Keiko was born in Florida, just north of Miami in 2008 and was a surprise gift for the Princess. Ker name means “Happy Child” in Japanese, which was Keiko’s native language. True to her name, she was a happy puppy, something she never out grew. I recall only one thing she ever did wrong and that was to eat the corner of an Afghan rug (sorry Lynn!) when she was about three months old. She was only scolded but you’d like she’d been beat with a club. I felt bad for days. I think she felt bad for years.

Being in Florida meant Keiko spent most of her time inside until we move to Nevada. Although she went on almost daily walks, she seemed to prefer the the cold tile over just about anything else. Looking back, I wish I’d been more gentle with her. She patiently put up with long road trips riding in the back of our truck, and short potty breaks on the sides of some road. She seemed content with just being with us which we learned the hard way, was most important to her.

Our first episode came when Lori and I went to Yellowstone. Dogs are not allowed in the park so we had a good friend keep her with instructions not to leave her out in the yard; “she’s not an outside dog.” Nonetheless, he put Keiko in his fenced and gated yard believing she would be more comfortable there than in the house. We were almost to Utah when we got a call from a school office in Reno telling us that Keiko was walking down the street and stopped by. They got our phone number from her tags. We immediately pulled over and contacted the “responsible person” who, I suspect broke a few speeding laws getting back to Reno to gather Keiko up. Profuse apologies later and Keiko was none the worse for wear. Moreover, we should have heeded the now obvious omen, the Yellowstone trip was…adventurous. Unfortunately, when Keiko was boarded for a week at a well rated kennel, she came back with her nose raw from pushing through the fence and a different kennel didn’t give her the meds she needed. So, she taught us that our wards require either constant observation or we should just take them with us. We have only once failed to follow this education and not only did it mortify my best friend due to our OCD level checking, our dogs were both maltreated before we could re-rescue them.

As the years passed Keiko remained a constant in our lives; she was a creature of habit and cared little where we were dragging her off to, as long as she was allowed to come along. When she developed a medical issue at an early age which the vets attributed diet, we spent a fortune trying this and that formula and managing her weight and medications. Although she didn’t get the indulgences that a lot of dogs get, I think she accepted her lot in life and it seemed to bother us more than it did her. She still went on walks and was always at the door when one or both of us came home. She posed for hours under strobe lights as I tried to learn portraiture. She even helped us foster an Australian Cattle Dog with an energy problem without batting an eye. She was always the sedate, grand, lady of the house, ready for some skritches and a long hug. I think we were so concerned with her “food allergy” we hardly noticed that whatever ailed her also aged her. Quickly. One day, it was too obvious and we both asked each other “When did she get so white?” when we took her to the vet.

With an increased drug regimen, it was another year before she let us know that she had done all she could for us. She had seen us through long trips, long winters, recuperated us from surgeries, family changes, and all the good (and sometimes not so good) times that life brings. It killed me inside to know that Lori had to make the decision. When she did, we took Keiko to McDonalds for some ice cream, something she was not allowed on her diet. She got her first “brain freeze” but didn’t waste a drop. The next day I cooked her a big bone-in ribeye steak on the grill and sat with her in the grass, as she again enjoyed a once forbidden pleasure. Followed by more ice cream! The morning of the appointment, we put our stoic faces on and drove our girl in silence to the vet. It didn’t go as planned. In fact it went horribly wrong for her and both of us were in tears by the time it was over. It was an hour before we could handle driving and weeks before one or both of us wouldn’t break down for no reason. Or for every reason. When her ashes arrived in a small carved box, I couldn’t help but think there was no way a box that small could hold all that love. But it turns out that it do