Kenji Thomas (Adopted April 20, 2012 and departed August 26, 2018)
When we met Kenji in April 2012, it was love at first sight. He was living with a foster family through Midwest Shiba Inu Rescue and had previously been found as a stray and brought into animal control. Upon entering the foster family’s house, our connection with Kenji was instant and within a few short days the adoption was final.
From the beginning, until the very end, Kenji was more than any person could ask for in a loyal friend. Kenji was sweet and kind to everyone he met and, through his always-cheery disposition and never-ceasing “Shiba smile,” he brought joy to everyone who met him from strangers in the city to children at the playground. Above all else, he loved and cherished his family every single day of his life. He celebrated the good times and lifted us up during the bad. And no matter the day’s challenges, Kenji was always waiting at the front door to greet us with more pomp and circumstance than a Royal Wedding. In all respects, Kenji represented the best of this world: gentle and unwavering kindness, acceptance of all and love for strangers and family alike.
Because Kenji was already an older dog when we adopted him, we only had six short years together. But in those six years we shared cherished memories and love that will last a lifetime. And boy did we have adventures. During our first two years together, Kenji lived in our condo in the North Loop (Minneapolis) with me, my husband Aaron and our Siamese cat Pinky. We shared countless walks through our downtown neighborhood, where Kenji greeted all with statesman-like geniality. His favorite strolls were along the river, over the Stone Arch Bridge and along St. Anthony Main. We spent hours relaxing at parks (his favorite just behind Acme Comedy Club) and we shared many cuddles in the comfort of our condo. If we were sitting, Kenji was always laying across our laps.
In 2014, Aaron and I welcomed our first son Owen into the world. Always gentle and always patient, Kenji relished being a big brother. And when we moved from the city to the suburbs, where we live to this day, Kenji took it in stride. Not only did Kenji appreciate the serenity of a quieter environment in his “retirement years,” he really enjoyed the two amazing parks nestled on either side of our neighborhood. When he wasn’t out and about, his days were spent laying on our bed and performing “neighborhood watch” duties from a large window at the front of the house. When I decided to leave my job and stay home full-time, we developed a wonderful routine whereby, after lunch and Owen’s nap, we would set out for the park and hang out there for hours.
Over time what used to be hours of relaxing at the park slowly gave way to hours of restlessness and anxiety. We later learned that this was the beginning of his Canine Cognitive Disorder. It was a steady and painful decline and was heartbreaking to watch. Kenji’s last year of life was both joyous and challenging. We welcomed our second son, George, during the summer of 2017. While Kenji warmly received George into the wolf pack and quickly bonded with him, his declining mental and physical health hampered the quality family time that we would have loved to have experienced with Kenji and our new family unit.
Notwithstanding the pain and grief of watching a loved one near the end, Kenji’s last weekend was beautiful. It was of course the saddest weekend in my life, but the time that we spent together, as well as the precious moments we had to say goodbye, was what I had prayed for. After a weekend together, indulging him in his favorite things, Kenji passed peacefully in our arms and in the comfort of his favorite spot on our bed.
As heartbroken as we were (and still are), we know that Kenji knew a life of love and that he now no longer feels pain or confusion. We know we will see him once again and cross Rainbow Bridge together. Kenji has left an enormous paw print on my heart. I see him everywhere, in the house, at the park and our neighborhood. I can’t stop thinking about the sweet times we had with each other as well as the hard times. He truly was a special dog, and family member, and will be greatly missed.