, I snap on her glow-in-the dark collar and let her out the back door, where a six-foot tall fence–which replaced the existing four-foot fence that she jumped right away–separates this brave mountain cur from whatever might threaten us in the dark, dark woods. She raises her long snout in the air and bays loudly and the imaginary bears and wild hogs go running.
Happy Anniversary, Kamala. I’m sure glad we found each other.
(Jennie Ivey is a Cookeville writer. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org)