Thursday, September 10, 2015

R.I.P. K.B.

                                                                      R.I.P.  K.B.

I am so very grateful that the pound was closed on the day that I tried to return you. You were not a good dog and I was not a good owner. But you were a great friend , member of the family and will be forever missed.

KB peed on my TV . At the top of the stairs when he had to go really bad one night. I was watching TV as some sort of liquid began to rain down into the vent on top of the TV set. The screen went black and it would never work again. A terrible uriney / electrical burning smell lingered for days. I was working on old cars for Mr. Bill at the time that I got KB. I begged, pleaded, and we negotiated for several days as Bill was also my landlord at the time. He had 2 dogs of his own which I was able to use as leverage for my case. I had never had a dog before, but always wanted one. So in March of 2000 I went down to the Berkeley Humane Society and picked up 3 month old "Buster" who I was told was a Pitbull mix.

Soon his name was changed to "KB" short for Keith Black. I was just starting to build engines at the time and liked the name so it stuck for the new black dog. Although he has been known by a series of other aliases over the years such as: Benson, K-Bu , Bee-bu, the Devil, Black Dog, Craze-B, Stinky, Mopar, Grumbles and many others. We lived in a cool old warehouse that had an apartment built inside of it near the Oakland / Alameda estuary. This was before techie and yuppie aliens had migrated into the neighborhood. People still dumped their garbage and stolen cars on our street.

It was a nice sunny bay area day ,so KB and I walked down to the estuary after work. There we found our friend Vinny playing with his 2 bigger older dogs Peppi and Fifi. Vinny was throwing a large rubber dildo for his dogs that someone had left at the end of the dead end street. He was just bare handing it and throwing it like any other dog toy. KB wanted to play too but I would not let him and I was the buzzkill he looked at with contempt and we went home. Ironically the street we lived on was called Glascock Street.

KB ate the arms off of my couch diagonally , through the plywood frame while I was at work one day like a giant termite. He dug a hole through my bed. He dug a hole through the floor pan of my 1968 Plymouth Sport Suburban station wagon. The Humane Society neglected to tell me that he was a wild animal who could not and would not be trained nor tamed. I took him to a lesbian dog training class in San Leandro where he would perform toward the bottom of the class. On graduation day he walked around the course with me as he was instructed. We were feet from the finish line when he saw something interesting and bolted out the door. I paid my fees and I think the teachers felt sorry for us , so they gave me the graduation certificate anyways. KB would partially eat the certificate days later and somewhere around the shop I still have 1/2 of it.

KB would pull me around on my skateboard for fun after work, trying to burn off some of that pent up puppy energy. One day he was pulling me along at dusk when he spotted a cat. Suddenly we were doing about 23 mph . There were some cute girls standing near the corner, then there were some train tracks coming up fast which I cleared the first set of, but came up short over the second set. I performed a Superman onto the asphault in front of the young ladies. I had the wind knocked out of me and was bleeding, but still tried to get up and play it off . Luckily they were too shocked and stunned to say anything. Eventually KB was apprehended with his leash still in tow.

One day after work I came home to find KB standing on all 4's on top of the kitchen table. He was eating my entire chocolate birthday cake from the previous day. He was about 7/8 of the way through when I caught him. I yelled at him and approached him to throw him off the table when he showed me his teeth and growled. We had a minor fight and I stuck him in his kennel (a wooden shipping crate marked "Benson Shipping") in the warehouse. In an effort to get some of the bad , negative, pent up energy out of him, I decided to take him everywhere I possibly could for the rest of his life. So he was always with me everywhere all of the time when I was not working.

We went mountain bike riding in the Oakland Hills and he could run 20+mph for hours until he literally wore holes through the pads in his feet and I would have to carry him back to the truck. Eventually we found just the right duration of ride to make everyone happy . He loved to parallel me as he chased deer and other woodland creatures through the forest. He was never obedient on or off leash until his last day and this was always a challenge for both of us. We went to the drag races together and he was my pit crew as I tried to win some races and make some money. There he had his own set of friends and he would try to remove fingers from any stranger who got too close to the truck.

My Brother Bob, KB and I went mountain bike riding one day in the Oakland Hills . The ride turned into an epic journey and we found ourselves exhausted at midnight 15 miles from our truck without lights. KB turned around to back track toward the end ,but it was too dark for us to find the trail or him. We rode home on the streets listening to gunfire from Foothill Blvd. KB had gone missing , the next day we looked for him and put up flyers . We contacted pounds and searched for days to no avail. I had the feeling of deep loss for the first time in my adult life . Ten days later a woman called me from the pound to tell me that she had dropped him off there and had seen my flyer. She also let me know that KB had bitten her dog when he tried to take a treat from him. He is the only animal I know who could look bigger and stronger after being lost in the woods for over a week.

After a few years we would venture out and I would try to start my own business selling classic MoPar parts. The most affordable warehouse I could find was a 4500 sq. ft. 1890's tractor assembly plant on 92nd and San Leandro in Oakland. There were bullet holes in the siding and trash dumped out front, but it would do. It was next to the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train tracks so Al's Rapid Transit was born. There was an industrial machine shop on the other side of the wall that built heat exchangers for Navy battleships. They started work at 7AM every morning so that is when we woke up every morning for the next several years whether we liked it or not. We would walk down 92nd Ave. each morning hop scotching used heroin needles, garbage and broken bits of glass. One day we found ourselves surrounded by 3 stray dogs. There was no one who lived within a 1/2 mile radius during non-business hours. A mangy old St. Bernard started to bite KB as well as a pit bull. I grabbed the St. Bernard by it's neck and began to kick it as KB bit back and eventually it let go. I yelled and kicked at the pitbull and they eventually walked off. This was one of our many trips to the Vet.

People would dump stray bait puppies when they were done with them at the end of the street. We would take the battered animals to a no-kill shelter in San Leandro. That was until they found out that we were bringing them puppies from Oakland and we were banished. KB was the dog you wanted with you when you had to help your best friend pickup a '68 Camaro from recently released felons at night in Napa. Especially when they volunteer to help load the car by swinging donuts in the middle of Highway 101 and crashing it into a ditch after the car had already been paid for. We would go to the swap meets and sell classic car parts together . At Ohlone College in Fremont we were setup one day and a sketchy guy was kind of hop scotching around all of our parts and giving off a bad vibe. Eventually he stepped on KB's tail and KB latched onto his pant leg ,ripping off one of his pant legs. So the whole day there was a guy walking around missing one pant leg. KB was no longer welcome at that swap meet.

It seemed like a weekly occurance that KB would have to chase someone over the concertene barbed wire fence back to the train tracks where we lived. Or catch a crackhead and tree them on top of one of the classic cars parked outside the shop. One day KB was barking, I opened the door to find a guy inside of my truck. I let KB out to watch him... as he locked the doors and was yelling for mercy. I went inside to grab the bat, the phone and dial the cops. I came back out and put in the call, but the police tended not to respond to any calls in that area unless it was a homicide or you just dialed 911 and hung up. After a few minutes the guy decided to make a run for it , KB and I chased him down the driveway and into traffic on San Leandro Blvd. ,but he got away. It is really amazing how fast someone can run when there is a mean black dog chasing them!

One night someone crashed a stolen car into a power pole near the train tracks behind the shop . This caused the power lines to drape across the tracks and around midnight the Amtrac train came screaming down the tracks uprooting more power poles . Leaving high voltage lines strewn all around our metal home, no power , no phone, at night with several small fires burning. We were able to dance our way out and a few days later the power was restored.

We also met many good life long friends in that neighborhood . KB would eventually help trick my beautiful wife Emma into marrying me . Emma and I would grow tired of the daily grind of our neighborhoods and we moved 2 hours north to the small town of Willows,CA near Thunder Hill Raceway with KB and her 3 dogs. There the animals could enjoy the fresh country air and we would meet more great friends. We could also enjoy a good night's sleep without worrying about getting our home or vehicles broken into. The big old house and large backyard was a pet mecca. There we have fond memories of Emma and I chasing KB around the yard as he swallowed an entire pigeon whole.

Five years later Emma's career change, our son Mikey's birth and family connections would bring us to Rochester ,MN near the Mayo Clinic. Our 3-legged dog Sadie was put down just before the Big Move. Old Bogart had also left our lives before the 2000 mile journey. So in 2013 , 13 year old KB was introduced to the cold, ice and snow of Minnesota. The amazing amount of wildlife helped distract him from the freezing of his paws on our walks. As recently as the spring of 2015 KB unearthed a cache of baby bunnies in a burrow and consumed each and every one of them whole.

The only person KB has not acted aggressively toward was our young son Michael. I think he realized that it was a line he could not cross, even though he had lived his entire life as a wild animal. Going on 16 years old and 95+ in dog years. KB's health was failing . He was mostly deaf, blind and had difficulty walking. His reverse was also broken. Now I am the one who saves him all of the time , when he gets lost in a corner of the house or forgets who I am. My Mom taught us an important lesson early in life about ice cream. My brother and I were to eat ice cream only for an entire day ,until we were sick . We must have been 10 and 12 years old respectively. We ate the crap out of ice cream that entire day and had a great childhood memory to our Mom's dismay.

So on Tuesday September 9, 2015 KB and I went to the deli and bought a pound of thin sliced turkey. We hung out at the park , gorged on turkey and prepared some orders at the shop until it was time for his last appointment with the vet. I'm still waiting for a call from the vet's office telling me that he awoke because he was so mean and wild and stubborn. Or some sort of message from above that he has been kicked out of Doggy Heaven for biting Eric Clapton as he played "If I Saw You in Heaven."  You will be missed KB!