KODO - The first, The last and the very very best

4th Mar 2012

It's with a very very heavy heart I write this. In fact I'm not going to write much, not the usual ramblings, at least not now! It's been two week's to the day (Sunday) that our little Staffordshire Bull Terrier Cross, Kodo passed away. Like all Bull breeds she fought until the very end, but when your enemy is Cancer that fight can be a very short and decidedly one sided battle. It was just 10 days since she underwent life saving surgery and everyone from the Vet to those people who had known Kodo all her life agreed her short recovery was amazing. She seemed like a new dog once the Tumor (and her spleen) had been removed. She bounded up stairs, chased her sister Buis in the park and destroyed toys with a new found gusto. We were told the outlook was bleak, most likely 2 to 6 months. I decided not to speculate, its a game I'd played twice before with my Mum and Brother, I just looked at it like this - everyday she survived after the operation was an extra special day we didn't expect.

I wanted to write such a marvelous piece to reflect what a wonderful little dog she was, but I know right now, thats not going to happen. I can't sit still and concentrate on anything for more than about 10 minutes and when I think of all the fabulous times we shared with her it's hard to see my keyboard through the tears, I can't touch type to save my life!

So, I've decided to keep it simple, after all I'm a photographer not a writer, so here's just 3 photos out of the thousands I have taken of Kodo. The very first and last I ever took of her and my all time favourite photo of her, with my partner Lucy. They're not technically the best photos, but they're the ones I will always remember.

This is the first photo I ever took of Kodo. It was taken at a climbing venue in Staffordshire, England called Ramshaw Rocks. We were there to go climbing and it was Kodo's very first trip to the crags which over the ensuing years would become almost like a second home to her. The photo was taken in January 2004 just a week or so after we got her from RSPCA sheffield. Prior to the adoption we were told by the staff that "she was an escape artist who chewed furniture", where this came from has always puzzled me, but I guess it was probably from the people who didn't want her and had brought her back to the dogs home; ironically the same dog pen she'd been born in!

We never found her to have any of the previously mentioned issues, although she was prone to taking herself off for a stroll round the neighbourhood when the back gate was inadvertantly left open (twice).

We'd just walked to the crag and Kodo's sat high up the hillside watching us watching her ('watching' definitely became one of her favourite pastimes). Over the years She got very used to having her photo taken, in fact she got so fed up off having flash blasted in her face that she could recognise if I was going to use flash or not. If I was she'd either look away of close her eyes.

I sent this photo to my dad, I wanted him to share in the excitement of our 'new dog' but rather than being happy, he asked us 'not to bring her with us' when we next came down! He didn't like 'those kind of dogs'. Poor Kodo, being tarred with the 'those kind of dogs'' brush.

Of course we ignored his request and after a slightly shakey start (Dad not Kodo), Dad adored her and loved it when she would climb up onto his knee and watch the world go by outside.

I love this photo because it's a bit like the kid who's clothes are just a tad too big for them. Her collar is so new we haven't had time to trim it and it's just that little bit too big. I remember the day so well, I remember the name and grades of the routes we climbed. I remember Kodo inadvertantly taking one of Ben Heason's (one of Britain's top climbers) sandwiches out of his hand, she thought he was offering it to her because he held it a little too close to those jaws; how we all laughed out loud at Ben's crestfallen face. But most of all I remember how much I had in just a matter of a couple of weeks fallen in love with 'the little dog with the huge heart'.

This is the last photo I ever took of Kodo (she was named Kodo after the Kodo drummers by my partner Lucy. Kodo means Heartbeat) It was taken on Saturday 18th of February 2012 at 14:58. The following morning she died of Haemangiosarcoma, a very virulent type of cancer. Perhaps I'm imagining it but to me at least she has a sadness in her usually vibrant eyes. She's looking at me but she isn't seeing me. It was hard for me to take this photo, I knew in my heart it would most likely be the last photo I'd ever have of her, perhaps I was hiding my emotions behind the camera, it wouldn't be the first time. I'd been in a similar situation once before only that time it was my Mum dying of cancer. No matter how I tried I couldn't bring myself to ask her if I could take her photo, I was just a young 18 year old kid, struggling with his emotions. She was going into hospital the very next day, the chances of her ever coming home again were very slim and in a strange way asking for a photo would have been an admission to the fact. So I let her go and regretted my decision for the rest of my life.

Perhaps taking this photo was selfish, I wanted one last photo of my little lady. After I saw the look in her eyes I put my camera down and went to sit with her on the settee, neither of us moved much until it was time for bed, just enjoying each other's company.

Someone once told me you should always leave the best till last. Well here it is, my very favourite photo of Kodo. Why is this photo so special? Like a dear friend said when I showed it to her 'It's a photo full of love'. The photo was taken on a Saturday afternoon in "The Cave" (Parisella's Cave - a hardcore bouldering venue) on the Ormes just outside Llandudno, North Wales. It had been raining in Llanberis and we'd driven over to the Ormes looking for a little dry rock and hopefully some sunshine. Kodo loved being part of the team, which usually meant digging holes at the base of the crag or exploring caves, she loved any kind of 'hole' but when the pace slowed down a little and the climbers sat down for a rest, Kodo would always come and sit down with us. Lucy Creamer (my partner and Kodo's mum) sat down on the bouldering pad and Kodo hopped on with her for a little 'TLC'. I saw the pair of them sitting down and enjoying the moment so trained my lens on them, I'd got enough climbing pics for the day. I took just a handful of photos before Kodo realised I was pointing "one of those nasty things that sometimes goes flash" at her and she started to look away from the camera. But for once this actually made the photo that little bit better, it showed off the shape of her head. Lucy had been stroking her little friend and you can tell she's getting as much pleasure out of it as Kodo is. To understand this photo, is to understand the very essence of who Kodo was, a very happy, loving and gentle little soul, who brought a lot of joy and happiness to everyone who met her (I've only ever met one person who didn't fall under her charm and he was just plain weird).

Kodo was my peaceful warrior and I'll forever be in debt to her for adopting us that day. I so miss her, but luckily for Lucy and I she was such a huge presence in our lives that we'll always carry a small part of her with us in our hearts.