About 10 years ago a Belgian Shepherd lover by the name of Jenni Allen rescued three Belgian Tervurens from an abusive owner. The three were a father and two daughters. I was considering getting a dog and took my (then) very young boys to look at this rescued family, where they were being kept at a kennel. I had decided to take one of the daughters who were then young pups. I really didn’t want to deal with the psychological baggage that comes with an adult rescue dog. On our way to see the pups we passed the run of the father. I intentionally did not look at him but my son Morgan wanted to meet him and begged me to take him into the run. As soon as we opened the gate, this dog threw himself at me and almost leapt into my arms as if he had known me all his life and had been separated from me. In spite of my best intentions to take one of the daughters, I ended-up adopting a three & a half year old Belgian Tervuren with some pretty deeply engraved emotional trauma. I can’t remember what his name was at the time and I had decided not to further complicate his life by changing his name at that age, but it didn’t take long to realise that he had never been addressed by his name. And so he became “Kili” – short for Kilimanjaro.
Kili had been permanently caged and never exercised. At the time I lived near the exquisite aptly named Long Beach. I shall never forget the look on Kili’s face when he saw seven kilometres of open space and was given permission to run. He ran non-stop for two and half hours! In the early days taking him for a walk was an ordeal because it took me at least 2 hours to get him back to the car. He also ran away every time the house gate was opened. He would run through the traffic to the nearby park and simply run and run and run around the park. But soon he realized that we would go for a walk every day and then he stopped running away. But from then onwards Long Beach was always his favourite place.
Kili’s life had changed for the better. He accompanied me on all of my walks. On his first mountain walk ever he did not know how to negotiate a 40 cm high rock! But he soon became my Prince of the Mountain – agile and energetic, with remarkable stamina. I’m sure that it was his love of walking the mountain, especially after the deprivation of his early years that drove him. He never tired, no matter the temperature or the distance. He was unstoppable and never complained. He just wanted more mountain . . .
He had a charismatic way of gently leaning up against my guests and if he especially wanted attention from someone he knew, he would wrap one of his paws around their leg. He was ever so elegant and would often lie with his front paws stylishly crossed.
On the mountain he was always at least 100 metres ahead of us, constantly checking on our progress. He endeared himself to hundreds of my guests who had the privilege of walking with him on Table Mountain – many of whom will be reading this eulogy. He was photographed by thousands more anonymous visitors to Table Mountain who were astounded by his elegance and beauty.
He last climbed Table Mountain fourteen months ago, when I noticed in spite of his resilience and passion for the mountain, that he was struggling up the higher rocks.
Thereafter he walked easier routes but it was only a few months ago that he completed a six-hour hike.
A week ago he had a mild seizure and bounced back. Yesterday he was once again dragging me behind him to have a walk at the park . . . but last night he had another seizure, which left him with permanent brain damage. His cognitive thought was unimpaired but his motor function was damaged. It was terrible to see him desperately trying to walk straight so that I could take him for a walk, but falling down repeatedly. And he still licked me lovingly as if to reassure me that all was OK, but the vet explained that the best was to help him on his way to Mount Olympus where he is now walking with the gods.
He was a gentle soul but he protected my family fiercely. His son Meru (who idolized him) and I will be lonely without him.
I will always remember my Prince of the Mountain in his favourite position – standing on a prominent rock above, somewhat aloof but stunningly handsome and keeping a watchful eye on me.
You chose me Kili. Farewell my gentle loyal friend.