Kathleen and I adopted Kobe in November 2006. Kobe, a Tibetan Terrier/Poodle mix. Just prior to adopting, he'd had surgery to correct his cherry eye, but we adopted him knowing that his ears might require surgery, which we gladly used our vacation savings to get done. Shortly after we arrived home (having driven to Tennessee from Mobile, Alabama and back in two days), Kobe got sick and began vomiting. He required an overnight stay in the hospital, IV fluids, and a very bland diet after discharge. The poor guy! Hadn't he endured enough in his two short years of life? Then, his miracle family comes along and he gets so sick he could have died! The cause of his vomiting was an obstructed small intestine. Kobe had found and swallowed a large chunk of a chew-bone our Yorkie had hidden in a doggy bed. Luckily for us (and Kobe), he was able to digest and eventually pass it and thanks to superb veterinary care, he made it!
Yes, pet owners are often biased. We think that nobody else's dog is smarter, cuter, braver, or more special than our own. But Kobe seems to be even more special than mere words can tell . . . it's as if he knows that he got more than a second chance at having a good life and he truly seems to be grateful. I know that dogs cannot rationalize their circumstances, but they know pain when they feel it and they know love when they experience it. We had the opportunity to make his pain go away and we're still giving him more love than he's ever known. The miracle part? Kobe gives in the same measure he receives. To say he's a "Daddy's Dog" is an understatement! Within a few weeks of his arrival, he returned a favor . . . he adopted me! It's been 38 years since I've had a dog that bonded to me and me only . . . a dog who'll go anywhere, do anything, and be happy doing it just because he's with me. That's MY Kobe!
Once Kobe recovered from his vomiting and obstructed bowel sickness, he demonstrated his own remarkable traits as a companion dog . . . he's become the guardian of our property, protector of our chickens, best buddy of our Yorkie, and the best TV-watching partner a dog owner could ever ask for! He even supervises visits to the bathroom . . . something I had to get used to, but now I've come to expect his little black nose edging the door open.
How much is a little black dog worth? Frankly, I'd say there is no price . . . you can't buy true devotion and loyalty. Kathleen and I forfeited our vacation to pay for his ear resection surgery. Our investment in this little dog has now topped the $1500 mark . . . we don't begrudge him one dime of it.
At a time in my life, where I'm facing the overdue decision to retire for medical reasons, I've spent many sleepless nights . . . wrestling with my decisions, worrying about financial issues, and battling my own male ego. At age 50, it's hard to admit I've worn my body out. I battle chronic pain from degenerative disk disease. I needed the companionship for the "alone times," the kind of quiet companionship that seems to be Kobe's area of expertise. He reads my moods and he seems to have this uncanny ability to pull me out of my blue moods . . . he'll grab the squirrel toy -- seemingly saying, "Come on, Dad, let's play a while and forget all about our worries!" And, sure enough, I'll find myself in the livingroom floor . . . playing "I'm gonna getcha!" and my little laughing dog makes my funky mood go away. Funny thing, he knows when I need the treatment before anyone else does. Don't get me wrong, my wife is a wonderfully loving wife who loves me with all her heart, but Kobe not only watches over our yard, he watches over me. It's a wonderfully unique relationship. He accepts me . . . just as I am. I think I'm a better human because of him. Odd, huh? How is it that a loving pet makes us into better humans?
Well, why would this little dog have such a troubled first two years of life? It's sad that he ended up needing to be rescued, but I believe that God was just lining things up until we could get together. Even though we've had Kobe for slightly less than a year now, it's hard to remember when he wasn't a part of our lives. His impact on our home has been that profound. I believe that God knew that Kobe needed us and we, especially me, needed Kobe.
Now, the story takes a twist. In the early part of our story, Kobe was always sick . . . very sick. He's blind in one eye, had surgery on the other. He's had both ears resectioned. He nearly died from a bowel obstruction. But, bless God, there must have been a reason for it all. And, I believe what I'm about to tell you explains it.
Just a few weeks ago, I got sick. We're not 100% sure why I got sick. It could have been a problem with a prescription I take . . . it might have been food poisoning, but I got sick in the worst sort of way. I'll spare you the details. As I sat in the bathroom floor . . . so very sick, Kobe lorded over me . . . never leaving my side. As I walked the floor all night . . . my stomach in knots, my little dog paced the floors with me. As I tried to sleep in the recliner, he laid between my legs . . . his chin on my thigh, never once looking anywhere else but my eyes. Every time I woke up, he was awake. He seemed to know what I was going through. When our Yorkie tried to approach me, he'd growl at her . . . as if to say, "Not now . . . Dad doesn't feel up to your yappy-Yorkie antics!"
On a Tuesday night in late July, after two days of ineffective self-treatment, I ended up in the emergency room and I would end up spending five days in the hospital . . . all sorts of scans and tests, an NG tube to drain my stomach, and a diet that consisted of IV fluids only. You won't believe the diagnosis. No, really. You won't. I had an obstructed small intestine . . . the same thing that had almost killed Kobe just nine months earlier.
Fortunately for me, I didn't require surgery and was able to come back home. I returned home very sick, very weak, and somewhat depressed. But the moment I walked through the back door, there stood my little buddy . . . so excited that his "daddy" was home. With God as my witness, he looked as if he hadn't eaten . . . like he'd been as worried as Kathleen had been. It's as if he knew . . . he identified with what I'd been through. He seemed sympathetic. I know the naysayers probably think I'm full of baloney . . . giving my dog much more credit than he deserves, attributing concern and understanding that only a human could have. But, my dog -- even if he wasn't sympathetic, even if he has no clue what human sickness is -- he knew something was wrong with me and he never left my side during what was the scariest sickness I've ever had.
In the days after my discharge, Kobe rarely left my side . . . the dog who once required around-the-clock care, fully embraced his duties as watchdog and companion over his recovering human. Only a true pet-lover understands this story . . . even now, they're nodding in agreement . . . understanding every subtle implication here . . . believing that when it comes to a special relationship with a special animal, what goes around comes around. I took care of him. He took care of me. He's not "just a dog," he's a member of our family.
I've shared this true story about Kobe in hopes that more people, like Kathleen and me, will make a very important decision . . . the decision to consider a rescue dog . . . a dog who's just waiting to become the pet you've always dreamed of . . . a pet that'll return your love unconditionally. The most important thing I've learned in adopting Kobe is that companionship is priceless . . . it isn't about the money, it's about righting a wrong and giving a wonderful animal a chance to become the best friend you've ever had.
Thanks for sharing our story. Now, go ahead and fill out your application . . . your own "Kobe" is waiting for you. You need him . . . you just don't know it yet.
Virgil, Kathleen, Kobe and Missy Fleming
"Two humans, One black mutt, and a Yorkie"