I had been married for 32 years when my husband and partner in life died. It was unexpected, yet expected. Of course we all die, but he had been dealing with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia for 12 years, so death was always looming. We just didn’t expect a heart attack.
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Ten years earlier we added a small dog into our lives. Scot and I always had a contentious marriage, not fighting as in knock down drag out fights. But we were two strong willed, opinionated, self-assured individuals, used to having our way. Naturally Scot wouldn’t agree with this, but I did end up conceding frequently just to keep the peace. I would get worn out sooner than he and I knew I wouldn’t win anyway. You see, Scot was, in addition to being opinionated, very smart, very analytical and his arguments were usually hard to dispute. Even when he was wrong.
So when we began discussing getting a dog, we had different opinions about what kind of dog would be best suited for our family. The kids were grown and all but Lee were out of the house. We both agreed we should get a small dog. Scot wanted a smooth coated Jack Russell terrier type. When he was growing up, and when I first met him, Spike was one of the family pets and Spike was a feisty, high energy, athletic dog. Spike was primarily an outdoor dog, and his claim to fame was that he climbed a ladder to the roof and he had the uncanny ability to run along the shelves in the garage without knocking things off. I was afraid another Spike would need too much exercise for our lifestyle.
I was prone to the black and tan Airedale/Welsh terriers. When we had first married, I had a Welsh terrier, the runt of the litter and therefore cheap. Merlin was not the brightest bulb in obedience class, but I managed to teach him to sit and go to his basket. He had a defective tongue, so he drooled all the time. He was one of the reasons we had waited 20 years to get another dog.
But I liked his looks. In the obedience classes, the smartest dogs were the poodles. So I advocated for a Yorkshire terrier/poodle designer dog. Since I was the one shopping and spending the time and energy on uncovering the perfect dog, my wishes prevailed, and one August day, 2008, I met a breeder at the Osakis Macdonald’s parking lot and exchanged cash, like a drug deal.
The nameless dog was the size of a large drink cup, black with brown tips on its nose, eyes and ears. It was, unlike Merlin, the fattest, healthiest, female puppy in the litter. When I got home to the lake house, the attention was smothering. She learned to pee on the newspapers, eat puppy kibbles—and she knew her mother. The first night she was so lonesome she cried so I cradled her in my arms so she wouldn’t be afraid.
We named her Kiba. Lee was taking Japanese in school, and we wanted a tough name for what was expected to be a tiny dog. Kiba, Google Translate claimed, meant FANG in Japanese.
Scot made it clear that Kiba was MY dog, not his, so potty duty was all mine. She wasn’t the smooth coated dog that he had wanted, so he was tough on her. Kiba made friends easily and on the drive back to the cities she rode in a shoe box on my lap. As we passed an RV, two little girls started waving at me from the RV window. One girl disappeared then reappeared holding a little Yorkshire terrier up to the window. I grabbed Kiba from her box, and she waved back at them.
We had our own business, so Kiba became the office dog. On our website she had her own bio page. The worst of the recession hit us about a year later, and many times a coworker would appear out of their office and ask to hug the dog. She was emotional support before I knew the meaning of the term.
We had bets in the office how big she would get, and she grew far beyond my expectations—I had guessed eight pounds, the perfect size in my opinion—she ended up at 11. On her first haircut at the beauty salon, our little black and tan came home looking like a movie star, no longer a puppy black and tan but silver (!) with tan ears and paws.
Through all this, I loved little Kiba but Scot merely tolerated her. He would do dad things with her, like throw the ball, go for walks, but the heavy lifting—the middle of the night trip to let her go potty, the early morning constitutional—were all mine. Kiba was smart—much smarter than my defective dog, Merlin. She knew how to sit, stay, wait, beg, hands up and fall down dead. She could bow and roll over on command.
In 2012 my mother’s health began to fail. That year I made multiple trips to Montana to take my turn caring for her. I would be gone a week, ten days, two weeks at a time. When I was gone, the care for Kiba fell on Scot. It was during that time while I was away that Scot began a love affair.
Scot would walk the neighborhood with Kiba, crossing paths with the neighbor ladies who were also walking their dogs. At night, Kiba, who normally would sleep with me, now had to cuddle with Scot. And Scot, who normally had me to sleep with, had only Kiba.
I’m not really sure exactly when it happened—it was so gradual over the course of that year—but one day after a trip to Montana I realized I wasn’t the only love in Scot’s life. That there was a third in our partnership, one that was insistent on making her presence known. And Scot reciprocated that love and affection in a way I didn’t realize he could.
Kiba created the Koyama-Zimmerman love triangle. She was my competition and my ally as I was to her. Kiba loved me, but she loved Scot best.