Six years ago today I was at home in Oak Bluff baking a cake for Koal’s birthday. Where had the years gone? Our puppy was now fifteen years old. Every year on his big day I would bake a confetti cake with no icing. He knew it was for him and that tail would wag until I thought it would fall off. Sparklers on the cake and birthday napkins were in place at party time. Just look at the anticipation on that little guy’s face!
And here he is enjoying his birthday treat!
Little Koal came our way in 1993. My kids found an ad in the paper for silver toy poodle puppies. It was several months after our apricot toy poodle Kelsey went to heaven, and we were finally ready for a new pet.
So off we drove to Gimli. Koal was born in Winnipeg Beach, but the breeder had a pet shop in Gimli. Koal had two very rangy sisters, whom my kids went crazy over. I was reluctant to take on one hyper poodle, never mind two. Koal just sat there, barely moving. The clincher was when we found out his birthday was February 25th. Kelsey’s birthday had been June 25th. It was a good omen.
We had brought along a blanket and Koal sat between my kids very quietly in the back seat on the drive home. He was obviously very frightened at being separated from his sisters and the only environment he had known since his birth.
For the first few days, he clung to my daughter Kimmy. She would lie down on the floor and he would sleep on her tummy. As time passed, he became braver and began to explore our house. But his kennel under the desk in the kitchen was his security blanket. If the doorbell rang or he felt scared, he would retreat there.
His favorite toys were Dolly, a soft plush doll, and a red ball.
He was quite mischievous when he was young. He loved to run into my son Kyle’s room and steal his socks. He would grab the toilet paper in an upstairs bathroom and run all the way downstairs to his kennel.
He was also a very intelligent animal. My kids taught him many tricks including jumping through hoola hoops. Koal loved to jump, and he could really jump high. But when he was quite young he slipped a disc and had to be carried around for several days while his back healed.
Occasionally my kids would tease him. They would tell him he was just a dog, and not a real child like they were. They’d tell him I wasn’t his real mommy, and that he was adopted. Feelings hurt, he would always run to me for reassurance.
Koal really was more like a child than a dog. He had a seat at the dining room table. He had a wardrobe of t-shirts and bandanas. My mother had knit sweaters to keep him warm in the winter. Here he is in costume on his last Halloween.
Koal had lots of squeak toys and plush toys to play with. They were always scattered everywhere throughout the house. I had special hampers and boxes for them, but he would pull them out and leave them all over the house. He also loved to chew, and could demolish a rawhide in minutes. This was very uncharacteristic of a small dog. We once returned a Kong to a petstore. This was a chew toy with a lifetime guarantee. It didn’t last a day with Koal!
Koal was a vegetarian which is also unusual for a dog. When we went to a fast food drive through, I would order him a salad. We had to drive to the United States to buy him the vegetarian dog food he liked as it wasn’t sold in Winnipeg. He once hid a large bag of salad I bought at Costco in his kennel while I was unloading the groceries. He went crazy over onions and onion rings, and he loved VJ’s french fries.
Koal was a very special member of our family. My kids referred to him as their baby brother. And Koal knew that Kyle was his brother and Kimmy was his sister. When my kids moved out, I would tell Koal that his brother or his sister was coming over, and he would plant himself in the living room window watching for them.
The final months he was with us he faced many challenges. His hearing was going and his eyesight was failing. Koal also really struggled with anxiety. He didn’t like to be left alone. I bought a Snuggly and carried him around with me quite often when I had to go out. He was a good little traveller and loved car rides.
I will never forget that Sunday morning when I was awakened by Koal. Instead of sleeping soundly at my side, he was having a massive seizure. Later that afternoon I held him in my arms when the vet gave him that final injection. My children were with me and we all had an opportunity to cuddle him and bid farewell to our beloved little boy.
We all have fond memories of Little Koal that we treasure in our hearts. We all miss that amazing unconditional love we felt from our little guy.
Happy Birthday in heaven Koal! We love you and we miss you. Always.