Tribute video to Kyra (best on high quality) or watch it here (text is hard to read, though):
Almost eight years ago, Mr. S and I arrived at the humane society in search of a companion for our dog when we found an unlikely candidate. She was a 5-7 year old Australian Shepherd (her age is still somewhat of a mystery) who hadn’t seen a comb in weeks and had been sitting in her cement cell after having been abandoned on the shelter doors almost a month earlier. As soon as we opened the door to our car, she leapt in and didn’t look back. When we cleaned her up, she was beautiful, with a full, shiny multicolored coat. Upon hearing this story, you might think that she was lucky to have gotten a second chance at life, but after saying goodbye to her this Friday night, I can assure you, we were the lucky ones.
She was everything we could’ve hoped for in a dog and more. Within a month of adopting Kyra, we learned that she needed surgery to remove bladder stones, so, as struggling young newlyweds, we embarked on spending everything we had to ensure this. She had a number of health problems throughout her life-reoccurring bladder stones, seizures, but each and every dime we spent was well worth it. She became the calming force our puppy needed. She was the one beside him when he somehow found his way out of the yard. They were two dogs, side-by-side, traveling a cement path to a place we finally found our way to more times than we care to admit. She took it upon herself to be his protector and when they were apart, she became sullen and anxious. They were two peas in a pod and to see them separated makes her absence that much harder to grasp.
Kyra was the epitome of unconditional love, a loving and sweet dog who never used her teeth on anything but treats dropped to the floor. Within ten minutes of teaching her ‘roll over’, ‘shake’ and ‘sit’, she was our star pupil, with a thoughtful intelligence and understanding of language uncommon to most dogs. Along with this intelligence came curiosity. You could never come home with shopping bags without finding Kyra rifling through them with her striped snout.
Sensing her gentility, the cats adored Kyra and always attempted to cuddle with her, but were met with comical indifference every time. She was also a girl who did not like strife. Even when Mr. S and I were playing around, she got upset and tried to get in the middle of it. She stopped this several years later, but I recall being tickled by Jay on our bed, screaming in laughter and suddenly being met in the face with a protective snout.
My dog, Luke, communicates mostly with his tail, but being an Australian Shepherd, Kyra did not have the luxury of a tail (leading us to always ask, "where's your tail, Kyra? go find your tail!"). So, instead, she communicated with her eyes. Kyra had big, beautiful brown puppy dog eyes that gave her more expression than words ever could have. She adored car rides with the windows down and for many years, we called her our speedometer as she would gladly hang her head out of the window for speeds below 50, but anything above, she promptly removed her snout.
Her loyalty to us was unbending. Always underfoot, Kyra never left our side, no matter how tired she was. If I was in the office, Kyra was next to me. If I was in the kitchen, Kyra was next to me. Even during a loud New Year’s Eve party last year, she stayed sleeping in the middle of the living room. I attempted to bring her upstairs, but before I could turn around, she was right back down, sleeping in the middle of us. In her younger years, she consistently greeted us with a buck in the air, which along with her beautiful long nose and knowing eyes, earned her the nickname of ‘noble steed’. Even in her younger years, she would occasionally have the energy to dance for us. While many dogs become grumpy in their old age, Kyra was still the sweet, happy girl we had always known, albeit a little more stubborn, a little slower, and a little more forgetful. Still, even with arthritis, she still found the strength to wrestle with Luke and find her way up and down our many sets of stairs.
Her condition was sudden, in most respects and our goodbye happened only within a matter of hours of learning about her condition. After collapsing on her walk and not having the strength to get up, she was diagnosed with a tumor at the base of her heart, which had by then enlarged and filled with blood. Given the new tumor growths over her body, anemia, and her recent weight loss, it was likely that the cancer had metastasized throughout her body. We could have had more time with her, performing a risky heart operation that could have either ended in her bleeding to death or best case, given us a day or maybe a week, but the same events would have taken place eventually, likely leading to a heart attack. We didn’t want to put her through that or chemotherapy, which at most might have bought us a few months.
By the time we made the decision to say goodbye, she had stabilized somewhat and was able to walk outside and enjoy a cheeseburger with us. She followed us back in to the room and for a dog that we always tried to get to lay on her bed many times without success, she immediately made herself comfortable on the bed made for her without prompting. To see her in better shape was a blessing and a curse. I didn’t want her end to be spent in pain or trauma, but it fooled me into thinking that we had more time with her. In the end, while it was the hardest decision I have ever made in my life, it was the right one for her. She passed peacefully in both of our arms, her last vision being Mr. S, the guy she completely adored.
I can now safely say that I feel emotionally gutted, especially as I walk around my empty house and still see the signs that she was just here remain. Her hair is still on the carpet. Luke still looks for her food dish to clean out after his meal. I still listen for her steps down the stairs or think I see her shadow in the hallway. I still walk more slowly than I need to on walks because of her arthritis. And then I realize.
She’s not here.
Someday, these signs will disappear. I’ll no longer reach out of habit for the spoon to dole out her food or for two leashes instead of one as I take Luke for a walk. I’ll no longer have to wait for my dog to make laps around the coffee table in excitement before I can put her leash on. I’ll no longer have to put the light on at night on my way to the bathroom so I don’t have to trip over her laying on the floor beside me and I’ll no longer have to carefully maneuver my feet around the dog right below me as I get off the couch. After eight years spent with her, I wonder how long it will take until these little traces of her disappear. How long will it take until walks with Luke no longer feel disjointed or until the house no longer feels completely empty, even while filled with people and animals? But one thing is certain: she will never disappear from my heart. I will never forget the eight great years I was lucky enough to spend with this amazing creature. She was as close to being a child for us than if we had actually had one of our own. Goodbye sweet girl. You will be forever missed.