Monday, January 19, 2009

Farewell Sweet Girl: Kyra, my dog, 1995-2009

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.


astral said...

It is always so hard to say good bye to a loved one. That is a fitting tribute to a beautiful family member-Kyra. I'm sitting here crying because I know how hard it is to let them go. But we do because we love them. Godspeed Kyra. Hugs to you and Mr. S.

'Murgdan' said...

Oh tears are streaming down my face. were so lucky to have had eachother all these years. What a wonderful life you gave her!


Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.

There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Author unknown...

luna said...

oh shelby, what a beautiful tribute so such a precious creature. you had me crying 30 seconds in. they make the dearest friends, don't they? filled with loyalty and unconditional love, and a purity like no other.

I'm so sorry for the loss of your beloved friend and family member. losing them is so very hard. I suppose it's the price we pay for the immense joy they bring to our lives.

Karen said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Shelby. I cried reading your tribute to beautiful, sweet, loyal Kyra. I hope there's some comfort in knowing that you were a great mom for her to the very end by unselfishly giving her a peaceful passing. My heart still hurts and I still miss my 20-year old cat, Monty, who we had to put to sleep over a year ago, so I don't have any easy answers about when the hurt goes away. I'll keep you, Mr. S, Kyra, and Luke in my thoughts. ((hugs))

Guera! said...

I am so very sorry. Very, very sorry. My heart just breaks for you. It sounds like she had a great life and was as lucky to have you as you were to have her.

Nikki said...

Shelby - hugs to you and Mr S. I think (and fear) that the saddest part about having a dog is the fact that chances are, we will outlive them. I cannot imagine being in this house without Simba - and I'm very very sorry for your loss.

Here is a website that I thought may help you:

They talk about lighting candles for pets at 7 PM pacific on Mondays. Today is a Monday and I will light my candle for Kyra tonight.

Michelle said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your dog. It is so sad to lose your fur baby. This is a beautiful tribute to a wonderful friend. You gave her a lovely life and she was such a blessing to yours. Thinking of you and sending lots of hugs.

Erin said...

Oh Shelby, I'm crying like crazy over here. My heart sank when I saw this post...

You gave her a fabulous life. She'll love you always.

Hang in there, friend.

Martha said...

I am so sorry about the death of your sweet dog, Kyra. I will be thinking of you all.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for your loss, I am sitting here crying as I type this. You've created a beautiful post and slide show to show the love that Kyra brought into your life (and received in return!).

Hopefully the pain will subside over time and only leave happy thoughts and memories. I'll be keeping you all in my thoughts. So sorry.

I Believe in Miracles said...

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Yaz said...

My heart goes out to you and Mr. S. It's so hard to let them go because they bring so much joy to our lives. Thinking of you during this hard time. (hugs)

Lost in Space said...

Oh, Shelby, I am so sorry. You have me in a blubbering mess. What a huge loss to you, Mr. S, and Luke. Our furbabies are our families and saying good-bye is never an easy thing to do. Thinking of you all as you adjust to life without your sweet girl. Huge hugs.

Another Dreamer said...

I am so very sorry for the loss of Kyra. (*hugs*) hun.

I am bawling right now.

I'm glad that she had you all, and that all of you had her for what time you could.

Suzanne said...

I was directed to your blog by a visitor of mine, Anna. I couldn't bring myself to watch the video but reading your post was enough. I am also dealing with a sick dog. My Kaly was diagnosed with kidney failure in September and we are taking things day by day. We don't know if we have days, weeks or months with her.

I'm so sorry for your loss. Pets always give us so much when they are with us and never ask for anything in return.

Tara said...

Wow - I needed a good cry today. What a blessing animals are in our life. I am so very sorry that I am 1) late reading your post and 2) that you are living in this heartache. She was so blessed to have you and you her.

Anonymous said...

I am so very sorry for your loss.

We lost our dog a little over two years ago, and it was horrible.

You did the most unselfish thing you could have done for Kyra. The decision to let them go is such an awful thing to decide. In the end, when she perked up and made herself comfy, I think she was telling you she was ready and saying thank you. Thank you for loving her, thank you for caring for her through the years and thank you for letting her go to be in peace.

I really understand how you are feeling right now. It does get easier as the time passes.

I will be thinking of you.

Greg and Heather said...

What a beautiful tribute to your dggie! In my thoughts

Jendeis said...

What a beautiful and moving movie. I'm sitting here, sobbing, giving The Boy an extra hug. He too was a shelter dog and like you, I feel blessed to have my shelter dog in my life for however long I get to be with him.

MamaSoon said...

Oh wow. I am crying so hard for you guys. Your post was so beautifully written and so full of love. I am sorry for your loss.