The Life and Times of Kosh (2004 - 2014)

The Life and Times of Kosh

Kosh died Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 12:40 am PDT in San Jose, California.

Kosh was, to the best of our knowledge, ten years old. His full name was Kosh Naranek-sama Desu-ka, with various nicknames also starting with a hard k sound.

Always Kosh

The Beginnings of Kosh

The story of Kosh starts in 2004. I just started my first full time job and lived in a tiny apartment. But, the lease was up soon. It was time for an upgrade. Luckily, the strange early-00's housing market made it more attractive to get a mortgage on a new house than to rent again.

I found a good sized house near my apartment. It was three stories (garage, living/kitchen floor, bedroom/bathroom floor) and had the largest yard on the block. As part of the final contract, I had them fence in the yard.

Before the house was even an idea, I started researching different large dog breeds online. I've always liked large dogs. Now, with a house and a fenced in yard on the horizon, it was going to happen.

Out of all the large dog breeds I researched, Great Dane kept rising to the top of the list.

The First Day

Searching

In May 2004, I visited a Great Dane breeder.

All of her giant, full-sized, over 200 pound Great Danes were in cages outside and barking at me, the interloper, as I walked to her front door. We chatted for a while. She gave a speech about how she imports purebreds from Germany for further breeding and guarantees against common Great Dane genetic defects. She had a very timid Great Dane inside and mentioned she's not breeding that bitch anymore because it's timid to the point of being dangerous by lashing out at things she views as a threat. Brief thoughts of how we don't breed people for personality traits flashed over me.

The breeder was concerned I wanted a dog while also having a job away from home. She decided she wouldn't sell me one pup, but she would sell me two so they could keep each other company during the day. Her price: $2,000 each.

I put on my best go to hell smile and managed to get out of there without being eaten by a ravenous 200 pound German purebred of doggy genetic superiority. Even if you like dogs, having a dozen Great Danes in cages barking at you is a bit unnerving.

On June 4, 2004, I moved into the new house.

July 2013

Finding

My search moved to rescue organizations. Dog rescue organizations tend to specialize by breed so they can pay attention to traits of their breed needing extra care.

I found a Great Dane rescue organization with a website and current adoption listings up in Cartersville. They listed a few Great Danes in various age ranges on their website, so I filled out their online rescue evaluation form. They ask typical pet-related questions like which dog you're interested in, do you require a puppy or would you accept an older dog, is your living situation compatible with having a dog, have you had this breed of dog before, where will they live, how active will their lives be, etc.

A rescue member got back to me by email quickly. She mentioned the dog I was interested in from the website was a few years old, had a slightly troubled past, and may not be good for a first time Great Dane owner. But, she had some unlisted dogs as possibly better fits. She sent a picture of a recent addition they named Noble. He was black with a white spot down his belly. In the picture, he wore a blue ribbon tied into a bow around his neck.

We scheduled a meeting for me to drive up and visit on Saturday, June 12, 2004. At this point, I've had my house a week.

The First Evening

The drive up was the typical route heading out of civilization. Lots of highway, the presence of billboards fade, trees everywhere, then your exit appears.

The rescue organization is distributed among houses of individual rescue foster parents. I found the house easily enough. At least this one didn't have 20 giant dog cages in the driveway.

I walked inside and we chatted for a minute. First, she brought out her own not-up-for-rescue Great Dane from a side room. It was a giant purebred Great Dane from the same breeder I visited a few weeks earlier. Except, she got this one for free because it was born deaf.

If you've never been around a Great Dane before, they share one common major personality trait: they lean on you. If you are not prepared for a 200 pound dog to walk up beside you then suddenly offload its weight onto your leg, you'll... stumble. The Deaf Dane was already full grown, adorable, and would look up at you, anticipating, begging, asking for more petting as she rested half her weight on your leg.

After she saw her personal giant was fine around me, she brought Noble in from another room. I sat on the floor.

May 2006

He was calm and friendly. No hesitation or timidness. He enjoyed attention, but with a dozen dogs under her care, she didn't have time to give attention to the ones who weren't very troubled.

She handed me some treats to feed him. He slowly bit the treat then waited until I completely let go before taking the rest. No snapping, no wanting food out of desperation.

I stayed on the floor, petting him, looking him over. He had a few tiny scabs and scratches, including one right on his nose. She reassured me it's okay, that the dogs like to play together and some are more playfully aggressive than others. She said after he's in a better environment, everything will heal quickly.

She made it apparent a few times they do good things for the dogs, but not the best things. They can't afford the best food for the rescue dogs. The dogs don't hurt each other, but they naturally roughhouse more than indoor house dogs. The rescue organization keeps them all up to date with shots and alterations, so when you get a dog, it doesn't need immediate work.

Where did this Noble come from? How old is he?

July 2013

She didn't have exact answers. He was sent to her rescue organization after being found walking alone on the side of a highway in south Georgia. He has no origin story and no official birth date. Based on her experience with Great Danes, she estimated he was about six months old and still had growth left in him.

He was small for a Great Dane. She guessed he was a mix, but still mostly Great Dane. Or, perhaps ,he was just smaller because of early-life malnutrition while being homeless.

She asked if I was still interested. I said yes. She mentioned the fee was $250 to cover medical expenses. I asked, "Is it a today thing?" Some rescue organizations over evaluate potential owners by requiring initial home screenings, multiple reference checks, and periodic post-adoption follow up home visits. She replied, kindly mockingly, "Yeah, it's a today thing."

A today thing is good. The drive up to Cartersville is annoying.

As we started to finalize everything so I could bring Noble home, she abruptly told me I can't put him in the back of my truck. I replied in disbelief at the suggestion and reassured her that would never happen. There was of room in the front seat for his size. Though, if he doubled in size, I'd need a bigger car.

I took out the one check I kept in my wallet for unexpected spending needs and made $250 appear on it. She gave me his vet paperwork, a tiny bag of the bad food they use to mix in with food I would buy to help him acclimate to a new diet, then had me sign a basic rescue contract.

She grabbed a cheap donated leash from a box, put it on him, and we were free to go.

July 2013

I walked Noble out to my truck. Well, I tried to. Turns out, he was afraid of her three wooden steps. He didn't really understand how walking on non-dirt or non-carpet worked, especially wooden stairs. It was more of a controlled falling situation, but he survived stumbling down the three tiny steps.

Looking over the paperwork, they didn't list an official birthday. Because he was estimated to be six months old, I declared his official birthday to be exactly six months before the day I got him. New birthday: January 12, 2004.

With paperwork in the glove box and new Puppy Great Dane in the passenger's seat, I set out to... wait, I wasn't expecting this today. I need supplies. Need doggie crate and food and toys and treats and collar and leash and food bowl and water bowl.

I drove to my dad's house on the way back home. I hadn't through this through. I'll have to introduce new Puppy Great Dane to other people already! At the beginning of the Find A Great Dane adventure, I decided, if the Great Dane is sufficiently regal, to use the name Kosh. It still fits. No time for an official Puppy Naming Ceremony, but the name takes effect.

When I reach my dad's house I introduce Kosh, let the puppy run around their back yard for a few minutes, then go inside and sit on the floor with him a little while longer. But, there's places to go and doggie supplies to get. I didn't want to take Super Fresh Uncontrollable Puppy into a store while I try to shop and move things into the truck.

I leave Kosh with them for an hour while I drive to PetSmart to stock up on supplies. It can be difficult deciding on sizes of things for a dog you've only seen for two hours. Collar size? Crate size? Food bowl height? Decisions get made and supplies get thrown in the back of my truck.

When I get back to my dad's house, they said Kosh stood at the door waiting for me to return the whole time I was gone.

At this point, we should have gone home, unpacked the supplies, and rested. But, someone wanted to see the new Kosh. So, on the way home we went by a park to walk around for a while.

The First Day, June 12, 2004

After a long day of meeting new people, going out into the world, and finding a new home, Kosh was pretty tired.

The First Evening, June 12, 2004

Still, The First Evening, June 12, 2004

That Damn First Day

This was Saturday, June 12, 2004, I've been in my house for a week, and now I've got Kosh too. It becomes our house. The two happened together in my life. There is no house without Kosh and there is no Kosh without house.

The house had six kinds of flooring to walk on: concrete in the garage, carpet on the stairs and living areas, hardwood floors in the entry area, laminate flooring in the kitchen, exposed wood on outside stairs, and tile in the master bathroom.

Looks so uncertain of even walking; hasn't grown into his body yet

Kosh was afraid of over half of the walking surfaces. He was fine going up on carpeted stairs. Walking down the same stairs, not so much. He reverted back into his stumbling, yet controlled, falling scenario.

The hardwood floors were slippery for him to stand on, so he was afraid of those too. The bathroom tile was just impossibly scary being a new walking medium with less friction than carpet or dirt.

The first couple days, Kosh didn't know the rules. He didn't know he wasn't still living outside. He would wake up, stand up on the bed, and immediately pee. Bad Kosh. In my brilliance, I grabbed him by the collar and quickly walked him downstairs then outside, leaving a dotted line of dog pee throughout the entire house. Yay me. Luckily, I had prepared for accidents by borrowing my dad's carpet cleaning water vacuum. It got a lot of use those first few months.

Kosh arrived with persistent bowel problems. He had difficulty... going. A trip to the vet and some magic powder cleared it up after a few weeks. After that mild, but messy, problem was fixed, Kosh was accident free for the rest of our years in the house.

July 2013

First Day Alone

Kosh's first day alone was adventurous. I had assembled his "safe crate" in an unused bedroom. Kosh didn't find it entirely "safe" yet. I led Kosh into his crate with bedding and a treat then quickly left to not distract him. I left for my daily work/school routine.

I returned home in the afternoon. As I opened the bedroom door, I saw Kosh outside of the crate laying on the carpet. Oh, and also all the carpet at the door dug up to the plywood underneath. The door frame was half eaten too, in a very logical attempt to chew out of the room. Bad Kosh.

So, I learned the crate can't contain Kosh when he wants to get out. He was able to force the weak sides apart and push through. Kosh wasn't happy being isolated so quickly.

This was my 10th day in the new house. I kicked myself for shutting him in and also for now having a destroyed bedroom. Whoops.

June 12, 2004

Next Day Alone

For the next day, I reassembled the crate, got Kosh inside when I left for work, but this time I left the door open.

When I got home, Kosh was laying on my bed surrounded by a roll of destroyed paper towels. He looks shamefully guilty.

Next Next Day Alone

For the next day, I reassembled the create and reinforced the edges so he couldn't break them. When I got home, he was still inside.

The neighbors complained a little about all the barking from the house during the day, but Kosh calmed down after a few months.

March 2006

Improvements

The fence around my yard was four feet high. Kosh liked to rest his head between the slats at the top of the fence. He used this ability to solicit pettings and treats from friendly neighbors. He could have jumped over the fence if he wanted, but he didn't know it.

Kosh got better at walking down stairs. One of his favorite games became "upstairs/downstairs." That's when you stand between one up and one down flight of stairs then repeatedly call him upstairs or downstairs until he gets tired.

Kosh's second favorite game was barking at things far away that had zero chance of being an actual threat.

Kosh's bark was deep and roaring, and all posturing. One time a woman walked up to our front door to try and sell things. Kosh started barking. I held him by the collar as I opened the door. She quickly asked if I could "control my dog," which seemed an utterly foreign request to me. You came to our house and you want to make demands? Not quite. So, I just stood there and let him keep barking at her. He wasn't lunging forward, so though I was holding him, I wasn't having to hold him back. He was just standing there barking at her. She stopped talking mid-sales pitch and walked away.

Even though Kosh never grew to full Great Dane size, he was still a large dog.

When visiting family who also have dogs, at meal times, the other humans would put their dogs in the laundry room to stop begging and whining at the table. To be fair to all the doggies, Kosh went in the room too. The other dogs would whine and beg from the other room. Kosh would just stand, looking, towering over the gate with no whines or barks or begs.

The laundry room was blocked off with a two foot tall expandable child's gate. Kosh never tolerated being away from people when people were obviously around. In this case, he just stepped over the gate, walked over to where everybody was eating, and laid under the table to sleep.

Eventually, everybody agreed, it was okay to leave Kosh out while people were eating since he had no interest in soliciting table food.

Kosh never begged for food. He never whined for attention. He was quiet and deliberate. His barks had a playful tone for grabbing attention instead of threatening. He made a great visual guard dog, but there was zero sense of hostility or fight in him. Most people would back away as the big friendly dog walked up to them, wanting to lean over and look directly up for more head pats of attention.

People Areas

Puppy Kosh didn't understand People-Only Areas. A few times he got curious about the kitchen counter and stood up to see what was going on. Once, and only once, I lost my dinner to Kosh. I had set my dinner on the kitchen counter near the edge, walked to another room to get something, and when I got back, my dinner was on the floor and being eaten, and not by me.

He soon stopped being curious about jumping on counters, and we extinguished his jump-up desire for other things too.

Great Danes enjoy jumping on things. But, when you have a 100 to 200 pound dog, even playful jumps can be damaging. You have to train large dogs to definitely not jump on people and not to jump on things unless invited.

January 2008

Trainings

Training Kosh didn't feel much like training at all. He absorbed new behaviors with very little direction. Sit, shake, go upstairs, no, go downstairs, inside, outside, go to your room, go to bed, couch, go to the kitchen, go drink water, bark, up, down, wait until I say 'ok' (for eating, taking a treat, going out an open door)... they all fell into place with simple contextual exposure and a few reinforcements here and there.

Only trust dogs with large vocabularies.

This concludes the Establishment of Kosh.

Koshland

Remember the fear of bathroom tile floors? A new vet office opened nearby. On our first visit, Kosh didn't want to walk inside. Their entire lobby had a tile floor. I had to pick him up to get him inside.

June 2007

Still, June 2007

At home, Kosh had his own couch, his own spot on my king bed, and his own secondary bed for when I wanted him somewhere else. Kosh refused to sleep anywhere but on an extremely padded surface (bed or couch or comfy chair).

If you were sleeping in a single bed barely wide enough for one person, Kosh had no qualms about climbing up there to sleep too. You'd have to watch out for Kosh stretching in the middle of the night because he'd start to push you off the bed. Rule of Kosh sleep: never let Kosh sleep by the wall, or else he'll have a strong surface to push against, resulting in pushing you off the bed.

The last day in our house. The only thing left was a tiny bed. Kosh would rather sleep cramped in a tiny bed than on the floor.

Kosh liked pillows on floors, not on beds. If there were any pillows except for mine on the bed, he would flip them up with his snout and throw them on the floor. He did enjoy floor pillows and blankets though.

March 2006

July 2013

July 2013 at a hotel in Anaheim

He enjoyed laying in front of the fireplace on top of a body pillow. I always found it amusing he understood the concept of 'pillow.' It never occurred to me a dog would seek out a pillow.

Kosh liked being warm. On too-cold nights, I'd wrap him in blankets so he could sleep better. Kosh liked getting so close on the bed he'd start to push you off. Trying to push back against a sleeping Great Dane results in muffled half asleep "grrr... rawr..." sounds beside you.

July 2007

As the sun moved through the day, different windows of the house received strong sun at different times of the day. Kosh would move to the strongest sunshine spots throughout the day. For evenings, his spot was the carpet by the front door. His mid-day spot was under the giant stairway window.

Every window and glass door in the house had omnipresent Kosh-height nose smudges.

Kosh also thought he was an ambulance. Many dogs respond to ambulance and fire truck sirens as if the sounds are distant wolf packs waiting for return howls. Just wait until you have a dog howling next to you at 3am because an ambulance drove by outside. You don't realize what the strange noise in your bedroom could be the first few times it happens.

As for toys, Kosh's mortal toy enemy was anything with eyes. On any toy with eyes, the eyes were quickly ripped out.

Kosh wasn't one for long walks. He'd be excited to start. He'd lead the way and investigate everything on the trail. After about 20 minutes, he'd start lagging behind. After getting home, he'd have to spend a day recovering.

He quickly got used to our daily routine. If it got too late and I wasn't going to bed yet, he would go upstairs on his own, jump into bed, and go to sleep on his side of the bed all by himself.

Can't be bothered moving to look at you, June 2007

After a couple months in the house alone, a roommate moved in with us. The one thing Kosh could never get enough of: attention from new people. Some of roommate's friends didn't appreciate a happy Great Dane wanting pets from them. People who are afraid of dogs don't understand the happy Great Dane advancing on them just wants pets and hugs.

We didn't develop a routine of walks, so walking Kosh took extra attention to make sure he didn't build up enough running momentum if he wanted to go after something.

Over time, Kosh got better a not overrunning his leash and could even be relied on to not run away off-leash.

July 2013

More Things Kosh Was Afraid Of

Kosh was invited to ride in a boat on a lake. You thought tile floors were scary? Try the surface of a boat. Yes, Kosh was afraid of the boat. He ended up being carried onto the boat. When we reached the swimmin' hole, the Labrador we were with jumped right in. Kosh was having none of it. Kosh was carried into the water and immediately wanted right back in the boat.

Over time, Kosh got better acclimated to boats and lakes and even beaches. At first, he would run away from tiny beach waves. He eventually stopped running and even jumped into beach puddles on his own. As for boats, he eventually started liking the boat, would walk onto it easily, and would even go swimming without trepidation.

Kosh wasn't a fan of rain either. One time it had been raining all day with no breaks, but it was time for Kosh to go outside to pee. Kosh walked out the front door, stood under the covered part of the front porch, then refused to go into the rain. He decided it would be easier to pee where he was standing, nice and dry, right on the front porch.

November 2006, Blue Steel

Food

Kosh was never a big fan of food. I was always bothered he would barely touch his food. How do you fix a dog who doesn't like food? I tired buying better food. I tried mixing things in. He liked Cheerios. I could mix Cheerios in with his dog food. He quickly learned he could pick up a mouthful of food from his bowl, drop it on the floor, then pick the Cheerios directly off the floor, leaving a floor full of dog food he wouldn't touch.

More than Cheerios, he enjoyed a simple chicken and rice meal I'd make a few days a week. I'd get dinner on a plate, and Kosh would get the same dinner in his bowl.

July 2007

Size

A few years into living together, he never reached full Great Dane 200+ pound size. He did grow out of the puppy features he had when we first met. He reached around 80 to 90 pounds, but always seemed a little under weight. The vet always said everything was fine.

Kosh was mostly legs. When running, he turned into a flailing mix of uncoordinated appendages. His fast paced walks were amusing little trots. His running looked like gallops.

Kosh would only want to play or run for five minutes at most. After that, he'd get bored and become more interested in any new people around instead of silly dog toys.

July 2007

Moving

After three and a half years, I sold our house. After the sale, I packed everything we needed into my Mazda3, gave Kosh the entire back seat, and drove from Atlanta to Long Beach, California the first week of 2008. Kosh is now 4 years old.

Somewhere in Texas, January 2008

Kosh did well on the trip, but he was stressed out by all the change. He was eating less than normal, which already wasn't much, and his regular yard routine was absent. He spent a few days not going to the bathroom, perhaps waiting until we got back to his own yard again. He'd never use the old yard again.

On the second to last night of driving, after a few days of being potty compromised, Kosh had an uncontrollable accident in the back seat. He knew it was bad and tried to hide. Except, we were in the car. He tried to jump into the front seat. I had no idea what was happening yet. We were going 80 mph down the highway after sundown and now the car was full of... unmentionable biomatter plus a Great Dane trying to jump into the front seat.

We were almost at our hotel for the night. After finding a store with car cleaning supplies and air freshener and 30 minutes of scrubbing, everything was minimally acceptable again.

Long Beach

When we reached California, I found a room on Craigslist. The room was in a house with two other people who also had dogs. One house, three people, three dogs. The house had a fenced in back yard and came in handy for all the dogs to come and go as they pleased.

Doorway Battle of 2008

One of the dogs in the house had horrible separation anxiety when her owner was gone at work all day. She wouldn't interact with anybody during the day. The other dog was old and feisty and didn't care what anybody else wanted. The old dog and Kosh got along well. Kosh and the separation anxiety dog eventually became playful with each other. The old dog liked to steal the seat I bought for Kosh.

Rascal Rocky

The house in Long Beach was old, renovated, and lacked sufficient heating. It's Southern California, so that's mostly okay, but some nights it got cold. I'd wrap Kosh in a blanket to make sure he stayed warm enough. The bed wasn't as large as our old king bed, so he stayed close at night. I had to buy Kosh an extra dog chair for times when he wasn't welcome on the bed. The floors were hardwood and Kosh always refused to lay down on anything without padding.

Kold Kosh

San Jose

After two and a half months in the Long Beach Three Dog house, I moved 300 miles north to San Jose, California. I stayed with someone we knew from Atlanta. They had a Labrador four years older than Kosh. They had enough space in their loft for all of us and already had a doggie routine for the best spaces to walk and times to go. I stayed in a tiny makeshift bedroom marked off from the rest of the loft by curtains.

The loft had big comfy chairs in the living area. Kosh knew these chairs from Georgia. He quickly stopped sleeping in my bed and started spending all night curled up in one of the over-stuffed leather chairs.

Soon after, he gave up sleeping in my bed completely and started going upstairs to sleep with the lofty people and the Labrador on a bigger bed upstairs.

Kosh concerned about his friend coming out of medical sedation

After two and a half months sharing the loft, I found a new job and could move into to my own apartment. But, finding an apartment to accept a large dog is tricky. Some apartments will accept dogs up to 100 pounds, but require you live on the ground floor. Then, you have to hope one of the compatible units is even available during your search.

After searching for apartments accepting of large dogs combined with not adding hundreds of dollars in additional "pet rent" per month, it became clear Kosh would be better where he already was.

Kosh had adopted the loft people and mostly stopped spending time with me all on his own. If the loft people were around, he would go to them. Since they already had a Labrador and food/walk/potty schedule, it made sense to let Kosh be happy there.

Those eyes, July 2013

So, I moved into a nearby apartment. It didn't allow dogs. It was only half a mile away from the loft, so visits back to Kosh were easy.

At the end of June 2008, four years after June 2004, I was no longer Kosh's primary caregiver. And he was happier.

Note the ongoing use of pillows

Ick Sick

Less than a month after they took full stewardship of Kosh, he fell ill with a bout of violent diarrhea all over their loft. fun. To help... contain it... if it happened again, I bought Kosh a crate for them to use (the old one didn't make it out from Georgia).

They started putting Kosh in the crate during the day, but he had another round of bowel problems. We didn't think to secure the edges of the crate and Kosh busted out. Kosh was afraid of his own diarrhea.

I visited the loft to scrub their floors.

They took Kosh to their vet for appropriate medication/steroids/food improvements. I gave them a few thousand dollars to help with the new bills.

They got better control over Kosh's new found bowel problems and the new steroids made him hungry enough to eat properly for the first time. He got up to weighing 100 pounds.

We spared no expense, May 2007

Time

Days go by. Years go by. They left the loft and bought a house nearby. Kosh was still just a mile away from me. They took Kosh on more walks and he started acting much better on a leash.

Once, they took Kosh on a charity walk in San Francisco. They learned the Kosh Doesn't Do Long Walks rule. By the end of the walk, Kosh could barely walk. They bandaged his paws and it took him days to recover.

Christmas 2012

Every so often they'd go out of town and I'd stop by to let the dogs out and follow their increasingly complicated food and medicine routines.

Some weekends we'd all pile into a car and visit a dog park.

Kosh was interested in people at the dog park, dogs at the dog park, and for about two throws per trip, a tennis ball at the dog park. After the third throw, he'd give you the most serious you expect me to keep doing this? look you can imagine. You'd have to walk over and retrieve the ball yourself.

Move II

After four years in California, it was time to move on again. In 2012, I left my apartment to travel for a while. Kosh is now 8 years old.

They'd send me Kosh pictures sometimes. He kept getting more gray. We don't notice age when we live beside it, but puppy pictures don't lie. Doggie wrinkles were apparent.

Exhausted after a day at the lake, July 2013

Re-Visit

I made it back to California in 2013. They invited me to their yearly July California->Georgia->California road trip. This was the last chance I'd have have to spend a lot of time with Kosh. Kosh is now 9 and a half years old.

We went to brunch, including the dogs. Taking Kosh to outdoor restaurants took effort. Kosh absolutely refused to lay down on anything except a nice padded surface. He would stand for hours instead of laying down on concrete or wooden floors. So, Kosh's giant portable, but barely, doggie bed got dragged out to venues and restaurants and anywhere Kosh was taken for more than a quick walk.

Brunch in LA, just like all those cool movie dogs

They drove to Georgia with the dogs in the back of the SUV. The rear seats were down so the dogs had plenty of room.

Kosh gets to visit the lake again and jumps onto the boat enthusiastically. Kosh comes back from the boat ride drenched from swimming. He's gone back to being too picky of an eater, not wanting to eat any dog food, even the expensive mail-order-only kind. They try chicken instead of dog food. Kosh can't get enough chicken. Fine, Kosh, chicken it is then.

Kosh takes advantage of free and unlimited in-car air conditioning, July 2013

After we're back in California, Kosh gets to visit with someone we knew back in Long Beach. They drop me off in Los Angeles and drive back to their house in San Jose.

Kosh investigates an intruder, February 2008

They send more pictures of Kosh at dog parks.

January

In January 2014, I visit California again to empty my storage unit from when I lived there. While I'm in San Jose cleaning out storage, they mention I should visit Kosh. They say it may be the last chance I get. He hasn't been doing well. Kosh is now 10 years old.

July 2013

Before visiting, we visit a pet store and buy some expensive organic/non-grain/non-inflammatory treats. They look better than what I eat.

If they hadn't told me Kosh was sick, from how I saw him acting that evening, I would have thought he was doing great. He looked healthy, perhaps a little under weight, but as personable as ever. They then brought up, in December, Kosh became very lethargic and lost a lot of weight. After going to the vet, Kosh was diagnosed with cancer.

The vet provided two options: do nothing and Kosh will die in less than a month, or, do doggie chemo and Kosh will last, at most, up to a year.

They opted for doggie chemo.

My visit happened a few weeks after his chemo. He had some energy back and started eating again. I opened the treats I bought. We went through his old routines of things Kosh does for treats. He likes the treats. They were big enough to need four bites, but he finishes them in one chomp and a gulp. He didn't get bored of the treats this time. A few months earlier, he wasn't even eating treats. eat treats.

Our last time together

We spend a while visiting, but we have to get back. We take some pictures. I pause for a moment to pet Kosh while he stands beside me. He leans. He gets even more pets. We say goodbye and walk back to the car. I sit in the passenger's seat on the drive back to San Francisco. The driver is busy driving. He doesn't notice the tears run down my face on and off for the next half hour. It's almost time to say goodnight to our raggedy man.

Kosh thinks he can ambulate.

On April 11, 2014 they sent me a video of Kosh howling at a passing siren. He's even more gray. Kosh is now 10 years and three months old.

On Saturday, May 3, 2014 they call me, crying. My first thought is they had to make a difficult choice about their Labrador; she had been not well for years, but they kept her in questionable condition, not letting her go. Through the tears, they mention Kosh instead.

When they let him outside for morning potty, he walked over to the grass and once he got there, he didn't have the strength to stand up anymore. He laid down in the grass. They had to carry him back inside. They carried him to the car and drove to their vet. Kosh had a temperature over 105ºF.

It was time to help him die. They schedule his death that evening so the other roommate has time to return from Canada. I had no way to get there in time. I'm in NY and they're in California.

They sent pictures of our raggedy man as he lay at the vet, waiting, draped with cool towels to try and keep his fever down, if only a little.

Kosh, resting from life

On Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 03:40 am EDT they send me a message: "Kosh is gone now."

Our ten year anniversary was one month and eight days away.

Kosh on his first day. Kosh on his last day.

Life changes us.

The story of Kosh is the story of life. His life, my life, the lives of everyone who helped keep him and everyone who stopped in the street to gawk at the giant friendly doggy.

Kosh was around for a third of my life. I found Kosh when I was 20. Now, at 30, he's a reflection of growing up. We're all innocent puppies in the beginning, unaware of the rules, being trained and bumping up against the limits of the world. We grow, we change, we turn gray. If we're lucky, at the end, someone we love will be there to hold us, comfort us, and then let us go.

When people met Kosh they'd say, "He's a good dog." No, I'd argue. He's the best dog.

Kosh. 2004 - 2014.