A Man and His Dog

All of our dogs have Hawaiian names, it is what we do. Makai means toward the water and no ka oi is slang for the best or number one.

In the late winter of 2006, my wife had finally convinced me that it was okay to get another dog. Over the past 30 years, we had been blessed with two different dogs rescued from the local shelters.  They were very good dogs and we and our children loved them very much. But old age was not kind to them and as the man of the house, it was my task to take them to the vet’s office for that final visit.  It was extremely difficult for me and after the second time, I swore no more dogs.  So it took a lot of convincing for me to go and look.  I told my wife we would get another one, but this time we would research and study and call and all that stuff before choosing the right puppy.  The spring of 2007 we had decided on a Portuguese Water Dog and the kennel in Louisiana, Belaluna, had a litter.

We threw our name in the hat after being vetted by Sandy Duncan.  I will say that after the multiple phone calls, I told my wife I think we could have adopted an international child easier than getting this puppy.  She told us that she would match our desire to the temperament of the puppy she thought best suited to us. So this was a big change for us, we didn’t choose, the breeder chose?  I flew to New Orleans and met Sandy and her husband at the airport with the most beautiful puppy I had ever seen.  At this point, I should mention that this puppy was for my wife but she doesn’t fly alone so I was sent after the puppy.  As always happens in the summer, a thunderstorm hit Houston, then New Orleans, missing flight schedules all over the place.  We made it to Houston after our scheduled flight had already taken off. So there we sat with a bag full of kibble, a water dish, a pee pad, and a puppy.  There were flights every two hours or so, so we would get in line for standby and wait.  After being denied access we would go outside where I would beg him to go potty, then go back through security to get in line again.  About the 3rd time through we knew most of the TSA guards and they knew Makai!  After 9 hours in Houston, we made it back to Little Rock. That was the good news. The bad news for my wife was that Makai and I had bonded.  Spending all that time together I fell in love with the hairiest black and white thing I had ever seen.  We went through some trials and tribulations.  It is one thing to read the temperament characteristics, it is another to live them.  Energetic?  How about running on nuclear power.  Smart?  We couldn’t find a puppy game he wouldn’t solve in minutes.  Mouthy?  Several pairs of jeans were transitioned to gardening clothes before their time.  Oh, but how he loved us.  We did the classes like we were supposed to and he did so well. After all, he was brilliant, right?  Then came the CGC testing.  He aced every bit of it but one.  What parent would leave their child with a stranger for more than a minute?  He wasn’t about to have that so at about 1.5 minutes into the 3-minute wait, I was called back into the room as Makai had dragged the “stranger” out of her chair trying to find me.  But all is good. You see his best attribute was to be loved and share the love.  Yes, he was energetic, jumpy, mouthy, and everyone told us we would never be a Pet Therapy team because of these things.  But when you are a smart PWD and you have a physician handler with a stubborn streak to match a PWD, anything is possible. So we tried, and finally, on the third exam, we were certified as a Pet Partners team.

Over the course of the next 6 years, Makai made over 100 visits to the children’s hospital, and some schools.  The parody, the AKC awarded him a CGC title for his therapy work!  What did we do about that energy and his desire never to leave my side, no matter where we were?  Agility.  He was so fast and high drive that a judge told me the first time we actually ran a trial that I was not Mario Andretti and Makai was not an Indy race car.  All we had was a gas pedal and no brakes!  He earned several titles in agility, but the more important thing was that each run he made was full of joy. I always think of the runner in the movie ‘Chariots of Fire’ who said when he ran he felt the joy of the Lord.  That was what Makai looked like, running with that type of joy.

In the summer of 2016, he began to have some problems with constipation, increased thirst, and decreased appetite.  An exam demonstrated a mass where the anal gland should have been. Two days after his first unofficial double Q in Agility the mass was removed and confirmed adenocarcinoma of the anal gland.  We were encouraged that it was a complete resection but over the course of the next couple of months it was clear things were not normal and an Ultrasound showed masses in the abdomen that could not be removed surgically.  So we made the decision to live each day like he did. To wake up each morning thrilled with another day, wagging our tail with love dripping off our tongue, snuggling on the couch watching silly TV shows, and then every once in a while, have a burst of energy to get a mini-zoomie out and run around a room or two.  What about his Pet Therapy?  We continued to visit the Children’s Cancer Ward at our hospital right up until the end.  And you know, Pet Partners helped us by covering most of his bills regarding his cancer diagnosis and surgery!  On March 11th, 2017  he ran his last race on this earth.

He shall be always loved and never forgotten, Makai No Ka Oi Belaluna (The best towards the sea of Belaluna) OA MXJ XF T2B THDA DN CGC Portuguese Water Dog.

Story provided by Dr. Kimo Stine