Kiya & Me

I started walking the trails of O. P. Schnabel park to work off my love fat. I had been living with LD for a couple of years and had gotten rather comfortable not only in our relationship but in my spot on the couch. When a friend told me she went repelling at O. P., knowing it was right around the corner from where we live, I hauled my rear end down there to check it out. It was pretty. Rugged but pretty. The trails followed the flood zone and were well-defined but none of the area was developed. I was okay with that because I had grown up scouring the woods from California to Alabama to Texas. Reliving my childhood would be an enjoyable way to get myself moving again. I settled into a routine of three or four times a week. The trails quickly became familiar and I soon realized I could walk to the park if I came in the back way. There are actually a few back ways into the park and in the process of discovering which was the shortest route I sometimes found myself bushwhacking and literally out in the middle of nowhere. I was also frequently surprised by other hikers and cyclists who came out of this nowhere and I started thinking it would be nice to have a dog with me. This was about the time I began seeing crews out laying what I now call the Cement Path.

The Cement Path. I have a love-hate relationship with it. I love it because it’s nice to have a smooth, wide, well defined path that cuts straight down the waterway. You can’t get lost. It’s free from rocks so you don’t twist your ankle. Most of the animals steer clear of it so you don’t have to worry about surprising a skunk or a herd of deer. It’s also become accessible to those in wheelchairs so it’s been a priceless addition but I also hate it because it brought more cyclists and while not all cyclists are rude, arrogant and selfish many are and they couldn’t care less if they run you over. In fact, some get angry when they come zipping blindly around a corner and find you walking in, what they clearly consider to be, their way. But I digress. I was about to tell you how my thinking about wanting a dog turned into Kiya.

I had begun telling LD how remote it felt out there sometimes, how it would be nice if I had a dog to keep me company. I didn’t want a full time dog, just one to take to the park, to scare away creeps and creepy crawlers. He wasn’t very responsive. The last thing he wanted was a dog and I agreed. I didn’t want to go through the disgusting things one goes through when housebreaking a dog. I didn’t want the furniture or my shoes gnawed on and I certainly didn’t want to be obligated to walking a dog every day, just on the days I felt like walking. Then I thought about my neighbor. She has a Doberman that spends most of its time barking. I asked her if it would be okay if I took her dog to the park with me. She was more than happy to let me but warned me the dog was very strong. I thought I could handle it. I was wrong. Nothing I had learned from watching The Dog Whisperer could prepare me for trying to walk a dog that hadn’t been walked in, literally, years. She bucked and jumped and knocked me flat on my ass. I wrangled her back into her yard and that was the end of that. I kept up my routine but started carrying a walking stick in one hand and a rock in the other.

A few weeks later, just about the time they were putting the finishing touches on the Cement Path from Leon Vista to Babcock Rd., LD and I started seeing a black dog with a white mark on its chest hanging around our neighborhood. Over the next two weeks it became a fixture. You’d see someone jogging by and there would be that black dog following right behind them. Ten minutes later someone else would be biking past with the same black dog following right behind them. She spent her nights on the corner under the street light. It was sad but I didn’t want the responsibility. Dogs shed and they dig holes. I didn’t want all that. I just wanted a dog to take to the park.

Well, the forces that be know how thick headed I am and they didn’t play fair at all. They had that dog come right up and greet me. I was out front watering the plants. I had actually been looking for the dog because the guy across the street had taken a liking to it and it had been hanging out over there more and more. I didn’t see it though and had just about finished watering when it came from around a bush, tentatively going for a drink from the hose, looking me straight in the eyes. I saw intelligence in those eyes and an eagerness to please. It was as if it was saying, “Hello. Do you need a friend? I need a friend. I could be a really good friend if you need one.” I was smitten. I went inside and told LD that black dog was outside. He yelled, “Don’t let it in!” I told him I wasn’t going to let it in but I knew if we went for a walk that it would follow us and wouldn’t that be fun.

I don’t even think LD knows why but he said he would go and by now we knew it was a she and we set off down the road with her following close behind. No coaxing. No, “Here, girl. Over here”. We didn’t even have a leash but she followed us and we weren’t halfway home when LD said, “Well, if we’re going to keep her I want to call her Bitch so I can say, “C’mere Bitch!” I laughed and knew I wanted her -responsibilities and all. I could handle it. I had the time and I was sure I could find the energy. We walked back to the house and when we opened the front door she came right in, like she’d done it all her life.

She was covered in fleas so I went to go buy some shampoo. Connor, LD’s teenage son, was home when I returned so we all gave her a bath and I found out Connor had already met this dog. She had kept him warm at the bus stop before school a few mornings. He said he had always wanted a black dog named Kiya so that’s how she got her name.

The best part of the story is, although I still have to pick up the land mines she lays in the back yard, I never had to housebreak her. She was housebroken from day one. She knew the words heel, come and stay. She responded very positively to the ‘kissy’ sound. Someone had owned this dog. How they lost her is a mystery. Why she had found me is easier to figure out. I needed her to remind me it’s a big, beautiful world out there with something new to offer every day and if I don’t go out and experience it she’ll whimper and pace and eat the furniture until I do.

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