I was 25 miles away at the time of this incident so the story is being retold from my perspective as it originally happened to Jade, who was my girlfriend at the time but is my wife today.
It’s past midnight. The moon is just a sliver in the sky making Denver darker than usual. The year is 2004. My wife is living in the basement of a 4-plex down the street from Capitol Hill right off Colfax. The area is sort of a living juxtaposition as Capitol Hill is pretty nice but Colfax is a dump so you never know who’s going to walk into you.
Something pulls her out of a dream. Something has lassoed her consciousness and started to slowly tug it towards the surface. Clink-Clink. Two people in the dream click their glasses together in celebration.
Her eyes come open and the room is black. The simple apartment consists of a bedroom, a living room and a bathroom, each darker and dingier than the last; all of them looking like they should belong to Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs. She’s tried her best to gussy it up but still it just looks like a dungeon with some tulips in the corner. She shuts her eyes again. Click-Click. The dream changes to the face of an old robot, its mechanical parts trying to operate a dead system.
The consciousness floats a little higher and her eyes open again. Click-Click. She wonders if that noise were in a dream, sort of those lacy tendrils of memory we have when we wake up – the fog of the unconscious waving in front of our brain. Was it real? She waits, quiet. Click-Click. It’s not in a dream. It’s in real life. In her basement. Click-Click. She can see the doorknob leading to her unlit backyard from where she lies. It shakes once. Pause. It shakes again. Click-Click.
And it falls to the floor.
The doorknob falls from the door frame, onto the floor.
Capitol Hill / Colfax. You never know who you’re going to get; sometimes Buffalo Bill walks right into your house. Be sure to ask him for an autograph before he sticks you in The Pit. Get a photo with him before he makes you into a skin suit. Update your Facebook status before he turns your thumbs into decorative earrings.
Jade’s eyes open. Her consciousness is full surface. A large figure steps into the door frame and then through it. He’s inside the apartment and, just like that, Kaidance is up like a piston. While Jade is stiff with fear, just waiting politely to be scalped and boiled alive, Kaidance charges straight towards this dark shadow without hesitation. She doesn’t need questions. She doesn’t need answers. She only knows that someone is here who does not belong. It’s the bravest thing she’s ever done and it is majestic. She barrels across the floor, all four of her feet lifting off the ground at once, her teeth bared, her head down, her hair up. The noise emitting from her mouth is neither bark nor growl but a primal language that is very clear. It simply states, “If I catch you, I will hurt you”.
Kaidance is young and in her prime and for this one act of service I owe her so much.
The Man turns and runs out of the house. Jade hears the chain link fence in the backyard rattle and then silence. Kaidance waddles back into the basement with her slow lioness gait, meanders back to her bed and lies down. No “Thank you” necessary. No “You Owe Me”. Nothing. This is simply the unspoken contract a dog has to its person.
It’s this one moment that I carry with me for the following decade that makes me grateful for her presence. What did she save my wife from that night?
Fast forward roughly ten years and Hurricane Kaidance is the the most burdensome creature in my day-to-day routine. She ruins my house, my belongings, my clothes. She makes my life more difficult than it needs to be and certainly more difficult than any other dog owner that I’m familiar with. At one point the “Maybe-We-Should-Give-Her-Away” conversation comes up but…
I can’t help but remember 2004 when Kaidance saved my wife’s….. what? Life maybe?
I believe that when you bring the responsibility of a living thing under your wing, you are making an unspoken contract that lasts for the big haul, through thick and thin. Ashes to ashes and all that. It’s not always easy, it’s not always fun but it’s yours. Hanging up the hat is not an option.
Have we discussed getting rid of Kaidance; donating her to another family, leaving her in South Dakota for “farm life”, dropping her off on the side of the road and speeding away as quickly as possible and never looking back free of her burden forever and ever amen? Yes. We have. Countless times. But we can’t. Because, even though my personal motto is “’til death”, I owe Kaidance considerably more than a generic PETA themed fortune cookie.
A dog is a responsibility, but I owe Kaidance a debt.