Our Little Red Duck Dog, Ula died in my arms Monday morning, Dec. 5.
Ula a Nova Scotia Duck Toller Retriever, had been diagnosed two years earlier at Christmas time and was on a daily dose of Prednisone for “Addison’s Disease,” a malfunction of the adrenal glands, triggering a sudden “crash” of potassium and corticoid levels, inducing disorientation, coma and death.
Well known for her regular Monday attendance at Koloa’s Sunshine Farmers Market held in Anne Knudsen Park, greeting friends and visitors with her gentle eager welcome, and “dressed” in a red bandana with a Hibiscus flower, she was a much appreciated celebrity.
Born by special request, on Mother’s Day (5/10/2006) as a quality of life investment, Ula arrived on Kauai at just eight weeks of age, following a 17-hour flight from Australia. (Australia, New Zealand and Scotland are rabies-free and exempt from quarantine restrictions.)
She had her first swimming lesson at Salt Pond Beach and was introduced at market her first Monday. Her photo graced the front page of the Garden Island the following morning. Ula greeted market attendees on Mondays for 10 and a half years. She was featured in the paper again at 12 weeks, at 7 years, and again on her ninth birthday (thanks to Dennis Fujimoto).
“Ula’s” favourite outdoor activities beside “Farmer’s Market” were:
No. 4 Hiking on Kokee trails
No. 3 Romping at the Dog Park
No. 2 “Prince Kuhio Park” with free rein to run, play and enjoy lunchtime treats.
No. 1 Beach bliss at Mahaulepu Beach, retrieving thrown sticks, swimming, digging holes in the sand, romping with other dogs, eating lunch and laying up under the Ironwood trees.
During the last weekend of her life, she romped at the Dog Park on Friday, then helped to adopt a new little boy cat whom she was very excited to become well acquainted with.
On Saturday, she was in the midst of high celebration, attending the Royal Order of Kamehameha’s Christmas party at Prince Kuhio Park, feasting on fresh roast pork, skin, fat and drippings galore!
To top off a perfect dog day, she then went to the beach at Mahaulepu, with her mom, romping in delight, locating and retrieving a suitable stick, digging holes in the sand, burying her stick, only to dig it up again.
Sunday was a stay-at-home garden day, she lounged while we worked. No stress, relaxing at home, she eagerly ate all her dinner and we turned in early.
Discovered early Monday morning in a disorientated and semi-comatose state, despite administering treatment and medications over a four-hour period, and despite my best efforts, she failed to recover.
Awareness, consciousness, and acceptance were manifest as she responded to loving ministrations, slowing thumping her tail, tracking me with her eyes, making clear eye contact, opening her mouth and trying to smile while being stroked.
Then, at 11:20 a.m, she arose from her bedding, struggled to walk about six feet to the carport entrance, lay down with her head to the door, gave out a big sigh, exhaled, and died with her muzzle in my hands. It was a graceful death of a beloved and loyal friend, gentle spirit, enthusiastic cohort, confidant and dear companion.
Ripped from our lives too soon, our precious pup led a charmed and wonderful life. She was delighted with life, and a delight to be around. For me, it’s as if a soft white 100-watt light bulb that had constantly graced my side, therapeutically brightening up every encounter, every activity, suddenly was extinguished. Now, it feels darker, and I feel more alone.
Another canine companion may come in, enhance and grace our lives, uplift our spirits, give us cause to laugh and appreciate the splendor of sharing life experiences with a devoted, loyal, and intimate companion such as the splendid soul who just left us. We can only pray.
Her boots will be hard to fill. They sit, empty, on a shelf, awaiting occupancy. For now, we justifiably grieve our loss. No amount of time will erase the memory of a great dog. Yet, investing that love and caring ministrations upon a successor to the vacancy in our hearts and lives, can be the way to honor the passage of a “love of our life.”
Ula had many friends and admirers on Kauai, as well as lasting friendships with returning visitors from around the world. She never bit anyone and always responded well to attentions and affections, never surly or grumpy, loyal, responsive and affectionate. She did like to bark announcing visitors.
A celebration of life and scattering of ashes at Mahaulepu Beach will be scheduled at a later date. Flowers and prayers will be welcomed. For details contact Branch at (808) 332-0718.
Kalanikumai ‘O Na Ali’i Hanohano, “Zacheriah Harmony,” is a resident of Koloa.