Keani Evening Song (The Little Sphinx)
Tibetan Spaniel, sable with a black mask
Keani is the answer to a prayer. Or, rather, a ton of prayers. After years of nursing the hope of expanding our family, we finally came to the realization that it probably wouldn't happen for us. At least, not in the way we'd been envisaging and planning. It's hard to let go of a dream like that, and that reality, along with having just gone through a failed IVF, coupled with years and years of disappointment, nearly crushed me. Until the day I suddenly had an inspiration. It literally came out of the blue.
"Honey," I said, standing beside my husband's swivel chair as he sat in the office. "I want a little dog." Understand - we were not little dog people. We had a gentle giant, and while I'd once considered having a medium-sized dog, we had never, ever even once considered a smaller one. Our experience with them was that they were yappy, stubborn personalities wrapped in a miniature package.
I fully expected my husband to say "No, we don't want a little dog, remember?" Instead he said, "okay" without hesitating.
And so we began to search. As with our gentle giant, we wanted a breed that was relatively uncommon, relatively "primitive," one that hadn't been tampered with so much in terms of over-breeding, in-breeding and cross-breeding. We narrowed the search to three breeds: the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, the Tibetan Spaniel, and the Coton de Tulear.
Ultimately we chose the Tibetan Spaniel.
Keani Evening Song arrived a few months later from British Columbia at ten weeks of age. Although he was frightened, when we brought him home and put him in his temporary puppy space, he immediately waddled over to a toy and started trying to pull it onto the pillow. There was absolutely no doubt in his mind that they were his.
It was the beginning of a love story.
Keani made it possible for me to move forwards, to change the shape of the dream I'd held for so long, so that our family expanded after all. By one precious human soul. And, so far, by four precious canine ones.
Keani is a bit of a prissy. The first time we took him outside, on a mild spring day, he tried to cover his face with his paws because he didn't like the gentle breeze. He likes his creature comforts, and unerringly scouts out the softest thing in the room as his to sleep on. He likes walks, but wants to be done after half-an-hour or so.Keani likes being carried upright, like a human baby. He'll often put his paws on either side of the carrier's neck and hug them while he kisses their face.When he was a puppy, Keani would kiss so ardently and obsessively that he would inadvertently plug all the air passageways; it was necessary to shift him every so often in order to breathe.Keani always has a bit of a wide-eyed, anxious look, regardless of whether he is in fact anxious or not. He tends to play "catch-me-if-you-can" whenever anyone tries to go after him to pick him up; he likes doing things on his own terms.Keani loves people and animals, and tends to be on the quiet side.
When Keani was a pup, he used to jump around our gentle giant Icewind, trying to play with him. We'd often see him jump, grab a hunk of Ice's hair in his mouth and hold on. He'd be jiggling around in the air as Icewind pranced around, trying to dislodge him. He was a mischievous and tenacious little one. Years later, we saw some of the same kinds of mischief from his little brother, Khydn.
Eoberon Cefiro Enchanting (The Little Bear)
Pyrenean Mastiff, gray and white
Eoberon joined the family eleven months after little brother Kai (who idolized Icewind) arrived. We knew that we wanted one large dog and two little dogs in the family; we hadn't expected to lose our wonderful Ice so soon.
A few months after Ice left us, we began to search for another giant breed. My husband didn't want another Kuvasz, because the individuals of the breed all look pretty similar, and he felt that he would always be comparing, or feel sad, every time he looked at the new family member. Ice left some big shoes to fill.
I searched, and searched, and searched, but I couldn't find a breed that felt right. I was just about to give up, when I stumbled across the Pyrenean Mastiff. And it clicked.
Eoberon (Obi) came to us after a tumultuous start in life. His mother had many complications while giving birth to her second litter, starting with a pup that got stuck in the birth canal. By the time the ordeal was over, only eight puppies had survived, Obi (then known as Boromir - the breeder has a penchant for Tolkein) being one of them. Oldest brother Bard the Bowman passed away not too long after. We were not even sure that there would be a pup available for us at that point. Pyrenean Mastiffs are insanely rare in North America.
When it came our turn to pick out a pup, Boromir was the furthest one from my mind. But after going over the pups again and again, we couldn't make up our minds. At some point I suggested we consider the large grey and white pup who was now the second oldest and who ate the most. To this day, I'm still not sure why.
We did end up choosing him, only to be told that his front teeth were poking holes into his gums and that this might require teeth extraction. Not having extra money to spare, this was obviously quite a concern. Our veterinarian, however, assured us that despite the opinion of "the other" vet, it was very rare for teeth to have to be extracted in this kind of situation. Usually they would right themselves, or not cause enough damage to matter.
So Boromir came home to us, and was renamed Eoberon. He is full of love and loyalty, liking nothing better than to lie at Mom's feet. He has soulful brown eyes, double dewclaws, and is a very handsome lad.
Obi loves greeting new people and other dogs, and has absolutely no idea how large he is, or the fact that he could knock down a full-grown man no problem, so saying hi to people calmly is consistently reinforced. You can hear his tail thumping against walls and doors as he walks down the hall.
Khydn Treasured Moments (The Little Lion)
Tibetan Spaniel, red and white with a black mask
Khydn is the continuation of the Keani love story. My life had been so irrevocably changed by the arrival of a curious little ball six years previously that I knew without a doubt I wanted a second one.
The search was slightly harder the second time around. I finally found a breeder I liked (who had puppies available) in Georgia. I knew I wanted another boy, and there were two boys left. Both were show-quality (which wasn't a concern of mine, regardless), one was cream-coloured and the other was a red-and-white parti-coloured boy with a black mask.
Initially I was going to pick the cream-coloured little one, but when I saw the photos, I knew the parti-baby was the one.
When he was eight weeks old, I flew down to Georgia to pick him up.The trip was a nightmare; we arrived at the airport at four in the morning. After waiting for the US section to open and trudging through a long line, I finally got onto the departing flight. Which then sat in the tarmac, and continued sitting there forty minutes past the departure time. So I, and about fifteen other people, missed our connecting flight by a margin of about five minutes. A little panicky, I began to try and make arrangements to shift my return flight and connection, since I now had all of an hour to pick up my little one and get him and I through all of the screening processes. Couldn't do it. Some airlines have a proviso that a travelling pup needs to be at least three months old. At two months, this barred my baby from being able to get on those particular flights. Keep the existing schedule, I was advised; I should be able to make it through in the one hour.
I landed in Georgia where the breeder was waiting with my baby in a puppy pram. He was lying with his head almost bent completely backwards (apparently he found this to be a comfortable position, because he didn't change it until we moved him from the pram to the soft carrier), completely exhausted by his day so far. While we almost missed our connecting flight on the way back, we did arrive home at around midnight.
What an ordeal, but he is oh, so worth it.
Unlike Keani, Kai is a true rugged outdoorsmen. Perhaps it's because his hair is a bit longer, but Kai will jauntily stand outside in rain, sleet or snow, head up and eyes alert for any strangers (be they beast or being) who might impinge on his turf. Kai loves nothing better than to explore field, forest, valley or stream - or sidewalks and hedges. He'll often try to convince me to go for another walk after we return from the first one. Kai is a joyful little guy, with an effervescent love. He'll watch without blinking as I approach him, and then "collapse" and roll onto his side for a tummy rub. Unlike Keani, Kai has never plugged all air passageways when kissing, although he does kiss exuberantly. Instead, he likes tapping my face at the same time. Kai loves to talk. Much more vocal than Keani, Kai's range encompasses a little sob that he uses for homecomings, grumbles, and an adorably goose-like noise when he really, really wants something. Kai also loves to be spoken to, and will tilt his head from side to side, trying to understand what is being said to him. Interestingly, although he has a more forceful personality than Keani, Kai is much warier of strange people and dogs.
One day, I was lying down with Kai standing on my chest, giving me face kisses. All of a sudden, a gush of warm fluid cascaded down the side of my face and onto my shoulder - Kai had suddenly thrown up on me! I started to laugh, and the little guy tilted his head, eyes bright and inquisitive, and his tail (which is ridiculously curled - I love it!) started to wag; he wanted to join in the fun of whatever I was laughing at. He had no idea that it was caused by him.
Mirror Mirror on the wall, who's the brattiest of them all? Why, the tiniest of them all, of course!
Obi is always on the lookout for fun. He's pretty quiet, as dogs go, but when he does bark it's a deep, booming sound.Obi loves music, especially bells. He will sometimes sing along by howling, changing his pitch to try and match the tones he hears. This is in direct contrast to Kai, who, for months, complained every time someone played the piano.Obi is capable of dribbling enough water on the floor after having a good drink to mop up an entire section.As a very young pup, Obi was the first of his siblings to "escape" the puppy pen and set out to explore the world around him.Icewind chewed up doorknobs, baseboards and windowsills while teething. Obi likes pens, paper towel rolls and glasses, all of which he has, at one time or another, simply picked up off the table or other elevated surface from which they sat, and had his way with them.Precocious, incredibly intelligent, somewhat stubborn, Obi is a match for his two little, older brothers.
At the breeders, Obi's favourite "bed" was the food dish. Even when he got too big to fit inside, he determinedly squeezed himself in anyway.
In Memoriam: Icewind Silver Dream
Icewind Silver Dream was a Hungarian Kuvasz. Big of presence, he was unfailingly majestic. Over a hundred and ten pounds, he was definitely a giant, but an incredibly gentle one. When his little brother Keani came along, Icewind was incredibly patient. I remember one time when he and Keani (who was probably about all of six pounds at the time) were playing. Icewind accidentally fell off the loveseat. Afraid that he had hurt his brother, he stayed absolutely still until we, and he, could reasurre ourselves of Keani's safety. In his puppy years, Icewind would careen up and down the hallway, galloping like mad. When he got a bit older, he would rush up to the front door with such force when he heard knocking or the doorbell that the momentum would allow him to rear up on his hind legs and stand with his front paws on either side of the door.As he got older, he decided to impersonate a big, white, hairy carpet. He is sorely missed.