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On a Saturday afternoon, a little over 11 years ago I was at a loose end and visited Victoria Park Market in Auckland. My life had changed. Eight months earlier my marriage had ended and their were gaps in my life.
I was with the Navigator, who was still resident in Christchurch at that time and as we walked past a pet-shop she said "A dog would be good, Let's go and see what they've got."
I'd had dogs in my life a golden cocker spaniel, two afghans, a black cocker spaniel and another golden one, in that order. I had loved them all even the incredibly difficult-to-train afghans. I knew what the inevitable end of having a dog is about. It's always sad.
The pet shop had a cage of blue-heelers, a fox terrier and, on the floor, a basketfull of black and white fluff that turned out to be five border collie pups, so small and young, it was hard to believe they were old enough to be weaned. $450 each, thank you.
I bent in and picked one up it was a little bloke pup and he was just perfect. "I'll take him." I said.
I got a gentle elbow in the ribs from the Navigator and a nod towards a family on the other side of the basket where dad had another of the pups and he was showing the kids.
"We'll come back," she said.
We walked out, waited five minutes and walked back in. The family had gone and there were now six pups in the basket, all asleep.
I put my hand in and clicked my fingers. One little tyke woke up, looked, got to its feet and groggily wobbled over to me. "That's the one the family had," whispered the Navigator.
I picked it up, checked and she was a girl.
She was the smallest pup of the litter and had bad markings. Border collies are meant to be symmetrical. They weren't in this case.
And, instead of the broad head and nose, she had a more slightly more pointed head.
"She's the one," said the Navigator. So we paid the $450, plus some more for a basket and some puppy food, got some advice and off we went at the start of a life-changing relationship.
I wanted Jess, the Navigator asked if she could be called Kate. So Kate it was.
A month or so later, the Navigator was in permanent residence and took Kate to dog obedience school for a month or so.
I watched Kate grow with amazement. This wasn't a border collie this was a small human being.
Her intelligence was remarkable. She learned words, she learned hand signals and she was obedient.
I saw her one day pick up a child's plastic bucket by the handle, climb up the steps to the front door and bring it inside.
She had a wet black rubber nose, brown sultanas for eyes, a slice of pink ham for a tongue and a feather duster for a tail.
Unlike other pups, she didn't chew the furniture as she cut teeth. But she wasn't perfect.
Like all border collies, as she grew, she started to run on nervous energy and when she got excited she would pee.
I ran my office from home and one day she leapt onto the lap of an important lady visitor and got so excited she let out a small puddle.
Kate was with us everyday.
When we moved into a proper office, she would come with us and she grew to be the office manager watching everything that went on and you almost sensed her approval and disapproval.
She found a spot under my desk and made it hers, nudging my hand with her wet, black cold, nose every 30 minutes or so for a pat and a rumple of the ears.
Gradually she focused most of attention towards me probably because I was with her more, but also because I tended to spoil her.
When I launched NZ TODAY magazine in 2001, we took Kate on our first destination journey and she's been on every journey since that didn't involve flying.
She would squeeze into the floor on the passenger's side of the car, leaving enough room for the Navigator's legs. I confess that we often sneaked her into motels and even hotels.
I doubt if there is another dog that has seen as much of New Zealand as Kate.
Kate quickly became my constant companion. She went everywhere with me. If she heard the jingle of car keys she was at the door, looking at me with her brown eyes like she was saying "where are we going dad?"
I grew to be aware of her almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Somewhere in my field of vision all the time there was this black and white shadow.
She didn't need a lead. She walked at heel, even when crossing a busy roads. There was complete and utter trust.
Recently, as I do on a Saturday morning, I walked to the nearby supermarket, crossed the Great South Road with Kate at my left leg. Outside the supermarket I said "Stay Kate." and a woman came up.
"I'll look after your dog while you go inside," she said.
"Thanks, but she'll be okay," I said.
"I saw you walking across the road with her, no lead and I couldn't believe it."
That was Kate.
She loved to run, not walk, run a border collie trait.
We would drive her to the bottom of Mount Eden, wait until there was no traffic, open the door and out she would leap heading straight up the steep hill, streaking past amused and bemused joggers, bike riders and ordinary walkers.
If it wasn't Mount Eden, it was the block from home. We would drive to the next street so that she didn't have to cross any roads, open the car door and off she would go.
Beaches were the best. She had her first run on Oreti Beach near Invercargill on one of our journeys. She was out of the car and tore along the sands like a black and white flash, full stretch, eyes straight ahead, running at 50km/h.
She taught me a lot. She taught me about love, affection, trust, obedience, being a mate, a pal, a companion. She was intuitive, wise.
Through Kate, I saw the beauty in all other animals. Even birds. Something I never thought would happen
I have never felt a bond as strong as this one.
A month ago there were some early signs to start worrying about. Her running slowed, but she still made it clear that she knew when we were approaching the point where we normally dropped her off.
I shortened the runs day by day until we were in our street.
In mid-October I embarked on a week long "lap of the North Island" that the Navigator couldn't come on. So Kate and I did the journey together. But this wasn't the first time that Kate and I had gone on an adventure together.
If we stopped for a toilet or refreshment break, Kate would also get out top stretch her legs and have a drink.
We were two mates together, out to see the world.
Last week, I dropped her off at the end of our street so she could sprint up to the house. She was out the door like a bolt of lightning and I accelerated ahead of her. It was a bit of fun to have a race home with her.
I got home first and looked to see where she was. She was only half way home and was obviously in trouble.
I ran back, she appeared to be having trouble breathing.
I picked her up and was surprised at how light she was. By the time we got home she was fine. I put her down and she wagged her tail and looked at me with those eyes "thanks dad, I'm okay now."
Last Friday night I was out barbequing and Kate was there, watching and I was chatting away to her as I did. The Navigator came out with a big juicy chop. Kate had gone off her special diet food and the chop was a treat.
She ate it up, crunched the bone and appeared well-satisfied.
We were going away on the Saturday morning "up north" and staying until midday Monday. Kate, of course, was coming.
But later on Friday night she appeared to have trouble swallowing and was restless. I suspected she had swallowed a big bit of bone that had stuck in her throat.
Saturday morning she was still troubled, so I took her to the vets who admitted her for blood tests and an X-ray.
We came home Saturday night instead of staying away as planned. I went to the vets on Sunday morning to see how she was. The blood tests showed some liver issues, but there was nothing on the X-ray. However Kate was even more uncomfortable than she had been. I became increasingly worried.
Next morning, Monday, we were back and it was obvious that something was terribly wrong. She was panting, could barely stand and was in a highly distressed state.
When she was brought into the consulting room her eyes lit up, her tail wagged, but it was a real effort. All she wanted to do was sit and my feet. She couldn't manage anything else.
We had the option of more tests, or . . .
We took the "or". More tests would have been pointless.
As the vet took her away to have a catheter put into her leg, she looked pleadingly back at both of us "Do I have to go dad?"
"Yes, go, be a good girl."
She came back. I took her lead and her collar off because Kate didn't need those. Not my Kate.
We both held her as the vet injected the material into her and we felt her sigh and go limp.
I bent and kissed her on her nose, closed her eyes, said "Good girl Kate, dad loves you." And we walked from the room crying our eyes out.
Kate changed my life and it will never be the same again.
Kate the bordie collie who thought she was human at the marker where sheep-stealer Mackenzie was briefly captured.