In a short piece of prose, the poet Mary Oliver wrote, “Dogs die so soon. I have my stories of that grief, no doubt many of you do also. It is almost a failure of will, a failure of love, to let them grow old — or so it feels. We would do anything to keep them with us, and to keep them young. The one gift we cannot give.” When I was a young man I became infatuated with the English Bull Terrier. From their egg-shaped heads to their human like eyes, I had to own one.
At the age of 20 I fulfilled a dream of running my own retail snowboard and skateboard equipment shop in North Ogden, Utah. I called that shop Arkive. I ran the shop with my best friend Kyle. Because it was my only source of income, I lived in a quaint and quiet guest house on my grandparent’s farm in a bucolic lakeside town called Eden. My grandparents raised me on this farm and I was overwhelmed with nostalgia being back. The drive from the farm to the shop took 18 minutes. The road climbed through the Wasatch mountains traversing what was locally known as The Divide. Being alone in that house on the farm coupled with pouring my literal blood sweat and tears into my business, I became lonely. I wanted a companion. I spent every waking second mentally and physically focusing on a business at the age of 20, I quickly found myself struggling to keep my head above the water. Wanting a companion that could help me escape the stress of business ownership seemed like the only way to prevent my inevitable drowning. Fall was in full effect and the leaves were changing colors. One morning on my drive over the divide I thought to myself, “It’s time to get a Bull Terrier.” I had fulfilled my entrepreneurial dream, why not fulfill another dream and get a Bull Terrier? When I started researching breeders, emailing and contacting sellers, I found an adorable batch of Bull Terrier puppies in central Utah.
The puppies were born the week of Halloween and all had “spooky” names. There were two puppies left in the litter, Spook and Goblin. In my mind I was going to have a white female Bull Terrier, that was Spook. However, the breeder warned me that white Bull Terriers are prone to deafness and need to be checked at 8 weeks. Spook was too young at that time and the breeder couldn’t guarantee a full health check. I changed my mind for a less stressful buying process and placed my deposit on Goblin, who was the biggest of the litter. Goblin was a brindle male with beautiful markings. He had just the right amount of white on his face and belly. I couldn’t wait to bring him home. The puppies were set to be picked up and paid in full on the 7th of December. After placing the deposit, I scrambled to come up with the remaining money. I was certain I wasn’t going to get Goblin but my Grandmother, the one who raised me on the farm, knew how excited I was and gifted me the remaining money as an early Christmas present.
During my late teen years, I became obsessed and inspired by the up and coming snowboarders from Finland. I fell in love with the Finnish culture and the language. I thought a perfect name for a female would be Kulta. At the time I believed Kulta meant LOVE in Finnish, I was happily surprised to later find out Kulta actually means “gold,” in Finnish. The name fit him even better, his name matching his goldish brindle coloring. I had come up with the name before deciding to purchase Goblin instead of Spook. I mulled over the name in the weeks after giving the breeder the deposit. The name grew on me more and more and I decided to keep it. In the weeks before I could pick up Kulta I had read all the puppy books and bull terrier books I could find, I was ready to be a dog dad! On December 7th, 2007 I set out with Kyle and my other best friend Jordan, on a five-hour round trip adventure to pick up Kulta. We needed to be in Spring City, Utah by 11am. I was the last person to show up that day, when the breeder opened the kennel so Kulta could meet me for the first time I was instantly in love. Pictures can only do so much, nothing beats meeting your puppy for the first time in person. He was adorable with his tiny little spot on his tail and his sweet brown eyes. I made Kyle drive all the way home so I could hold this little puppy. Jordan kindly sat in the back seat with his kennel.
It had been a long day and I was excited to get him back to the farm. He whined and cried the all night long that first night. Based on the books I had read, it was important to keep him kenneled at night. After 3 nights of crying and no sleep I caved and let him sleep with me on the bed. I was so scared I would roll on top him in my sleep, or that he’d fall off the bed and hurt himself. But as soon as I would lay down he nestled himself right into my side and everything that I was scared of went away. He didn’t whine, he just slept there calmly listening to my heart beat through my cyan colored sweatshirt. At that moment I knew I had something special and our bond grew daily. Kulta never needed to be house trained. My guess, it was his free reign on acres of farmland to do his business. When he wanted to be outside he sat by the door and stared at me until I let him out. I owned a small business and was fortunate enough to be able to bring him to work with me every day. He loved riding in my 2007 Suzuki Reno, he would sit in my lap and occasionally prop his paws on my steering wheel to gaze out the windshield. He loved the sharp turns and the views of The Divide.
Life was going pretty well, I wasn’t turning profits at my shop but I didn’t care, I had Kulta and he was all I really needed at the moment. Not making any profit on the work I was doing meant I was the poorest I’d ever been. As long I could provide kibble for Kulta and Ramen for myself, I was as happy as could be, and to this day those were some of the greatest memories of my life. I remember that first Christmas with Kulta, being snowed in at the farm and lying next to the fireplace with him watching movies all day. It’s still to this day one of the best Christmas’s ever. Kulta was a local celebrity, the customers and kids loved him. I kept him behind the cash-wrap and he would sit in the office chair and always give people a smile. I’d go to the skatepark across the street and promote the shop with Kulta at my side. He grew quickly and as spring hit he was too big to sit on my lap on those drives to work, so I’d roll down the passenger window and he would take in the breeze with his “ultra-aerodynamic” head.
As Kulta was approaching full grown, he grew obsessed with his tail. What started out cute and playful turned into an unhealthy hobby. He would chase his tail from sunrise to sunset and nip the end raw. I contacted the breeder and asked if this was normal, she began to tell me that Bull Terriers can develop OCD disorders and that his sounded pretty serious, and that if I would euthanize him she would guarantee me another Bull Terrier in the next litter. The sound of putting a dog down because he was chasing his tail sounded cruel. I talked to multiple vets about what to do. I tried everything from anxiety meds to topical creams, I even tried a shock collar to correct the behavior. After everything failed, I thought it’d be best to amputate his tail. I felt devastated doing it to him but it had to be done. With his cute tail with the white tip gone, and this wagging little nub for a tail, we were ready to take on the next stages of life.
In 2009, I wasn’t seeing the amount of growth I had hoped for with my shop and at the time was engaged to a girl who lived 60 miles from the farm. I decided to close the shop late that summer and focus on getting a job with health benefits and a 401k. I also moved from the farm to my fiancés parents small house, which was already home to three dogs. This was a difficult move for Kulta, I could no longer take him to work with me, and while I was gone he had to be locked in the basement. I could sense he wasn’t happy there and my heart hurt, I felt like I was neglecting him. The stress from this caused me serious depression. I wasn’t happy with my new “adult” job and I wasn’t happy with my relationship. In February of 2010 things got rocky with my fiancé and we called off the wedding. Since I was living with her family when we split, I had to move out of the house. Kulta and I were officially homeless. Everyone advised I give up Kulta and focus on myself and get my life back together. The fact of the matter was, Kulta is what kept me together. I was an absolute mess but Kulta was my glue and my inspiration to do better, not just for me but for him too. We quickly needed to find a place to live. We got lucky on a Craigslist ad and found another desperate individual from Ohio who needed a new roommate, and was okay with me having a dog. I started to feel my life take a turn for the better and Kulta was that reason. We lived below the foothills of Salt Lake City. When times were tough or my mind clouded with depressing thought, or as Herman Melville said in Moby Dick, “Whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul,” it meant Kulta and I needed to go on an adventure. Every morning we would go see the girls at the local coffee shop, and on my days off I would grab my camera and Kulta and we would hike all over the hills above our home. It was this point in my life I realized how important it is to be comfortable alone. Kulta was my best friend, he was all I needed, he didn’t know what the hell I was saying when I’d cry myself to sleep, all he cared about was sleeping under the covers on that old futon with me. Kulta helped me get my life back, he helped me socialize with people, he convinced me to quit that horrible job I left Arkive for, and get back to a job where I could be myself and socialize with actual humans. Kulta grew me into a man, from long hair and XL tees, to meeting my next serious girlfriend, Kristina.
Kristina lived in Boise, Idaho and the timing was perfect. I wanted a relationship, but didn’t want to dive into anything right away. I’d just spent the last year and a half discovering myself. Kristina knew Kulta always came first and although she was not much of a dog person, she grew attached to him quickly. Kristina and I would alternate between me driving to Boise for a weekend one month, then her driving to Salt Lake the next month. Anytime Kristina would visit, Kulta would put on his charm, he would rest his head on her lap while we enjoyed a bottle of wine and watched a movie. It was as if Kulta was deciding our future together. I fell head over heels for this girl and Kulta knew it. After a year of commuting back and forth, Kristina and I decided to move in together. Kulta and I made the decision to move to Boise. Boise was good to us, it was new scenery and we spent every day off together, once again exploring and letting Kulta blow off energy by pulling me on my skateboard. I’ll never forgot the day we went to Camels Back park and ran up the massive dirt hill that was used in the 1940’s as a widow maker hill climb for only the bravest motorcycle enthusiasts. Kulta and I went full sprint up the hill and when we got to the top we both collapsed with jelly legs. We sat there for nearly an hour recovering and taking in the sights of downtown Boise.
Our time in Boise was short lived, just over a year. I knew I wanted to marry Kristina, and I needed a higher paying job to do it. We moved back to Utah in early summer of 2012. Our living situation wasn’t the greatest and the job I moved back for failed miserably. Kristina and I were in the toughest spot of our relationship. We always looked at Kulta as our child and we both promised we would get through this and provide a better living situation for all of us. In 2013 I bought my first Harley Davidson motorcycle, Kulta loved the sound of the bike. He knew the exact sound of the bike too, he could hear me coming home from a half mile away, he would always peek out the window to see me pull into the driveway. In 2014 Kristina and I moved to Farmington, Utah and I sold the beloved Suzuki Reno that Kulta and I spent so much of our lives in. We were growing up and we were getting older, Kulta’s days consisted of basking in the sun on our balcony and napping on the couch. I kept him active by skateboarding with him until one tragic day, while going full speed Kulta completely collapsed on the pavement and started convulsing dramatically. I was certain he was dying, and I had a complete breakdown in the middle of the parking lot we were skating in. Although this episode lasted only 30-45 seconds, it felt like forever. I immediately rushed Kulta to the vet and I was told he had suffered a seizure due to a high heart rate. It was a harsh reality that Kulta was aging and that we needed to monitor his activity.
In 2014 I proposed to Kristina and in 2016 we tied the knot, (we’ve never rushed anything as a couple.) On June 5th, 2016 I married my sweetheart and Kulta was the best man, he walked me down the aisle and it was the most memorable day of our lives. Now that we were married, we wanted to provide Kulta his own backyard for the first time in his life, along with a sibling. In fall 2016, Kristina and I were ready to grow the family. We had been looking for a red female bull terrier for quite some time. One night we found a perfect little red male that we went to check out. He was a funny little guy and we were still on the fence if he was going to be the right fit for us. We were worried how Kulta would do with another male in the house. At the very last minute we decided we were going to bring him home. Kulta was officially a big brother, he was so sweet with him and welcomed him into his life with love.
With two Bull Terriers and a one-bedroom apartment we knew it was time to get our first home. In February 2017, we purchased our first home with a massive back yard for the 2 boys. One of the greatest memories I have was in early spring with Kulta and Finn, running around jumping and playing in the yard and watching a parade take place right outside our house. Kulta loved doing big brother things as well, taking Finns chew toys and hiding them under his paws was one of his absolute favorites. For the first time I felt like I had fulfilled all my dreams, we were fortunate enough to enjoy that feeling for a year. Early this year we noticed Kulta was losing a significant amount of weight. We adjusted his diet and tried everything to get the weight back on. We ended up taking him to the vet. Our vet noticed he was looking skinny, but he looked mentally there. She advised we do blood work. The blood work showed poor levels in his kidneys, they were failing, this meant that unless we could get his levels up and his kidneys functioning better, he wouldn’t live much longer. We immediately checked him into the hospital for three nights to see if we could improve his kidney levels and buy some time, but the kidneys unfortunately showed no improvement. We decided to bring him home and try to provide every bit of love and support we could. We administered subcutaneous fluids to help hydrate him and try to perk up his appetite. In his first few days home we were able to get him to eat home-made grilled chicken and beef and rice. Kristina and I were trying anything to increase his appetite, but after 5 days Kulta completely gave up eating and was puking through the night.
I spent the last night of his life sleeping next to his crate in our living room, I would wake up constantly to check on him and he would always open his eyes and gaze into mine as if to tell me “I’m gonna be okay dad I’m ready to go.” Letting a dog die of starvation isn’t humane or the right thing to do. We made the call to have Kulta euthanized in our living room on the night of Friday, February 9th, 2018. Our vet administered a muscle relaxer and gave us a few minutes alone to enjoy him relaxed and in peace. I broke down into tears and let out every bit of emotion capable in a human body. I let him know to say hello to my Grandma for me and that I’ll see you again someday. We signaled to the vet that we were ready, she came in to administer the “Pink Fluid” that will peacefully take my greatest companion out of his suffering, and within 20 seconds I listened to him take his last breath. Immediately I felt a piece of me leave this earth. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same person again, Kulta was absolutely everything to me. Kulta passed calmly and as horrible as it was to watch him depart, it was also a moment of peace. The vet left us alone again to say our final goodbyes and we let Finn come upstairs to have a moment of closure. We wrapped him in a blanket my grandma knitted for him when he was a pup. He will be cremated in it and his ashes will be with me forever. And when the day comes that it’s my time to go, his ashes will be buried with me.
“Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as well as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born. What would the world be like without music or rivers or the green and tender grass? What would this world be like without dogs?” Wrote the poet Mary Oliver. Words will never express how much that Bull Terrier meant to me and how much I’ll miss him. Kulta, I’ll miss coming home to you every day. I’ll miss the way you would let out your signature double woof to greet me. I’ll miss the way you would rub your cold nose against mine in the mornings to tell me that it’s time to get my lazy butt up. I’ll miss the way you gave the perfect kisses whenever I asked for one. I’ll miss your lil nub going a million miles per hour. I’ll miss your obsession with new tattoos and always needing to inspect them. I’ll miss the way you curled up against my stomach in bed nearly every night the past decade. I’ll miss the way you would always put your brother Finn in his place. I’ll miss the silly sounds you make when drinking, you could hear Kulta drink water from a mile away, he loved shlooping water all over the house after drinking. I’ll even miss the smell of your nuclear farts and how you’d chase your ghost tail when you were anxious. I’ll miss everything about this dog. Those that got a chance to meet Kulta, know how truly special you were. I want to thank the following individuals that had an impact on our time together;
First and foremost, I want to thank my Wife Kristina, she has seen me at my absolute lowest the past few weeks. In watching me breakdown an uncountable amount of times, she has stayed courageously strong and helped me make the right decisions. She was the best Mom Kulta could have ever asked for and I know how much she truly loved him.
Kulta’s Vet, Dr. Penrod - Thank you for helping us keep Kulta as long as we did, and for keeping us informed and for your absolute professionalism during this whole process.
Kyle Webb - Not only are you one of my greatest friends, you’ve known Kulta since the day he was born. I’ll always be so grateful. Also, this memoir wouldn’t have happened without your help.
Jordan Judd - You’ve been there for me at the lowest points of my life. You have known Kulta since the day I got him and knew he would always guide the way.
My Mother - You were such a huge part of Kultas life and he loved you so dearly. He loved slumber parties at your house with all your dogs and snorkeling in your fountain in the back yard.
Richie Amitrano - Kulta and I always found ourselves over at your apartment hanging out drinking beers and watching snowboard movies and you never hesitated to watch him the weekends I drove to Boise.
All my co-workers - I can’t even begin to say how grateful I am to work for the company that I do, from letting me take any time off I needed in Kultas final days to just how much my colleagues cared about me emotionally, means so much to me.
Anyone who texted, called, and kept up to date,
It meant the world to me and Kulta and I appreciate you all!
And last of all, thank you to Finn, you are a completely different Bull Terrier than Kulta, and your affection towards me is just what I need right now. Any time I have a breakdown and start bawling my eyes out you are immediately there to comfort me. You are the funniest dog I have ever met, and your mother and I love you so dearly. You are officially the man of the house now and I can’t wait to see what our future holds together.
Kulta, you were truly one of the greatest experiences life will ever provide me, and not one day will go by where I don’t think of you, miss you, and wish I could have just one more perfect day with you.
Rest In Peace
Kulta Kaos Lemberes
Born: October, 26th, 2008
Died: February, 9th, 2018