Kobe, The Big Lug

LA Lakers have Kobe Bryant, but back here in Ron Avenue, we have our own Kobe. He may be no Black Mamba, he’s more of a Big Duffus, but he is just as handsome and charismatic as his namesake. Ladies and gentlemen, meet our star player, Kobe, the Big Lug.IMG_4414

Our Kobe is a beautiful mix of an American Rottweiler and German Shepherd. From his mom, he inherited the general features of a Rottie with his brown eyebrows, brown mug and brown paws, but thanks to his dad, he is a leaner and taller version. He sports a thick, black coat that stays glossy even without grooming. He even has what we call a “Superman” butt, because on his rear end is a brown marking that resembles the insignia on Superman’s heroic chest.20131113-173457.jpg

 

 

Like all real beauties, Kobe’s endearing qualities go beyond the physical. He has the personality to match his looks. This gentle giant is always smiling and happy, eager to play with friends old and new, be it cat, dog or human.20131015-205256.jpgIMG_3651 IMG_4411He likes to nudge his head against people, hoping for a pat on the head or any other form of affection. He may be a BBD (big black dog) but growing up with all the small dogs in my household, he thinks he is a tiny poodle. He runs around tossing his floppy ears, much like a cheerleader flapping her pigtails in the wind. He thinks he’s dainty and petite like his smaller counterparts, so he miscalculates height and depth and is constantly running smack into things. Throughout all these misadventures, he just flashes that goofy grin, tongue hanging out in a playful fashion.

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Mind you, Kobe was not always a welcome figure in our household. When he first made his appearance, he almost caused a civil war to erupt. This is what happened…

I arrived home from work to find my daughter saying, “Mom, Dad has a surprise for you…”

I never know what to expect from these surprises. Sometimes, they can be so “surprising.”

My daughter opened the back door and led me out into the backyard. This was the sight that greeted me.

  

 Anyone else would have melted looking at those soulful brown eyes. Not me. All I could think of was that in no time, this cute adorable puppy was going to grow into a ferocious monster terrorizing the entire neighborhood. Not to mention my home insurance rates would be jacked up if the company found out I was harboring such a beast.

“Ron, what were you thinking?”

You know I’m mad at my husband when “Dada” disappears from my vocabulary and he is just plain old Ron.

“Don’t you know how dangerous that breed is?”

“They’re not dangerous,” he said. It depends on how you train them. A customer gave this to me and his dogs were very well-behaved. ”

“Oh yeah,” I countered. “Are we gonna wait until he bites his first victim before we admit he’s not well-behaved? Ron, I don’t want that dog around. You either return him or give him away. ”

I was so furious at my husband that I gave him the cold shoulder for the next couple of days.

On the third day, I returned from work only to find the dog still there. I was fuming.

I told my daughter, “So I see your dad still has that puppy! How could he be so inconsiderate!”

My daughter was quiet for a moment, then she said gently, “Mom, let Dad keep Kobe. You have your dog. My sister has her cat and I have Delilah ( a duck). Dad has nobody. Besides, can’t you see how happy he is around him?”

That stopped me in my tracks. Sometimes, my kids surprise me with their wisdom. I peered out reluctantly between the blinds.

There was my husband, throwing a ball for Kobe to catch. He looked pensive and forlorn, as he should, having been in the doghouse and all, but when Kobe came back with the ball in his mouth, Ronnie’s face lit up like the fourth of July. Hmmm, could I really take that smile away from him? Was I the one who had been selfish, after all?

I relented and went outside to watch the two. Ronnie was so happy to see me that I think if he had a tail, he would have wagged it harder than the dog. Thank God the civil war ended before it could even begin.

I was glad I softened up and let Ronnie keep Kobe. Ronnie had always been a dog lover, but these two had a special bond. They walked regularly to the park, and you couldn’t find a happier pair. They loved to play games, and Ronnie even fashioned a toy that was a cross between “play catch” and “run after the ball.” Sometimes I wondered who enjoyed these games more, the dog slobbering after the ball or the owner slobbering after the dog.

Come to think of it, the reason they got along so well was because they were so alike. Ronnie and Kobe were just two friendly and energetic goofballs, ready to play with anyone at any time. The two were like a party waiting to happen.

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Ronnie’s sudden demise, then, came as a shock to everyone. I myself did not know what to think, feel or say. Numbness was the crutch that made me go through the motions of living. It took me a good three or four days before I finally mustered the courage to break the sad news to our next-door neighbors.

These neighbors, who happened to be fellow Filipinos and who were very close to Ronnie, were just as shocked as everyone else about the news. They exclaimed, “Oh my God! No wonder Kobe’s been acting crazy these past few nights. He would just howl in the middle of the night, like he was so sad. It sent chills up our spine listening to him. We were wondering if something bad had happened, because Kobe has never acted like this. Aww. Poor dog. He must miss Ronnie so much.”

I had no doubt Kobe felt Ronnie’s absence, or should I say, presence, but I did not give it much thought until a few months later when my eldest daughter called my attention.

“Mom, have you noticed that Kobe looks so depressed ever since Dad died? He just stares out into space and is not his usual self. He hasn’t been eating and has lost so much weight. I think he misses Dad. ”

I thought to myself, “Nonsense. A dog not eating because he misses someone that much? Was that really possible?”

Then I went outside to take a look at Kobe, and I got my answer.

There in the middle of our backyard was the saddest-looking dog I’ve ever seen. What used to be an impressive display of massive skull and frame was now a pitifully gaunt creature with the mopiest expression ever. He had also become alarmingly skeletal.

The dog who used to eat everything in sight had lost his appetite since his master died. He lost something else, too: that playful sparkle in his eyes.

It was positively heartbreaking to see him like this. I put my arms around him and whispered, “We’ll take care of you, Kobe.” The kids promised to take him to the vet the very next day.

The next day, my daughter called me at work. She was in tears.

“Mom, we’re at the vet’s. They had to give Kobe some IV fluids because he was so weak. He has lost more than twenty pounds since his last visit. They tried to take a stool sample from him but the vet said there was no poop in his digestive tract at all. In fact, he said that per X-ray, his stomach was empty. He said that if we had waited a few more days, we could have lost Kobe. ”

Wow! In his grief, the poor dog had practically starved himself to death.

“Mom,” my daughter continued. “The vet said we need to withhold all dog food because in his state right now, even if he ate, the food will just pass through his stomach and not stick. He said we need to give him Greek yogurt and a bunch of other stuff that will act as a glue that will stick to his stomach. And Mom, we really need to spend more time with him. Poor thing is in a bad state coz he misses Dad.”

I was stabbed with guilt. Ronnie loved this dog so much that to neglect him would be letting Ronnie down. I was determined to nurse him back to health.

So right after work, I headed to the nearest Ralph’s to get myself the biggest tub of Greek yogurt I could find. It looked nasty, but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. (As long as I didn’t have to eat it…)

Day in and day out, everyone in the household did their share of giving Kobe that thick white glob of zero-flavorness. After almost a week, we were down to the last few ounces. I was hellbent on giving Kobe the last dollop.

That afternoon, I marched towards Kobe armed with the almost empty container and a plastic spoon. Kobe looked at me woefully while I walked towards him. He did not turn his head away but he did not open his mouth either. Strange. This dog who was so gentle and obedient that he usually did whatever you told him to just sat there with his mouth stubbornly closed . He just stared at me with this strange expression.

I was trying to figure out what the deal was, so I peered into those brown eyes, and then it hit me. The poor dog was trying to tell me something. It almost seemed like he was saying that he would do anything for me because he loved me, eat the yogurt if I forced him to, but if I really, really loved him, then for heaven’s sake, could I please get him something else because he was sick and tired of this piece of —-!

Woah! That was a mouthful. I don’t know how I got that message, but I got it loud and clear.

I reassured Kobe by giving him a tight hug, and went back inside to look at the discharge instructions from the vet. Then I headed for Walmart, clutching the list, determined to give Kobe the yummiest treats possible.

At the counter, I looked at my loot. Yogurt in assorted flavors, oatmeal in different varieties, Cheerios in multi colors… I was pleased with myself.

The cashier looked at my pile and remarked, “Going on a diet?”

I just smiled at her. I did not want to make any waves by saying all this was for a dog.

Weeks passed as Kobe reveled in his pampered pooch status. The mutt whose tail used to wag at any bowl of kibbles and bits was suddenly developing a very discriminating palate. Yogurt in banana foster and mixed berries flavors were ok, and so was oatmeal in maple syrup, but key lime-flavored yogurt and cinnamon sugar oatmeal did not make the cut. He would turn up his nose up at them and  they ended up going to the other dogs. All this special treatment was turning him into a diva!

After several weeks, Kobe went back to the vet looking recharged. His weight was up, his appetite back, and his spirits restored. Kobe definitely got his groove back. The vet gave him a clean bill of health. To cap a perfect day, we decided to take Kobe to Forest Lawn to visit Ronnie’s gravesite.

Kobe was so excited to be there. He happily posed for pictures and snuggled next to the tombstone. He was grinning from ear to ear. He was in high spirits. Even though we couldn’t stay there long because the guard yelled at us that there were no dogs allowed, it did not dampen our spirits. Mission accomplished.

  
Now Kobe is almost back to his top form. His coat is glossy, his physique, remarkable and his weight, optimal. He tags behind the other small dogs, little knowing that if he wanted to, he could be the alpha dog because he’s way bigger than any of them. He still lets out his signature howl, but mostly at passing ambulance and ice cream trucks. My kids say that every now and then, he wags his tail at an imaginary playmate, a look of recognition on his face. While it warms my heart to think it might be Ronnie playing catch with him, I cannot say for sure. All I can say is, Kobe is welcome to receive any visitors, from this world or beyond. That was a privilege he earned when he proved his loyalty and earned his rightful place in our household. Kobe, the Big Lug, is definitely here to stay.

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