I have a story to share about our dogs Kendi and Mia and how one night, a couple of years ago on the 18th of December they proved to be heroes. But first, a little about them.
Kendi and Cara-Mia were littermates, a pair of Boxers we brought home at the age of 6 weeks. Our first few days together before our first vet visit I kept telling my then-fiancee Daniel that they just “seemed so much smaller” than I had remembered other puppies over the years being. Our vet soon let us know that in Florida, the laws are that puppies can’t be sent away from their mothers until 8 weeks. Georgia, where we bought them, doesn’t have those laws and if we had known, we would have waited to bring them home. I’ve always wondered what effect that had on them and if it was their very young age of separation that bonded them together so completely or if it is normal for litter-mates to be so close.
Kendi grew up to be a slightly neurotic dog who was timid quite often over strange things. He would skitter when the trash bag was being replaced and he would hide when things didn’t look “normal”…such as if Daniel wore a hat. He hated ladders. But he was absolutely devoted to his sister and to me. Daniel would grumble that even though Kendi would be getting love and scratches from Daniel on one side of the room, the whole time Kendi’s eyes would be on me, and the second I was out of eye sight, he would jump up to follow. Sometimes you could tell Kendi had a hard time choosing between snuggling with Mia or following me around the house.
Mia on the other hand, was a spitfire. She made up for being the runt and too small to want to roughhouse much with Kendi by being so very clever. She was always well behaved and very brave but you couldn’t trick her into doing something she didn’t want to do. Also, her underbite was a little too pronounced, so her long tongue would stick out when she was at rest….just a little! It was frankly adorable.
These dogs were sweet, playful, and at times, shy. Never would I have guessed that when it really mattered, they would react to a true threat with such powerful ferocity and fearlessness. Here is the story of how the grinch almost stole our Christmas.
I had finished 99% of my Christmas shopping on the 17th and had everything wrapped and ready for a real family Christmas. Before we went to bed that night I made the kind of statement that the universe can’t let pass by. Kinda like the alleged, infamous quote before the Titanic sailed that “not even God could sink this ship”. What I said to Daniel was something along the lines of “…you know, the best night to steal Christmas presents is probably tonight. Once most people have done their shopping but before they pack everything up to take on their family get-togethers….”
So off to bed we went! Daniel, Kendi, Mia and myself all up in the bedroom upstairs. We had been having sleeping trouble so just to complicate things, we both took our Ambien first and put in our earplugs.
Sometime after midnight, Kendi and Mia start barking with this frantic, vicious intensity and throwing themselves at the bedroom door. Of course we were disoriented being woken up so suddenly, unable to hear anything at all between the earplugs and the dogs noise but we immediately knew there was someone in the house. For those of you who live with pets, you know how you get to know their language in a way? How they sound when the UPS man shows up which is very different from the “We found a snake in the yard” bark or the “we’re just playing” noises. This sound, this one was like none of those. This sound I had never heard before from either of them and I, thankfully, haven’t heard it since.
While the door was closed, with the dogs acting like they’d eat the very marrow from the bones of whatever was on the other side, Daniel quickly got our rifle from under the bed and I got my phone and dialed 911. And I opened the door.
I know all of this happened over several minutes but in my head it took forever. The dogs took off so fast down the stairs they’re bouncing off the walls, no hesitation at all. I literally see saliva fly and their teeth are snapping. The 911 operator is now talking as I stand in the empty hallway and Daniel sweeps the other rooms upstairs just to be sure. The operator asks, “what’s your emergency” and I answer, “there is someone in the house”. At this point I have not seen a single thing wrong. The hallway is empty, there is no one upstairs, and I see out of the side of my vision, Daniel going downstairs. All we knew was that the dogs were 100% convinced that there was a threat in the house and that was enough for us.
As I’m following Daniel downstairs I’m still answering questions of the 911 operator. I don’t see anyone, no dogs or Daniel but I hear the front door slam. As I reached the empty living room I was stunned. The Ambien catching up to me maybe? The room was empty but I knew I’d heard the door slam. Thinking Daniel had run outside in his boxers pointing a rifle I was worried that wouldn’t end well and also went out the door. Again though, there was nobody there. So, I went back inside and scared the absolute stuffing out of Daniel who hadn’t been ahead of me at all. He thought I was behind him too! So, I either was seeing things, or, I saw the shadow of the man who had been in the house and I’d literally followed him out the front door. Also, as a side note, while most of you probably noted that it is not a good idea to follow a burglar out your front door, it is ALSO not a good idea to surprise your husband with the rifle popping back in the front door! No shots were fired but we both got a major scare. During all of this I have no idea now where the dogs have gone. Oh and I’m still on the phone with 911.
At this point our heads are spinning, we are so confused, we never saw anyone but as I looked around the living room I noticed almost all our gifts from under the tree were loaded into our laundry basket. It just didn’t process. I couldn’t wrap my head around how that had happened. I even asked Daniel if he done it! Then we notice more things. The Playstation is pulled off the shelf, the wires tangled, the rug is flipped. The guest bed is pushed a little away from the window, there are plant seeds (we call them hitchhikers) stuck all along the bedspread. A window latch has been forced.
The police are at the door. Less than 5 minutes have passed but I still have no recollection of the dogs after they left the room. There is a bit of back and forth with the officer at the door, we’re told to stay inside the house and that a K-9 unit is on the way. I think I told the cop about our dogs running loose.
Just a few minutes later it felt like Kendi and Mia just suddenly reappeared as if someone had let them in from outside, and we quickly put them in their crates to be out of the way of the police. For the next 20-30 minutes we walked around the house looking for anything else out of place with one of the officers in the house with us. They were taking photos and notes when we came across my purse sitting on the mantle behind the Christmas tree. Not only was the purse not where I had left it, but hanging from the straps like a rotting dead rat was the dirtiest, stinkiest, wet, black sock you ever did see. The odor emanating from this awful sock was obvious from over a foot away! The officer began taking photos of this new evidence when another officer approached us to ask more questions. The first new question was very odd.
“Do you drink Natty Light”?
“huh? Um…no. Why?”
Apparently a man was found coming out of the bushes to the side of our house with a can of Natty Light in hand.
Then the officer asked if we recognized what they had recovered from the man’s pockets…showing us a similar amount of loose cash missing from our wallets to our television remote, of all things! The remote we had was kinda “fancy” – it was a Harmony touch-screen model…a little larger than the bigger iPhone and made to combine all of the home-entertainment remotes to one, super awesome, single remote that is so easy to use. Definitely not a music device of any kind but I highly recommend their brand’s universal remotes. The best I’ve ever used to date – and I’ve received no compensation for my statements!
While we were discussing the remote, it occurred to me – was the man wearing socks at all? More specifically, just one black sock perhaps? I asked that of the police officer who began talking into the little microphone on his shoulder. He got an answer back almost immediately – the man they had found was wearing just one black sock. He also was in possession of some amount of drugs and a gun. A gun which he wasn’t supposed to be carrying as he was an ex-felon and it was in violation of his parole.
Around this point, the whole house became the crime-scene and we offered coffee or Coke Zero to the officers beginning to go through the house gathering more photographs and other evidence. We may have drank more coffee than they did, trying to shake off our Ambien hazes. The ironic part is that all of our Christmas gifts had to be dusted for prints now and the officers uncomfortably broke the news that the gifts would have to be taken into the station to be processed, most likely after Christmas or maybe even New Years. The other option was that they could very carefully unwrap each gift, preserving the wrapping paper and taking just that to the station for processing. The second option was the best one and so with some awkward jokes, the police officers began to open our presents, one at a time. It was hard to ignore the absurdity of the situation and we needed some comic relief as our nerves were pretty shaken. We giggled as a balding, burly officer delicately opened a gift for an infant and as the younger female officer blushed and asked for the second time if either of us should leave so no surprises got ruined. We laughed at having to explain the reason behind one package being only a bag of Butterfinger candies and the whole time each officer apologized for having to take each package apart.
Good friends who lived nearby (and worked the night shift) came by when we called and took us off to get a meal at a local all-nite diner as we tried to steady our nerves and fight the last of the Ambien effects. It was so reassuring that they came, while what just happened caught up to us. Our dogs had saved our lives that night. There had been a burglar, carrying a gun and bold enough to break into our house in the middle of the night with lights on inside and our cars parked out front…he knew somebody was home. But he had a gun and clearly didn’t care if he ran into us. He then spent time downstairs…at least 15 minutes to gather up our gifts, to hunt through our wallets, to try to separate the Playstation from the other electronics. He was not afraid. That was all before he went upstairs. Upstairs all the doors are kept shut, so this man with a gun, ended up on the landing facing an empty hallway and 4 closed doors. He knew someone was home and opened the first door. I imagine he had his gun out, expecting to find us still sleeping and he would have. Except he woke the dogs and this man who was not afraid to break into an occupied house, who was not afraid to creep upstairs and start opening doors surely expecting to find somebody sleeping in bed, was afraid of our dogs. He ran out of the house as fast as he could, nearly breaking the door handle off the front door. He then chose to hide in the bushes near the house until the police came and then tried to saunter away at 2am past the cops who are looking for a home invader. We found out later that we were the second phone call from the neighborhood that night about a possible burglar.
There was evidence in the room next to ours, the room farthest to the left, that he was in there. That door was open and pair of scissors I was using to cut wrapping paper on the floor had been kicked out into the hallway. It had bounced off our bedroom door and most likely is what alerted the dogs. The man, if going in order, would have opened our bedroom door next and who knows what would have happened.
We have no doubts in our mind that our dogs saved our lives that night. The man was arrested and was later sentenced by a judge to spend 25 years in prison without the possibility for parole until after 23 years had been served. The District Attorney’s office had no trouble placing the man at the scene inside the house. Besides the sock left behind and the tv remote found in his possession, there were numerous hitchhikers stuck to the man’s clothing like the ones also stuck to the bedspread he passed climbing through the window. We never found out if there were usable fingerprints. The District Attorney’s argument was that the gun had been found loaded, a bullet in the chamber and the safety off. The perpetrator had been convicted of shooting a person in the past and as a felon, he was not supposed to possess any firearm. They also argued that it was obvious that people were home at the time with the lights being on and cars parked out front. So the DA said that the intruder broke into an occupied dwelling, with a previous felony for shooting someone, had a firearm and was prepared to shoot it since the safety was off and a round in the chamber. They essentially argued intent to commit murder. I honestly don’t remember at all if there was any defense.
Unfortunately, our Mia girl got ill suddenly just after New Years that year and she died, she was only 5 and Kendi was never the same after that winter. He was more anxious about more things, he mourned the loss of his sister and lost weight and he was suspicious and afraid of new people, especially men. He didn’t accept our new dog Arthur, he tolerated Arthur at best but he remained devoted to me until the end. Last week, our Kendi had to be put down. He had a tumor in his spleen and was bleeding internally from it. He struggled to breathe and was weak from blood loss. I am grateful that his decline was swift and we didn’t make him suffer to the end. He had turned 9 years old in June.
They were both good dogs, devoted to their family and willing to protect what was theirs. Mia’s full name was “Cara-Mia” which in Italian means “my beloved”. “Kendi” also means “my beloved”, though the origin is credited to being African, it isn’t specific what language or dialect. I will forever be thankful for having them in my life.