KUTA CHANGES HANDS

I lived on Kauai for sixteen years, and during the period from 1989 to 1998 I lived in the countryside on the north shore of the island. My neighbor on the adjacent parcel was a local Chinese-Hawaiian named Stephan. He was a powerful, abusive, and tragic giant of a man; he was
Kuta before
Kuta Before
an illegitimate child that had been shunned by both parents...... a child who had not known loving care, and had not been able to emerge from a stifling sadness that had enshrouded him since childhood. He had developed self-esteem through acclaim in the world of the martial arts, becoming a Hawaiian Tae Kwon Do champion. But later he was to express this kickboxing prowess as a hit man -- kickboxer/killer for the Honolulu mafia.

By the time I became acquainted with Stephan he had paid his dues in jail, and was working for a tour-boat company in Hanalei Bay. However, he continued to maintain the reputation of being the "heavy" of the island. I was told to be wary of his temper, prejudice against non-locals, and misogynist tendencies.

Kuta before
Kuta Smiles

About two weeks after I moved in, as I was driving down my road and as I glanced through the fence into his backyard I saw the man standing there.... and shared a fleeting eye contact. Surprisingly, I felt a "knee jerk" emotion of compassion towards him...as if I knew him on another plane, free of mind. When I heard a few weeks later that his favorite dog that had been fatally poisoned, I made a paper art tribute to the dog. As I began creating the piece, an image spontaneously sallied forth of an iridescent full moon in a cobalt night sky. I had hooked the package on to his fence with a note dedicating it to the dog. A few days later Stephan met me at the fence and commented on the piece, "The night the dog was killed my son was born.......... and it was full moon."

During the next few weeks I began to notice dogs howling mournfully from his property. I was to discover that there was a handful of other dogs on the property; I could discern from a distance that they were all restrained by short heavy chains and had as a shelter a two small sections of plywood pitched into a lean-to over the soil.

Through the fence I make out the condition of the closest victim....a bronze colored Neopolitan Mastiff. It was emaciated, moving very little, and seemed to have a bad skin condition. In a few weeks that dog disappeared. I was to learn that Stephan didn't treat his sick animals....he would simply take them out to a remote area and let them wander off to die alone. At that point I was greatly disturbed but didn't know exactly what to do, for according to Hawaiian law, the humane society had no authority to enter private property and intercede with cruel treatment to animals.

A few weeks after the Mastiff disappeared, as I drove down the driveway I saw a new tenant in the kennel visible from my drive. It was a little pup looking at me, jumping up and down against the chain link door. I was drawn to the pup, an Airedale, for I had developed an enchantment with Airedales some years earlier after being charmed by one, Sancho, while staying at the home of friends in Barcelona. After that first encounter with the pup I would see him and wish him well with my heart-- visualizing him strong and happy. One time while passing, I saw the little one out of the corner of my eye in a fleeting glance, and the words came to my mind....... "Maybe you'll be mine some day." Shortly after that he was moved from the kennel and I was not to see him again for almost a year.

One afternoon a few weeks after Hurricane Iniki in 1992, I noticed Stephen a couple hundred yards away at the far end of the land where I lived; he was tying one of his cows to stake- presumably to let it graze. He hadn't consulted me before doing this so I went to talk to him about it. As I approached I saw the Airedale trailing behind him-- he was barely able to walk, and was wet with body fluids; flies were buzzing in a halo around is head. But the poor little matted blob told me of an indomitable spirit with a gently wagging tail. I was more or less guided not to express the emotion of concern that the dog aroused within me, nor confront Stephan about it. I was to return to the house and ask St. Francis of Assisi for his help, for I knew this was going to be a hard nut to crack!

Stephan came back to water the cow a couple days later and he said, "Kuta (the Airedale's name), it makes me sad." I asked, "Oh yes, what's the problem?" He said, "Don' know." I looked at the dog and said nonchalantly, "Can I give him a bath?" He grudgingly relented to this relinquishing of control over the situation, saying at first, "Bring him to my house-- do it there." I replied, "Hey, I got all the stuff to do it at my place-- easy to do it there." He said, "OK." I walked the boy to my outdoor studio under the lanai, and bathed him using the hose and gentle shampoo.

This took a good hour and I was literally gagging at times from the stench of layers of scabbing body fluid. Half of the front of his body was hairless...the skin in those areas having morphed into a black "elephant-like hide ." This condition, Sebaria, can occur on dogs after skin trauma. Around his head and neck were nine large bloody, puss-filled abcesses where the necrotic tissue was being removed by maggots. His eyes were almost swollen shut and filled with mucus . After the bath I took the boy back to Steph's, but he did not answer the door....

I tried to phone the home and there was no answer. The next day I called at him when I saw him across the field and he did not respond. Finally, I phoned again and he answered. I commenced by asking him what he wished to do with Kuta and he quite rudely started talking to someone in the background in the middle of my sentence, and I emphatically said, "Look, what do you want to do with the dog?" He yelled back, cursing at me in pidgeon English, "If you want to be nurse, OK. If not, just bring him back and I shoot 'im in the head!" I did not to react with vehemence but said calmly, "Look, we're not going to get anywhere like this......I want to help him heal." He said, "OK," and hung up. (I'm sure St. Francis had a hand in guiding my words and reactions for Kuta's higher good!)

At first I tried focused on cleaning Kuta up and keeping him comfortable. I bathed him daily with water, "sopped" him with "aloe vera", gave him antibiotic pills, worming treatment, dips in the ocean, Chinese herbs as tonics for kidney and liver. I consulted many sources, from Cornell University veterinary school to an array of Hawaiian Veterinary doctors, to amass information on the treatments of choice for his afflictions. I was to learn from my allopathic sources that the desired treatment for that critical stage of Demodex was dips in a poison, "Mitaban", that would kill the mange (microscopic mites, which are spiders that live and feed in the hair follicles.) I visualized the dog clean and beautiful and started giving him an Airedale "clip" right away.

I wanted to know about Airedales, thinking that I would be able to help him more if I knew more about their idiosyncrasies. I learned of a woman on the big island of Hawaii named Fern Miller, an octogenarian who had shared her life with Airedales since the age of ten. I contacted her, and she began to advise me. At one point she came over from Big Island and visited us. She was able to deduce by Kuta's look, and computing the time and place of his birth, that Kuta was from a litter that her champion stud had sired.

After Kuta had been at my place for three weeks, and not hearing a peep from Stephan I received a phone message from his daughter saying, "We know you have our dog, and we want it back." So..........I lifted Kuta into the station wagon-- he was still very sick and unable to jump in himself-- and drove over to Steph's. I lifted him out of the car and knocked on the back door. Steph came down the porch stairs cursing over his shoulder at his wife. He looked at Kuta, then looked at me, "Oh, the dog looks good...now I keep him here. I keep him on the cement so he doesn't get more mange."

I looked him square in the eyes and said very slowly and clearly, "He's not going to make it here." He conjured my reply briefly and retorted in his pidgeon, "Can't give you the dog. It's $600 dog friend gave to me." Then we headed out into the yard to continue our "chat." His state of mind was reflected by one sentence that sticks out in my mind: "All I have here are women yelling at me. (his wife and daughter). All I want to do is pay my bills and die." After fifteen minutes or so we saw a guest driving up my road, which instigated our ending the interchange... Susan: "You know, this is really just the beginning of Kuta's treatment, and he is just starting to respond." Stephan: "What are we going to do, cut the dog in half"? Susan: "Well, I can't be wishy-washy about this. I'm falling in love with the dog" Steph: "OK, take him, and you be nurse." I was not t hear from Stephan for months- I phoned him but there was never a return call/

Several months later, after various dips, accupuncture, Chinese herbs a pattern developed where the mange outbreaks would disappear for a while after a dip, but reoccur in a couple of weeks. The vet suggested that his immune system might be strengthened if he were to be neutered. I didn't knw any better and complied. I saw Stephan's wife at the fence one day and told her about Kuta's surgery. She obviously mentioned this to Stephan, for the next day I heard cursing words being lanced at me from the direction of his house....which was a couple hundred yards away!

I wasn't to speak with Stephan directly after the visit to his house. However, I was able to speak with a sympatico friend of his who told me that several times in the past some friends of his had offered to help him with sick dogs and he had refused their interference. He also mentioned that he had said, "That lady's got my dog and I don't think she give it back!" Kuta was to be my companion for five more years. He was totally cleared of all the symptoms within a year and became a happy, beautiful energetic boy, who's favorite activity was body surfing! I do believe that his immune system was compromised by the stringent allopathic regimen employed to reverse his condition. Since that time I have become well versed less invasive integrative techniques. Kuta was to pass away at the age of six of Leptospirosis, which I feel was do to an immune response that was damaged by vaccinations and drugs.

Stephan held a deep grudge against me for four years. There is more to this saga, and some events that occurred during those years that I will finish at another time...including clandestinely helping some of his other dogs (through the fence and night!) Many times that I would hear Stephan yelling at me I would feel quite upset and feel resentful. I made the effort to shed these feelings quickly and I tried to imagine him healed, sitting in lotus with sublime happiness emanating from his spirit.

I had never written about these negative aspects of Stephan before as I was imagining Stephan healed, and wished to leave untampered space in that chamber where projections evolve into material reality for the man to change and for his caring side to come out...And it did at one point! Kuta made the transition four years later while I was traveling in Montana; I wrote Steph a letter from there describing Kuta's passing...When I returned home and we met, I showed him the portrait I had done of Kuta. He looked me in the eyes and said, "Kuta- your dog..." This was a giving gesture that a circle.

When Kuta came into my life he was suffering from a devastating case of "demodectic mange". Mange is a condition of thousands of microscopic spiders living in the hair follicles. The disease is accompanied by secondary infection -- in Kuta's case, it was staff. Maggots were cleaning up the dead tissue. He had ten "volcanoes of puss and blood" on his head and neck. One is evident over his brow. Eyes were almost swollen shut when he came and filled with mucus. (This picture was taken after I'd been treating him for a week and a half!). He had every intestinal worm in the book. His skin had become black and thick... like elephant hide. This is a condition called "sebaria" which occurs after intense trauma to the skin. When he arrived, his feces was white. He was so disabled that he couldn't climb stairs or jump in the car for a month and a half.

I started giving him bath after bath after bath, for he was crusty and oozing-- had maggots already cleaning up the dead skin. Of course he was crusty and foul smelling. (I must add that throughout the entire experience the little tail was wagging.) I "sopped" him with "aloe vera", gave him antibiotic pills, dips in the ocean, Chinese herbs as tonics for kidney and liver. I consulted many sources, from Cornell University veterinary school to an array of Hawaiian Veterinary doctors, to amass information on the treatments of choice for his afflictions. I wanted to know about Airedale Terriers (his breed), thinking that I would be able to help him more if I knew the idiosyncrasies of Airedales, so I found out about a woman on the big island, Fern Miller-- 85, who has had Airedales since she was ten. I visualized the dog clean and beautiful and started giving him an Airedale "clip" right away. Kuta was to go to the vet for dips for mange, accupuncture, and other treatments for over a year before he emerged healthy. This is of course just a part of this story of renaissance and the creator's healing grace!