An Imperfect Best Friend / by Arthur Hsu

Almost eight years ago, I went out on a limb and took a chance on making a new friend.  It was a blind meet up.  I could still remember the sense of excitement as I drove out to Langley, BC for the rendezvous.  It was an experience unlike any others.  I walked up to the wooden gate after arriving at the breeder's house, and as the gate swung open, this fat little fur ball was barreling down towards me at full speed. It wasn't exactly a classy or well-composed first meeting of my new friend, but it was totally understandable.  After all, we couldn't possible be sipping afternoon tea together and chatting about the state of North Korea because those silly paws weren't exactly teacup friendly.  Little did I know, his obnoxious and klutzy moves on our introduction were only the beginning.

Up Top!

Up Top!

Fast forward to today, as I stare at the much, much bigger fur ball, I noticed the white stubbles on his face.  It's a strange feeling to watch a life that you helped nurture age so quickly in front of you.  It was hard not to feel a little sad with those big orange eyes looking at you.  This little heartache motivated me to write a little ode of sorts about my friendship with my littlest hobo friend, Kuma.  This heart-felt moment was quickly interrupted by Kuma's barking request to retrieve his ball from under the TV stand.  I obliged.  The only way I could shut him up.  

My bud's name, Kuma, means "bear" in Japanese.  His name was chosen partly because my childhood dog was also named Bear, and I thought I would just make it a tradition and name all my dogs "bear" in a variety of languages.  His name was also chosen due to his shiny and brown bear-like fur coat.  Now, his name has taken on a new meaning as he barges around the house like a drunken bear that is high on PCP.  It appears that he never learned to stop going balls-to-the-wall.  He continues to bumble his way through all obstacles in front of him regardless of their monetary value.  Kuma has only 2 modes of operation: hibernation or fucking-nuclear.  

Kuma is a smart little bugger.  I discovered his brainy nature early on.  One day, as I stopped briefly in front of the door while searching for my keys before letting Kuma out.  Of course, Kuma was on "fucking-nuclear" mode, so he was losing his mind trying to figure out why I wasn't opening the door.  He was jumping... whining.... scratching at the door.   In his moment of annoyance and perhaps he was also wondering why I was so dumb, he bumped my hand with his nose and then bumped the door nob right after.  It was an odd moment as I realized that he was smart enough to pick up how I opened the door and able to communicate what he wanted me to do.  In this proud moment, I opened the door right away and created a doggy monster in the process.  

Kuma quickly learned that he could tell me to do things and he hasn't stopped since!  "Get me my ball!", "Open the door!", "Bring me my food!", "Wake up!", "Take me for a walk now!", and "Let's play fetch!", are a few of his favourites, but sometimes I just can't understand what he wants.  I suspect that he doesn't really know that himself, but he probably just wants to see the confused look on my face.  I would probably find that entertaining as well, if I were him.  Kuma knows exactly what he has to do to get what he wants, and he is rather vocal about how everything is supposed to be done... like yesterday!  

Looking back, I wonder if his demanding nature has anything to do with him being the last pick of the litter; however, I quickly realized that I spoiled him from the beginning.  This lack of boundary allowed him to develop into a quirky little guy with a lot of character not unlike an unreasonable 5 year old running around on all fours.  I have learned a great deal from Kuma and I's relationship, and I would certainly do a fews differently with Kuma if I could go back to the beginning.  As crazy as it sounds, my experiences would help greatly with raising a non-furry child!  After all, you only have to switch the dog food for steamed carrots right!?  ;) 

As Kuma's 8th birthday approaches, I am filled with nostalgia of our journey together so far.  I remembered the thousands and thousands of times that he lost his mind with happiness just because I came home from work.  Heck, I was baffled by the fact that he was even happy when I accidentally caused him pain a couple of times... his yelp was immediately followed by tail wagging and a lot of love!  At the end of the day, Kuma only wishes for four things in life: ball, food, walks, and the company of me or my family.  It's hard to argue with such unconditional love from anyone.  Kuma is far from perfect, but that is pretty much everything in life.  His imperfections are as much him as all the cool things about him.  Sometimes I think that once fate brings two beings together under the right circumstances, the rest is but one's choice to love, with imperfections and all.  That could apply to the love of your life perhaps, or an imperfect canine best friend like Kuma.  

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