We called him Kadee, though his real name was Lash vom Amselhof. He was fierce, ruthless, nervous, and aggressive at first. A big, dark muscled body with a massive head and piercing brown eyes. He would look people in the eyes and keep staring without blinking, until - almost in embarrassment - people would look away. He was only six months old, when he killed one of our full grown sheep with one bite. It was then we realized our German shepherd needed some serious and strict discipline. We trained him as a defense dog and he turned into the sweetest dog we ever had, unless someone tried to lay a hand on anyone from our family.

When Lana was born, we were a bit wary at first. Would Kadee get jealous? While Tine was still in the maternity clinic, we laid a cloth next to Lana in her little bed, and then let Kadee smell it, so he could get used to the odour of the baby. When Lana and Tine came home for the first time, we let him sniff the baby too. He did it very carefully and then, put himself beside the crib. He understood Lana was now part of his herd. For years to come, he would protect Lana, was always around her, looking from the background. When we had visitors, he would put himself between them and the baby. He would not growl, just stare at the visitors. If they wanted to touch the baby, he would look nervously at Tine or me first to see if it was ok.

When Tine and Lana moved to join me in Kampala, they brought Kadee with them. The locals feared him. Not one of our house staff dared to go near him. Dogs are either feared or ignored in Africa. There was no way anyone could ignore a big black dog like Kadee, though. He passed most of the day playing tricks on people walking past the fenced gate that locked off the compound. He would hear them coming from behind the corner and as they passed the gate, he would come running from behind the bush, jump up the fence and bark fiercely, scaring the hell out of them. Just for fun. He loved this game. It was good though, as our house was one of the few in the neighborhood which was not broken into.

One night, when we were in Belgium on holiday, burglars had skipped the wall, and opened one of the windows. Kadee, who was in the house, must have scared them off, but they still succeeded in grabbing some stuff reaching through the metal bars protecting the window. Yet it seems he got hold of one of them, as there were traces of blood on the ground in front of the window. There was also blood and bullet holes on the compound wall, as the police guard had emptied his machine gun on the burglars. Two of them died on the spot. A third was found dead on the way down the hill, but the fourth got away with a laptop minus its power supply. One old laptop left three dead… We only heard about the story when we got back from holiday.. Namayaa, our house keeper, said the policeman was part of the plot. She explained that he was standing next to the burglars when a neighbor came out of her house to look why the dog was making all that racket. Only when the guard saw her, he started shooting at the burglars. The next day, the police guard did not show up for duty and we never heard from him again. Guess he was looking for a computer power supply.

Despite that single mishap, we felt safe with Kadee around. Lana loved him. She could crawl on top of him, throw things at him, pull his fur and he would never lose his patience. The worse he would do was sigh with a deep breath. As if he was saying ‘Kids.. ah, kids..’.

When Hannah was born in Belgium and we brought her as a 2 week old to Kampala, Kadee lost it for a while. All of sudden he had two kids to look after. He would run shuttling between the two. I guess it became his full time job now, having two kids.. It did not take Hannah long neither to learn the furry dark thing loved being around her. She would not like Kadee to come too close though and would smack him on the nose if he did, making him sneeze violently. When Kadee sneezed, Hannah looked at him half scared, half amazed, with a finger in her mouth..

As Kadee turned fourteen, his hips started to give in. It was sad to see him crawling up and down the stairs, still trying to shuttle between the girls.. Within a few months, he could not do anything but drag his hind legs.. He suffered, often yelping as he tried to move. Painkillers did not help anymore. It was around that time, I was reassigned to Kosovo. Tine and the kids moved back to Belgium, and I sold off our belongings. The last night, it was just Kadee and me left. I called the vet and slowly, carefully, we put him to sleep. It was no use to take him back to Belgium. He suffered too much. Late at night, I dug a hole in our garden and buried Kadee in it. John, our gardener, did not want any part of it as he said burying a dog in the garden, would bring bad luck. But I still did. I also buried a drawing from Lana and Hannah with him, and a flower from Tine and I. He had been our family’s guardian angel.

The kids asked about Kadee when I joined them in Belgium the next day. I told them Kadee stayed behind in Africa, as he wanted to look after the family who moved into our house after us. They had kids too. And those kids became his new job. Just like daddy sometimes worked abroad, now Kadee was working abroad… It took years before they found out the truth.. Even now, Hannah sometimes makes drawings of him. She would picture him as a huge black dog, much bigger than herself. She forgets that as a nine year old now, she would stand much taller than him. To her, the dog still remains in her memory as this huge thing, which always looked after her. And maybe he still is…

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