Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Oct 5, 2022

Roger 2022

Roger was a rescue dog whose breed was undefinable.

They said he was a hound mix but looked like a sleek German Shepard with terse hair. They said Roger was an emotionally broken dog, and his previous owners had been so abusive that Roger shut down and sat facing the corner of his cell all day and all night. He only ate and drank water if it was put in front of him; otherwise, he never moved from his spot. When I saw Roger for the first time, I knew he was meant to be ours despite his state of being. My daughter Kalei was with me that day. They opened the door to his pen, and Kalei called his name, "Roger? Roger?" He turned around and went straight to her and lay at her feet. She gave him some dog treats, which he took with no hesitation, and in the next second, he fell asleep in her lap.

Kalei was ten then, and the two were inseparable. Every morning, Roger walked with Kalei to the door when she left for school, and he'd be waiting for her at the end of the driveway when she returned. The two were never far from one another. One day, Kalei sat in the backyard playing with her dolls. The forest, the upper part of Manoa, is where we live, right up to the treeline. I stood at the kitchen sink looking out at the backyard while my wife placed dishes in the rack beside me. It happened so fast that by the time the wild pig was halfway across the yard heading straight for my daughter, I knew it was too late to run out of the house to save Kalei, but I did it anyway. I burst out the back door and ran, yelling and screaming at the pig, hoping to scare it off. Roger appeared out of nowhere and cut the pig off. He had it by the throat; that pig couldn't shake Roger off no matter what it did. I returned to the garage and retrieved one of the many 'ihe ' or spears I'd been working on. I grabbed the one with the eight jagged barbs on it. I ran back, and while Roger held on to the animal by the bottom of its throat, I speared the shit out of it until it finally went down. In the middle of that turmoil, my wife came out of the kitchen, grabbed Kalei, and ran back into the house. Roger was pretty banged up from the wild pig for all his efforts, but he pulled through after a few bandages and some stitches.

Roger was also very good at reading people. To most folks, he was affable and had no problem with being petted by strangers. Sometimes Roger would give a low growl, and people got the hint. However, Roger had a significant problem with my sister Sanoe's boyfriend. He did not like Laimana one bit. Whenever they were at our house, we had to lock Roger in another room; otherwise, Roger would go for Laimana and tear him to shreds if we let him. Laimana seemed nice; he spoke articulately and was well-mannered, but I noticed he never did anything for himself. Sanoe did everything for him short of holding his dick while he pissed or wiped his ass after he took a dump. I asked her about it, and she jokingly said, "That's what happens; your man has a big dick."

"He's not my man," I replied. "Is that all it is, Sanoe?"

"What do you mean?" She answered as if I were invading her personal space with that question.

"Is he being abusive and forcing you to wait on him hand and foot?" I had to know.

"See? That's always been your problem; you don't mind your own fucking business," she walked off and went back to join Laimana in the kitchen. A week later, Sanoe was sitting in the same chair with a fractured cheekbone, a black eye, and a split lip. Apparently, she wasn't moving fast enough for Laimana's taste, so he beat the shit out of her. We had already called the police, and they were on their way when Laimana barged through our front door and made his way to the kitchen. At that point, Laimana made two mistakes. He pushed Kalei to the floor when she stepped before him with her arms open, hoping to get a hug. Two, Laimana was so focused on finishing my sister off that he didn't see Roger sitting in the corner. Our trusty dog jumped on Laimana's chest and knocked him to the floor, but rather than tear Laimana to shit, he grabbed him by his shirt collar and dragged him out the front door. Along the way, I assisted Roger by kicking Laimana in the face and the ribs. The police arrived shortly after that and took Laimana away once they saw Sanoe's face. She pointed him out as the abuser cased closed. Eventually, Sanoe got a clue and found someone Roger didn't want to kill. Roger saw us through so many things, but most significantly, he was there for Kalei's first winter formal and then for her first and second proms. For college, she stayed close to home and went to Windward first and then to U.H. Manoa. Kalei was twenty-seven and already teaching classes at the University when she went surfing with some friends at Sandys. She was hit by the point of an errant surfboard that caught her at the base of her skull, causing a fracture. The doctors would, later on, tell my wife and me that Kalei was brain dead. Everything that was Kalei was gone. They could keep her alive with all the monitors, but nothing was there. 

Roger knew something was wrong because he paced back and forth, whimpering. The day came to make that final decision; my wife and I returned to the hospital and told the doctors that taking Kalei off life support was okay. We brought Roger with us to say goodbye. He immediately jumped on the bed, pressed his nose against Kalei's cheek, and then moved down to her feet, where he curled up and cried. The time had come for the attendants to take Kalei away, which we could not bear, so we told the doctor we would excuse ourselves. Halfway to the elevator, the doctor ran after us, 

"Mr. and Mrs. Keala! She's breathing on her own! Your daughter! She's breathing on her own!"

It was a miracle! Finally, Kalei was breathing on her own! Her eyes were opened in the next few days, and she could sit up after a few more days. Pretty soon, she was walking on shaky feet, but by the beginning of the following month, she could go to the bathroom on her own. Two more months passed before Kalei was ultimately one hundred percent. Roger was there for all of it; the doctors encouraged it. Off the record, the doctor told us that it was right after Roger pressed his nose up against Kalei's cheek that he saw her chest rise and fall. Finally, her mouth opened to breathe, and she began breathing independently. 

The happy ending to the story is this: Roger lived a few more extra years to meet another dog who was a Shepard, and together, they had a litter of puppies. At the same time, Kalei and her husband Lono gave birth to their first child, which also happened to be our first moʻopuna. I do not know how our lives would be without Roger, but I do know this. On that first day when we thought we were rescuing Roger? It was him who rescued us.

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