Written by: Shari Grayczyk
Koda. Well, what can I say about him? To give him credit for the true friend that he was and always will be? To let him know that I didn’t abandon him, but that I gave him a better life?
Koda. A short, but sweet name. We spent a lot of time deciding what his name should be. He was only weeks old, and the shelter had named him Dover. I liked that name, but my kids…..well, not-so-much. We considered Xander, Logan and Bear and a host of others. But Koda was eventually our name of choice.
–Meaning: Native American term for “Friend” or “Companion.” “Friend” in Sioux.
–Breed(s): White Dove Golden Retriever and Great Pyrenees
–Favorite Hobby: Retrieving
–Weight: 125 pounds
–Siblings: Joy, Bethany, Jonathan, Domino
–Cousins: Apollo, Buttons
–Demeanor: Sweet, kind, pleasant, loving, friendly, playful, endearing, expressive
My family adopted Koda in December, 2011, from a Rescue Center in Columbus, Ohio. I had been trying to find another Golden Retriever to adopt, but I was finding them to be few and far between. At many of my friends’ suggestions, I called the Golden Retriever Rescue. Although they were generous and kind, their adoption process was long and extensive. They wanted how many home visits? I’d seen less scrutiny adopting a child.
Thus, the moment I learned the Columbus Shelter had just received a litter of eight Golden Retriever pups, I went into manic mode. I was at work, and I literally raced down the hallway to the door. I had to borrow a vehicle to go to Columbus and retrieve this little guy. When I arrived, there were only two pups remaining, and Koda seemed the more relaxed of the two, so I adopted him into our family. Yaay!
We immediately loved him. What he lacked in stature as an eight week old pup, he made up for exponentially in character. He daily, if not hourly, reminded everyone that there were valid reasons why we had been searching for an older dog, and not a puppy. It took an incredibly long time to train him to go outdoors to do his business. He chewed two complete sets of furniture, ate many books and homework papers, and peed on almost everyone who entered our home. And to top it off, he kept growing.
It wasn’t too long before we decided to take him to Obedience School. It was there I learned that his disobedience was all my fault. Really? I remember coming home from his first class, in tears, because the teacher wouldn’t stop yelling at me.
Apparently, I was the problem because he quickly became the model student, and everyone ooohed and ahhhed over him. Well, I never would have thought that. I mean, I’ve owned dogs my entire life, and I’d never owned a disobedient dog.
(Here’s Koda after he actually drew on himself with a Sharpie marker)
Although it was a ton of work, obedience training was extremely rewarding. Everyone was incredulous at Koda’s transformation from little (big) puppy, who chewed everything in his sight and exercised zero bladder control, to calm, cool, collected and obedient puppy who actually kept his leg down when people were around. Yaay! We did so well in class, that he became a Certified Therapy Dog. I say, ‘we,’ because I think I was actually working harder than he was. And now……the payoff! He was actually emulating his big brother, Domino, who had been a Certified Therapy Dog for many years.
No one ever saw that coming.
When Koda first joined our family, I did what I’ve done with every new puppy addition; I held him to the 10/10/10 rule. I exposed him to 10 new items, 10 times a day, for 10 days, so that he would become fearless.
That really worked.
Koda wasn’t afraid of anything. Not a loud vacuum cleaner. He’d fall asleep next to it while I was cleaning.
Not me raising my hand towards him. He knows I wouldn’t hit him.
Not of little kids or other animals.
Of hedgehogs or kittens.
Of birds or bugs.
Of loud noises or baths.
I think this may be one of the many reasons Koda loved playing in the water. He loved swimming and cavorting in Lake Erie, to be exact.
At Maumee Bay State Park.
We’d get into my Honda Odyssey and the little guy would go ballistic, anticipating the Lake. He would cry and wiggle during the entire ride, until he could barely take it any longer. Then, getting him out of the van was an experience in and of itself. He would become so excited, he was practically uncontainable.
We would finally get to the shore, I’d attach a 100 foot paracord lead and throw a stick into the Lake. He’d jump in and swim until he could swim no more. Well, actually, he never tired to the point of wanting to leave Lake Erie and stop swimming. He would retrieve, retrieve and then retrieve some more. Smart as a whip, Koda would always return and drop the stick about 4 feet from the shore, knowing that if he came ashore, I may just ‘reel him in’ for the afternoon or evening.
He always made me work to keep him happy.
We loved him though.
More than anyone could ever know.
More than he could ever know.
I remember once when we were at Maumee Bay, I threw a stick and Koda went swimming full speed after it. He fully extended the 100 foot lead and yet he kept swimming. Yup, one of my worst fears happened. His collar had slipped off, and he was swimming off into the sunset. It was an October evening at dusk, and I could barely see him in the distance. As I stood on the shore, in tears, shouting his name, Koda totally oblivious to my fears, just keep swimming further and further away. Thank God, my son, Jonathan, is an excellent swimmer. He stripped down and jumped into the frigid waters to retrieve him. Whew
I knew I loved that little guy.
But Holy Smokes! I hadn’t any idea just how much.
I could only think of the Beach Boys’ song about their dog, Shannon. The singer’s Irish Setter who accidentally drifted off to sea.
“SHANNON IS GONE I HOPE SHE’S DRIFTING OUT TO SEA
SHE ALWAYS LOVED TO SWIM AWAY
MAYBE SHE’LL FIND AN ISLAND WITH A SHADY TREE
JUST LIKE THE ONE IN OUR BACKYARD
BUT FINALLY THE TEARS FILL OUR EYES
AND I KNOW THAT SOMEWHERE TONIGHT
SHE KNOWS HOW MUCH WE REALLY MISS HER”
Thank God, this wasn’t Koda’s fate.
As Koda began to get older, he kept growing larger and larger. He far surpassed the size of a Golden Retriever. I started researching and concluded that he was a Golden mixed with…..
Had I known that when I adopted him, I never would have taken him home. I would have known our yard would be too small for him.
Fast forward three years.
We’ve been on hundreds of walks together and shared more holidays than I care to remember.
Koda was my comfort when my daughter was in ICU for many months and when I had broken up with my boyfriend.
He was my protection from predators (although I think he would have just wagged his tail if someone was trying to rob me) as a single parent, living with children.
My vacuum when food landed on the floor.
He’s was the first being I’d wake up to in the morning,
The first I’d see when I returned home from anywhere and
And the last I’d see when I went to bed at night.
Koda was my reminder that there is still good in the world.
That there is still unconditional love.
That a dog can truly be a best friend.
I would pray the Lord would let me become the person that Koda always thought and knew that I was.
So, I did what any good mother would do.
I gave him up for adoption.
Because I wanted him to have a better life.
With a bigger yard.
To run and play.
Do I feel guilty?
Was it hard?
It was harder than I ever could have imagined.
I pray nightly that Koda is happy with his new owners. Deep down, I know he is. I’ve spent enough time praying about it. I’ve also spent enough time and energy finding just the right family.
And I’m positive I did.
(This is a picture of Koda resting in his new home. He’s actually sleeping with his toys in his mouth!) He’s always loved his toys.
They are wonderful, and I know they will love him. They have two more large dogs for him to play with, too. That’s awesome, because Koda has been raised with Domino, our older Lab/Husky mix, and Apollo, my daughter’s mini Dachshund. He’s only been raised in a family, and wouldn’t know how to survive as an only child.
His siblings and cousins miss him terribly.
They have moped and whined.
Domino has lost weight and sits at the window daily and nightly looking for Koda in the distance.
He follows me around the house like he never has before.
Basically, he’s his mother’s pup and his brother’s keeper.
I want Koda to know that I did not mean to abandon him, and that we will always hold a special place in our hearts and lives.