A wolf-dog’s story of island life, methamphetamine, and destiny
Somewhere in the wilds of Costa Rica, a German immigrant began experiments in crossing dog breeds. His particular goal was to create the perfect guard dog by crossing malamutes with a wolf hybrid he picked up somewhere along the way.
There was a litter of puppies–and when you meet Kafka, this concept is all but impossible to contain. Once he turned a year old, Kafka learned to escape his home, and would run down the beach, where all the surfers and vacationers would be charmed by the sight of an adorable wolf puppy running around in the moonlight.
Eventually, one of the beach people would bring Kafka home to the German man, who would say,
“That’s the one dog that just cannot be a good dog. He always wants to get out and run around.”
This according to Kafka’s current owner, my friend Matt.
During his escapes to the beach, Kafka met a woman. She named him for the book she was reading: Kafka on the Shore.
She was a runway model from New York, staying for six months in Costa Rica for work. Matt describes her as
“One of those weird 6-foot-tall alien-looking girls. She was…”
Matt resorts to finger quotes.
“‘…beautiful?’ I don’t know. I met her once. She was really tall, but I don’t know…weird-looking.”
A of couple weeks before she was about to return to the US, she found Kafka lying in the middle of the road. She went to him, and he was okay, but his back leg was hurt, probably hit by a car.
She returned him to the German man, who said there was nothing for it but to put him down. He was likely to suffer his whole life with a bad leg, and the only vet was in the capital–a 12-hour bus ride away.
The runway model got on a plane with Kafka and took him to the capital, where his bone was set and the muscle re-wrapped around it. You can tell, Matt tells me, if you watch while he sits down on his haunches–one hip tucks inward, instead of out.
The runway model’s condition for taking Kafka to the vet was that she got to take him home with her to Manhattan, where she lived on champagne and cocaine and the company of rock stars.
Not long after, she accompanied one of her musician friends on a road trip to San Diego.
Kafka came along with them, sitting in the back while the two humans in front rocked out on music and meth.
At this time, Matt was living in San Diego and hanging out a lot with a girl named Elysa, who had recently broken up with a guy from New York City. Not long before she met Matt, Elysa had gone with her then-boyfriend back to his hometown. They ended up at a party one night, being thrown by her boyfriend’s childhood friend–the runway model.
“Elysa was super excited. ‘It’s going to be musicians, artists, fashion people, what a cool night! Well, turns out they’re the most vapid, shallow people you can imagine’–that’s what she said.
“She goes into a room to be in a quiet spot, and there’s Mr. Kafka, lying on the bed. She loves animals–she’s like ‘Who is this? How are you?’ He starts shaking his tail. She spent the whole night hanging out with Kafka.”
Elysa may or may not have known how Matt felt about her; she had, however, been using whatever influence she had to urge Matt toward adopting a dog. She worked at an animal emergency room; the dogs there, she said, needed him. Not only that, she added:
“A single guy like you…you need a dog! Girls will love you! I’m going to find you a dog.”
Then, late one night, came the call Matt had been waiting for.
“She was like ‘Do you want to come over?’ I was like ‘Yes! Already out the door.’
“She’s like ‘Cool, because I got you your dog.'”
“I was like ‘…Okay. I’m still coming over!'”
Matt was expecting to inspect a mutt as a prelude to moving out of the friend zone. She did bring him into the bedroom, but it was to see the giant dog lying on her bed. He was really sick, Elysa told Matt, but getting better, and as soon as he was healthy, he was all Matt’s.
“I was like ‘What the? This isn’t a dog, this is a wolf!'”
Intimidation is a natural reaction, when you first meet Kafka. It’s not just his imposing size, or his teeth; it’s the deep gravity of his eyes, the willful containment of his power. For so many reasons, you really want him to like you, and never can be quite sure if he really does, or if he’s only tolerating you on probation.
But time spent in his presence makes it impossible not to admire him. Especially in the presence of someone Kafka loves. Despite his gravity of size and character, he doesn’t hesitate to leap onto the couch to cuddle with Monica when she practices guitar. Matt leaves the house for work and Kafka sits at alert, watching out the window, long after Matt had disappeared from human sight.
It’s been that way since they first met, Matt says. His original motivation for coming to Elysa’s house was swallowed up by falling under Kafka’s spell.
“I was like, ‘Who doesn’t want this dog?'”
Only a few days earlier, while Elysa was at work at the ER, a call came from the Friars Road Humane Society:
“Hey, we’ve got this beautiful, majestic looking wolf dog that just got turned into the pound. And you know the rules–we have to put down any dog that has wolf in him. We have a few hours–does anybody know whose dog this is?”
The word got passed around the vet’s office, until Elysa finally heard:
“Does anybody know a wolf dog named Kafka?”
Though it had been six months, Elysa remembered him immediately.
“She gets on the phone–‘What’s wrong with Kafka?'”
They told her that the owner had brought him in, claiming he was peeing blood, looking for some free medical help. She seemed really out of it, they said; they worked it out that she had gotten high and left Kafka in her boyfriend’s car, with no water and the windows up.
Wolf dogs are instinctively averse to peeing in the space where they live, Matt says. As a result, Kafka had held his pee for three days. By the time the model remembered him, even she could tell something was wrong with him. But it wasn’t until after the ER took Kafka off her hands, that they realized that he was part wolf.
Nearly everyone in the vets’ office wanted to take him home, but Elysa won out because Kafka knew her.
And now, she insisted, he was Matt’s dog.
A few weeks later, the runway model showed up looking for Kafka. She’d traced Matt through Elysa’s old boyfriend (whom she’d left the rockstar for).
Matt was walking the dog through South Park and found her sitting outside his favorite coffee shop, waiting for him.
“She gets up and is like ‘Hi, Kafka!’ Immediately, his hackles go up and he goes ‘Grrr.'”
Matt smiles proudly.
“I was like ‘Yeah.'”
After badgering him a few more times on Facebook–including brandishing a picture of herself with Kafka in New York–“This tall skinny girl, dressed up from a runway show, walking through Times Square with this cool wolf dog, everyone’s like ‘What the hell?'”–the model let it go.
It’s been Matt and Kafka ever since.
There are dogs you adopt, Matt says, and then there are the dogs that come into your life and adopt a piece of your soul. Even as he tries to think gamely about the inevitable end of Kafka’s life, he starts to choke up.