Let's talk about Kim's love for animals...before we left Pennsylvania, Kim had worked very had at a day care where she loved the kids, but her boss wasn't very kind. Then, she worked at Alphagraphics, a very demanding job, where Kim thought she could use her artistic ability, but found out it was rarely needed. When we moved to Tucson, Kim took some time to plan our wedding (a story for a different day...) and then thought about looking for work. I asked her what she'd like to do and she said she would really like to work with animals.
Kim did a little research and found that Pima Tech Institute offered vet tech training courses. She prepared to enroll, but thought it was a lot of money to take the classes and was worried about the expense, while not being able to bring in money. I told her to call around to animal hospitals to ask vets their opinion of the school, if they would hire her when she graduated and how for how much. After a few calls, she found Bear Canyon Animal Hospital, who told her not to waste her time and money. They would interview Kim and if they liked her (ha ha), she could spend a day with them to see if she even liked working in that environment. Of course, they loved Kim, Kim loved them and came home absolutely gushing about her day!! They offered her a position and she quickly learned how to assist a vet and the technical jargon.
One day, she showed up in the parking lot of Toys R Us to pick me up from work. It was a few days before my birthday. Kim couldn't wait for me to open the truck door and I was suspicious, but unprepared for the little black furball, Cajun, who greeted me. I know I've mentioned her before, she was black lab/border collie, a beautiful black with a white markings on her chest, nose and paws. As our first born, she slept with us that first night, right on our pillows and we took her everywhere. Grocery shopping, to Target and on all of our weekend excursions. One of the benefits of working at an animal hospital, was, that Kim could take Cajun to work with her. At Bear Canyon, she would spend her day on a couch, with other employee's animals...this was a challenge, at first, because Cajun had so much love for everyone, that she wanted to jump down and provide a warm, sloppy, greeting. Kim worked with her, patiently, until Cajun would sit all day with her pals on the couch. Soon, one of the Drs, Dr. Burrows, left to open her own practice, Ventana Animal Hospital, where we still take Bella, and liked Kim so much, that she took her with her to help open up the business.
Kim really enjoyed working there, learning how to draw blood, anesthetize animals, help in surgery, etc. She loved her work and the people she worked with. Cajun had her own little cage and loved hopping into it each day. When people came back to see her, her tail would thump against the stainless steel walls, beating like a drum.
Kim loved all animals, like St. Francis, caring for sick ones and never leaving a stray wander. We'd often have to take lengthy detours to coax stray animals to us to see if we could determine if they had i.d. and reunite them with their owners. I can't count how many times we'd have an extra pup or two living with us until Kim could get them safely home and how many birds, etc that she would nurse back to health. She had so much love and care in her, not just for people, but for all animals.
We loved to take day trips back then and would often go hiking in Sabino Canyon, hiking in the back way to allow Cajun to go with. One weekend, we traveled to the NE corner of the state to Canyon De Chelly, to meet some friends from high school, Karen and Mike Miholics. We drove our black Jeep Wrangler up there, about a 6 hour drive and Cajun sat between us. We took her hiking through that beautiful canyon - we all had a blast. That night, we found a hotel for like $19/night near the Navajo reservation up there. It had no lock on the door, so we pushed the refridgerator in front of it and Cajun snuggled up with Kim - I think she was scared of the place, too!
Cajun made trips to San Diego with us, to 'dog beach', where Kim and I would take long walks with her and let her get wet in the surf. We'd stay at the cheapest hotels to save money, in some pretty hairy areas, with our dog Cajun to protect us...actually, she was so gentle, she would have probably loved to meet an intruder. We drove from Tucson to Pennsylvania with Cajun several times, as well. This is a 2500 mile drive, taking about 40 hours, straight through. Kim and I would take turns driving until we got tired and then we'd switch. If we did stop, we'd have to sneak Cajun into the hotel room with us, luckily, she was not a barker! My sister, Sherri, used to live in Muskogee, OK, which was exactly half-way and sometimes we'd stop in for a nap, a shower, a good meal and then hit the road again!
We took Cajun to the Jersey Shore, where she got to frolic in the Atlantic surf and to many of the streams and lakes in the area we grew up in to let her play in grass and water. The Lehigh Parkway had been one of our favorite spots to go when we were dating. It has the Little Lehigh river running through it, surrounded by large weeping willows and plenty of grass for Cajun to run in.
She was so well travled, having gone more places then our youngest, Antonio! She even went to Disneyland with us - they actually have a kennel at the main entrance and they walk your pup and play with them while you are in the park! She road the tram from the parking lot to the entrance like a champ.
When Cajun was two years old, Kim decided, for practice, to run a full blood panel on her...finding that Cajun had a liver ailment. She was put on a special diet and on several medications. We were told she may live to 4 or 5 years old...Kim loved that girl and, I believe, kept Cajun so well cared for, that the girl actually lived longer because of it. Right around the time Cajun turned 5, we started talking about getting another puppy, as a companion and to ease the blow on us, and now Cody, who was 2, in the event she passed away. Then Kim got pregnant with Autumn...
That complicated things, but, I thought 'what a great maternity gift a puppy would be for Kim!'. So on a Sunday in March, with Kim 8 months pregnant, we were headed to church and then had tickets to see the Diamondbacks play the Rockies in Spring Training baseball (our city officials have since allowed all of our teams to migrate to Phoenix). On a the corner of 22nd and Harrison, which was desert land, but now the site of a Walgreens, there was a van parked beneath a huge Palo Verde tree with a playpen full of puppies!
The lady had about a dozen black lab/australian shepards - but I fell in love with the runt of the litter, a little girl who had just a touch of white on her chest, but otherwise was full black. I told the lady that we were on our way to church and then a ball game, so couldn't get her right then. On the way to church, I told Kim, if she is still there when we come back...we'd get her.
That was the longest day, and maybe the first time I wanted to leave a ball game early! We hurried back across town and as we approached the corner, the lady was getting ready to pull out. I literally pulled my truck in front of her, jumped out and asked about the puppy...'last one left' she said...and that is how Zona came into our lives!
Kim and Zona did not get along at first. Zona was so full of energy and pretty destructive...the first night we had her, we penned Cajun and Zona in our hallway and went to sleep. Around 2 a.m., Kim woke me up and said she heard noises in the living room...sure enought, I could hear something going on. I snuck out and found that Zona had jumped the gate, leaving poor Cajun cowering, looking at me as if to say 'Daddy, I told her not to'. Zona was on our couch, joyfully shredding the pillows, the couch and the stuffing was all around the living room!
On top of this destructive personality, it was May, Kim was ready to give birth to Autumn, and she had no patience for a puppy! I guess this maternity gift had not been the best idea! One day, Kim called me to look out back. The lawn sprinklers were on and there was Zona, digging frantically to find the source! Before I could get out there, she had grabbed hold of a piece of pipe, bit into and started shaking her head back and forth - a geyser erupted as I approached to grab her. From the porch, I could her Kim absolutely bellowing!! I had to talk her out of getting rid of Zona that night... A few weeks later, Kim called me again to look outside - there was Zona, with one of the landscape lighting we had surrounding the grass, in her mouth. I opened the door and zoom! She took off running - pop! pop! pop! went the lights as she pulled them all out of the ground. If you've never heard Kim's deep bellow of a yell, it is somewhat frightening, but humorous, in that you'd never expect something so deep and loud to come from a girl so small and so sweet!
That night, I had to talk her out of getting rid of Zona...
Zona started to calm down by the time she was 6...she was a great friend and companion for Cajun, and kept her company until Cajun passed, in Kim's and my arms, at the age of 11. Kim was devasted, but, by this time had begun to develop quite the bond with Zona. They were now inseparable. Zona always slept with us and follow Kim around the house all day, keeping her company. She was very sweet with the bambinis, too - letting them use her as a pillow, actually allowing Antonio to ride her like a pony and playing ball and tug of war with them. Although Zona never got to take the same trips with us that Cajun had, she took plenty of walks, hikes and had a lot of fun.
We lost her in March, at the age of 10, to cancer...Kim held her until she passed away in her arms...
This time, it was me that did not want a dog. I wanted some time to properly mourn Zona, but Kim got right to work, research on the internet to try to find us a lab/border collie mix, like our dear Cajun was. I tried to talk her out of it, but about a week after Zona had passed, she had discovered that an organization called B.A.R.K. was advertising Lab/Border Collie mix pups and persuaded me to drive the family over to take a look...once again, it was the runt of the litter that attracted Kim's eye and the family's...and Bella came home to live with us.
Kim loved Bella so much, bringing her to bed with us each night, teaching her to shake hands, not getting made at her as she ate some wood off of our dining room table. She taught Bella to catch a ball and wanted to work on more agility training as a means to bottle some of the enormous energy that Bella had...then she went into the hospital. Our neighbors, Amy, Tom, Betsey and Brian took good care of Bella while Kim was in St. Joseph's and when she came home, briefly, she marveled at how much Bella had matured, not jumping up on her, being caring and loving - I think Bella knew how sick her mama was - and if you've been to visit, you know Bella is a jumper and not very calm! Bella would not leave Kimmy's side the few days she was with us...Kim so enjoyed her company and was comforted by Bella's presence.
Bella is a really good girl, she is so loving and absolutely loves the bambini's. She takes turns sleeping with them, in their beds, with head on pillow. I am so very glad Kim persuaded me to bring her into our family - she brings us plenty of smiles right now!
Hope your holiday season is going well!