Friday, May 30, 2014

In Memoriam: Krypto, Dec. 31, 2004 - May 20, 2014

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Krypto, about one year old, enthusiastically being himself.
My history with pets is mostly with cats, although my first pet was a dog named Poochie. I don't remember what breed he was, only that I clearly wasn't old enough to care for a small dog, and when my parents decided I was possibly going to injure him when playing with him, they gave him away to someone else. We had other dogs -- larger dogs -- as I grew up, including a few German Shepherds and a German Shephard/Collie mix, but none of those dogs were mine. The mix had a litter of puppies, and one of them my siblings and I named Champ. I desperately wanted to keep Champ, but my parents were firm about giving away all the puppies. Later, Champ's owner had to return him to us, but by that point, he was pretty much untrainable (at least, for us), and I believe we gave him to the Humane Society.

So as I said, I mostly had cats... my first one was named Jerry (and as I always told people back then, I knew that Jerry was the mouse in the cartoons... I just liked the name Jerry), and he was followed by Skippy, and that was it for my cats while I was growing up. Much later, after my time in the Navy, I had a Siamese mix I named Selina (you can well guess why), who had a litter of three kittens I ended up keeping named Tigra, Spooky, and Irena. A few years after Selina disappeared (one of the reasons I decided not to let my cats outside ever again), I adopted another cat I named Taz. Those last four cats were given away when I moved to Wisconsin to be with my first wife, and I didn't believe I'd get a pet again.

So flash forward to 2004: Following the death of my first wife, Barbara, I moved back to Washington, and after a fitful search for a new job, I got hired by the newspaper in Olympia, and I moved from Tacoma to there. Although the apartment I lived in didn't want pets, I still found myself thinking I'd like to get a dog, a white dog I could name after Krypto the Superdog.

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Krypto at six weeks old, one of the first photos I saw of him.
Enter Jessi. When we met in July of 2004, she already had KO, who was about five months old at the time. KO was a boxer, a breed I'd "met" before (my youngest brother had a boxer, which he left in the care of my parents when he moved to New York). As Jessi and I got to know each other, one of the things we talked about was my getting a dog. I hadn't considered getting a boxer for my Krypto, because I didn't know there was such a thing as a white boxer. I'd originally planned on trying to track down the one Superman family comic where they actually said what dog breed most closely resembled Krypto the way he'd come to be drawn by Curt Swan and others... but then Jessi suggested a white boxer, and found a few photos of them on line for me. One of them looked a lot like Krypto had originally been drawn (more full-bodied, and larger, as opposed to the more greyhound-like look he'd morphed into). I decided my Krypto would be a white boxer.

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I meet Krypto for the first time.
It wasn't long after that Jessi found Krypto for me. Krypto was born on December 31, 2004, as part of a litter of boxers bred in Oklahoma. As soon as I saw the photos of him, I knew that was my dog. The hardest part was waiting for him to be old enough that he could be sent to me (honestly, I still don't know why we didn't just find a local breeder that I could drive to and pick up a puppy). While I waited, Jessi and I made payments toward him, which included the cost of his airfare.

I think the flight to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport tended to make Krypto skittish at times. He was safe and secure in a crate, but I don't recall if he was sedated for his flight. I recall that he got airsick in the crate, so there was some initial clean-up involved... but I'm getting a little ahead of myself. I wasn't able to take time off of work to pick up Krypto at the airport, so Jessi and a friend of ours went up instead, although they brought him to me at work so I could meet him for the first time. As you can see from my face in the photo, I was pretty happy to have him!

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Puppy Krypto with KO and Jaeger.
Krypto and KO got along just fine from the start... KO kind of acted like a surrogate mother to him as well as a boxer mentor, teaching him how the breed plays. Krypto never had a problem getting along with any other dogs, for that matter. From the first, he'd play with any dog willing to play with him, regardless of size. Of course, his favorite friends were his fellow boxers, as they knew how he liked to play. Even as a puppy, he tried to keep up with the bigger dogs.

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Playtime with KO.
You see, in those days, our dogs were our "kids," in a lot of ways. We took them everywhere with us, and on weekends we'd go out with them to meet up with other people we knew who had boxers to a park they could run around and play in off leash. Some of those people became good friends of ours, thanks to the shared love of the breed.

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Krypto's Superman shirt.
Krypto couldn't keep up with the big dogs all the time, try as he might... we'd walk a lap around the park, maybe start a second lap, and he'd start to wear out, and I'd have to carry him for the rest of our walk. When the weather seemed to be a bit cold for him, I found a Superman t-shirt at Value Village that he wore until he was able to acclimatize (we hung on to the shirt, and years later, Desi wore it as a toddler for a while, until she outgrew it).

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Krypto and KO.
The first week or two I had Krypto, I knew I needed to crate train him, because a puppy just doesn't come to you housebroken. To help him deal with being in the crate, I'd put the crate next to me on my bed, so that I was right there with him. It didn't take long for him to get used to the crate, and during the week when I was at work, I'd first bring him and his crate to Jessi's apartment, so that he could be there with KO (although KO would not put up with being in a crate at all). When I got off work, I'd go to Jessi's apartment, knowing that my dog would be there, happy to see me, and usually ready to go outside to do his business.

Krypto trained very easy. I realized very quickly that he was very food-oriented... he'd do anything for a treat! He was so enthusiastic that when I gave him the command "down," he'd almost bounce off of the floor, he'd drop so fast! I'm sure part of that was trying to please me, too.

As a puppy, I kind of spoiled him a lot. Evenings in front of the TV, once he and KO had finished their tussling for the evening, he'd be curled up or sprawled on my lap (something he never got out of the habit of, even when he tipped the scales at about 100 lbs).

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Content to wear his cape!
I started working on getting his "official" Krypto collar and cape as soon as I knew he was coming. I found a yellow collar that was acceptable to me (although it had two rows of studs, not just one), and I picked up some metal Superman shields that were originally sold as keychains to use for his nametag. The cape was pretty straightforward, although I did use the computer to print out an iron-on of the S-shield to iron on to some yellow felt to glue on to his cape. He took to the cape immediately... in fact, as the years went on, he'd get excited when I got the cape out, because he knew we'd be going somewhere!

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Krypto liked playing in the snow.
When Jessi and I moved into a house together, we picked a place that had a decent sized yard, and discovered that our neighbors also had dogs. Many days, Krypto and the neighbors' dogs would chase each other on opposite sides of the fence, and sometimes I'd lift him over the fence to one of the neighbors so that he could play with those dogs (KO didn't think much of them). As I said, he got along with pretty much all dogs (there was one dachshund that didn't get along with him, but he never got along with any dog).

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At the beach in Seaside, Oregon.
We were still taking the dogs out with us, and also took them on vacation with us when we went to Seaside, Oregon for a weekend. Krypto and KO loved running around on the beach, and both behaved very well. If Krypto started to look like he was about ready to run off and say hi to someone or chase something, a word was all that was needed to get him to come back.

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On the couch he used to leap over.
It didn't seem like very long that Krypto went from being this tiny puppy to a huge dog. It seemed that he took his name very seriously, too -- he'd sometimes decide when he was ready to lie down on the couch that he'd simply jump on to it from behind! Later, when we bought the house we're living in now, when we put up baby gates on the top and bottom of the stairs, he'd just hop over those as well.

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Halloween 2005.
Krypto's first public appearance in "costume" was in Halloween of 2005. The city of Olympia used to (I don't know if they still do) have a "Bones and Treats" event on the Saturday before Halloween, and dog owners could take their dogs all over the city in costume to collect treats, toys, and other goodies for free. Some locations had costume contests, and I'm happy to say that Krypto won the first year (although honestly, I think that's because that Halloween and the following one, I wore my hand-made Superman costume as his "accessory"). I'd also take him in his cape on a fairly regular basis to Olympic Comics & Cards in Lacey, where he was always welcome. The owner, Gabi, seemed particularly taken with him. Once, they had some writers from DC Comics doing a panel discussion at the store, and when they saw I had Krypto with me in costume, one of them actually left the table he was sitting at and walked over to pet my dog! I honestly can't recall which of the writers that was.

When Jessi and I got married, there was no question that the dogs would be in the wedding with us. Krypto didn't seem too fazed by the whole event (although it could be that he and KO were sedated slightly to help keep them calm), and he was very well behaved through the entire event.








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Krypto and Tristan
Things changed for Krypto when we got kids, and for KO as well. We didn't have the time for the dogs that we used to have, and eventually, our weekend meet-ups with other boxer buddies tapered off, as did visits to the comic book shop. I'd still try to take Krypto with me for an errand here and there (the question "Do you want to go for a ride?" was always met with an enthusiastic response). But he adapted to having kids around very quickly (boxers are known for getting along with kids), and you could tell he was devoted to Tristan, and later to Desi. Desi in particular took to Krypto very quickly, and he was amazingly tolerant of her clumsiness as a baby and toddler.

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After his one of his surgeries to remove a tumor.
Krypto and Desi
He had a few health problems here and there, the first being a tumor that developed on one of his hind legs. This was removed, naturally, and we kept an eye out for more tumors. White boxers have a tendency to get tumors, and fortunately none ended up being serious, although about a year or so back, he had several at once, including one in his gumline. Not long after this, while I was on the road as a truck driver, he did get seriously ill, and I was afraid then that I'd lose him. We were fortunate that it didn't turn out that bad, and after a course of antibiotics, he was back to normal, or at least as normal as he was at that age.

Obviously, as he got older, his energy level went down quite a bit. There was no more leaping over obstacles when it was just easier to walk around them. He would sometimes get very stiff hips after lying down for a while in one position. But through all this, he'd still very happily greet me when I came through the door. One of the few things I enjoyed during my year as a truck driver was how happy he'd be to see me (sometimes I think he was happier to see me than my kids were). When I'd take him for a walk, he wouldn't last more than one trip around the block before he'd be too tired. This was my dog that, for a while, had so much energy that we used to take him to a doggy daycare a few days a week to help him burn it off? He was getting older, and I knew that the time I had left with him was getting shorter and shorter.

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Krypto and Rocky
When we decided to get cats, it didn't take him long to get used to them... in fact, our latest kitten, Rocky, seemed to make friends with Krypto very fast, and the two of them would cuddle together.

There were still lots of evenings when I'd sit in the recliner and he'd come over to me, wanting to get up on my lap, but the days when he could get up in our bed unassisted were a thing of the past. When he got sick two weeks ago, I was afraid of the worst. We'd had a couple of hot days in a row, and Krypto never really dealt well with hot weather, but this time it seemed he was doing especially bad. He hadn't been eating, and barely moving. He'd eat and drink if I brought the food and water to him, but even just to go outside required my helping him up to his paws.

I brought him to the vet on Monday, May 19, to get checked out. They did some bloodwork and other tests, and discovered that he was anemic, and that he'd developed a heart murmur. The vet prescribed antibiotics and instructed me how to give him fluids via a sub-dermal drip. They'd offered to keep him at the animal hospital for treatment, but I didn't want him stuck in a cage with strangers... if he was getting near the end of his life, I wanted him home.

He was clearly suffering, and if he wasn't going to improve in a week, I knew I'd have to have him put to sleep.

The following morning, at about 5:30 am, I was at work when Jessi called me to tell me that Krypto had died sometime in the past few hours. KO had been acting very anxious a few hours before, and that was her first idea something had gone wrong. It was very difficult for me to get through the rest of my work day without breaking down.

I got home from work, and there was Krypto's body, laying on the floor. Desi and our foster child thought he was sleeping (that's what I told Jessi to tell them if they asked), and our sitter kept that front up. Tristan was staying with my mom, as there was all-day testing going on with his grade that he wouldn't do, so instead of having him stuck at school all day both days in the office, we decided to keep him out of school.

As soon as I saw Krypto lying there, I started crying. I almost collapsed on the floor next to him, and while I sobbed, I stroked his head. I knew Desi would know something was going on, and I told her Krypto had died. After getting her to school and our foster child to daycare, I called the vet to arrange to get Krypto cremated. It was a difficult morning to get through, and even writing about it now, a week later, I'm still on the verge of tears.

When Jerry and Skippy were put to sleep, I cried, but I got over those deaths quickly. When Selina disappeared, I cried then, but I had her kittens to take care of. When I had to give away those cats and Taz years later, I cried then as well. When we had to put Krosby to sleep, and then only a few months later our kitten Princess was killed, I cried then.

But this was different. They say a man's best friend is his dog, and I think I never really took that seriously until now. I've lost my best friend. No matter what else was happening in my life, Krypto was always faithful and devoted. He was always happy to see me. He was my dog and I was his person. I wish I'd been with him at the end, but at least he was home.

I picked up his ashes at the vet on Tuesday morning, and I grieved again, as I'm grieving as I write this. Krypto is really gone. It seems impossible to believe sometimes... I'll catch something white out of the corner of my eye and think for just a moment that it's him. I still find myself telling the children to feed the dogs, when there's just one dog left here.

I haven't even touched Krypto's collar and cape since he died. I haven't even looked to see where it currently is. I know that some time, I'll come across it, and I'll mourn the loss again. Every time I sit on the recliner and feel like something's missing, I know it'll be him on my lap that I'm missing.

Goodbye, Krypto... goodbye, my faithful friend. There will never be another dog like you.

5 comments:

  1. Sincere condolences, Jon.

    I hope you'll find some solace in knowing that you gave him a wonderful life.

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  2. My deepest condolences. Nothing hurts as much as loosing a family member and that is certainly what Krypto was. Take care of yourself and allow yourself to grieve while you celebrate a great dog’s life. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. My condolences to you as a dog owner myself i know how much we love them and treat like our children because that what they truly are.

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  4. It's a beautiful tribute, Jon. It brought tears to my eyes too. I also offer my condolences.

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  5. A moving tribute to your best friend.

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