Kaijin I


Kaijin came to as a shelter dog when we lived in Colorado Springs. We would periodically visit the county shelter to get a dog fix and on this one night, here was a 130 pound Akita in a segregated kennel marked “AGRESSIVE” in big black letters. He was at least three to four years old and his kennel card indicated he was on a short count to the big sleep. After talking with the shelter staff and explaining that we were experienced with the breed and aggressive dogs, they agreed to let us try to get to know him. They had us take seats in a visitation room with strict instructions not to reach out to him. A few minutes later, they brought him in and we sat perfectly still as he sniffed around. The staff member asked if we were OK, and we said we were and she backed out of the room. Almost as soon as the door closed, he tried to jump into our laps to get his belly rubbed. He was far from aggressive and more like a huge, attention hungry puppy. It was obvious that he had just been waiting for us to show up and that’s all it took. We did have to sign a bunch of legal paperwork that he was a “dangerous breed”, a surrender (so no history), and he had shown some (unexplained) “aggressive behavior” during his extended stay at the shelter. (None of which turned out to be necessary for the big goof.) Then, some waiting for approvals, a fat check for his bail, and he was ours. Or, as it turned out, we were his.

Hiking buddies.

Because we didn’t get out of the shelter until late, we decided we would drop him off at the house with some food and water and run out and pick up some hamburgers for dinner. The thinking was that our new ward would explore the house in peace, have some chow, and we’d be back in 15 minutes. Which we were. But it turned out that the beast had an undisclosed and very serious case of separation anxiety. In the time it took for us to go pick up fast food and return, the beast had ripped down every single window blind, in every window, in our two story house. Every one. And while he was obviously glad we had returned, he exhibited zero remorse for his behavior. He did, however, show a keen interest in the burgers and fries he assumed we brought for him. Those were some really expensive burgers.

Destruction of the “nice soft bed” he didn’t like.

It was almost as if he was setting down some ground rules for our future lives together: “You have seen the powers I possess. Thou shalt not leave me alone. Ever.” He never did get over this, not even a little bit. During the next years he destroyed airline kennels and several crates when we couldn’t take him with us. Fortunately, those times were infrequent and usually very short but it often felt like we lived with a terrorist.

Of course he was named something else at the shelter. I don’t remember what his name was but it was something ridiculous (I think it was Alfred) and meant to be disarming. We ultimately named him after a “mythical monster” in Japanese. But he was, and always will be, our gentle giant whose bark scared the crap out of anybody that didn’t know him. He was friends with the UPS driver who gave him cookies and well behaved when out in public, including going to stores. He quickly became Lori’s constant hiking buddy, while I was forced to work long hours in subterranean salt mines to afford the vast amounts of dog food this beast would devour.

Although I worried less about Lori when she was out on the trails with Kaijin and we hardly needed to worry about somebody breaking in to our house, Kaijin never did exhibit the aggressiveness he was wrongly accused of. From the day he adopted us until he passed in 2008, he was always a gentle soul.