At 3:25 p.m. on Friday, Dawn and I said goodbye to our dog Kayla who we had in our lives for the last 15 years. A 17-year-old Schipperke that we rescued back in 1998 in Valdosta Georgia – she was a member of our family for a long, long time. Fun times, sad times, joyous times and new adventures when we moved from South Carolina to Austin to Philadelphia and back to Austin over the years.
Whenever you have a pet that long there are of course a ton of memories that pile up.
Like the time that she decided to get outside and “escape” over half-time of the 2004 Superbowl, Patriots vs. Eagles causing us to assemble a search party and miss the first 5 minutes of the second half. No big deal. The Eagles make the Superbowl like clockwork every 25 years. I’ll be looking forward to seeing them again in 2029.
Or the time that I came home from work, let her into the back yard and she chased a small varmint into a rock cropping on our property. She kept nosing in after the little rodent until she got stuck in between the limestone rocks and could not get out. I had to get my 8 lb. sledgehammer and smash away at the rocks using my own legs as a shield so I wouldn’t hit Kayla until I could pull her free. Both of us shared some bumps and bruises that day.
She was a funny, funny dog who even though she like George Jefferson – was movin’ on up – after her rescue from Georgia – always had a little “street” left in her. She didn’t have the easiest first two years of her life, and that gave her the scrappiness that made her unique.
When Landry arrived after Kayla had been an only dog for about 5 years after her sister “Precious” went up to heaven – we were a little bit concerned about how she would react. But Kayla always had a way of surprising you, and she was remarkably kind to Landry and even cut her a little slack when she would want to chase or pet Kayla in her latter years when her eye-sight started to fail and her hearing was not as sharp as it used to be.
When she was younger, she would hop up in bed in the mornings and nuzzle around until I would open up the comforter and let her lay down next to me along my side, with her head on the pillow. Then when daybreak arrived, she would get up and stick her wet nose under Dawn’s arm and wiggle in there to wake her up.
She loved her treats and she loved her walks. Her baths? Not so much.
I remember a lot of little things about Kayla, and I’m sure I will remember even more of them over the coming months and years. But the thing that was strangest for me on Saturday morning, the first day in more than 15 years of waking up without a dog, was the fact that there was nobody to greet me as I got ready for my workout. Nobody to take out or give a treat to or even pat on the head as I left the house.
I remember the morning of the Austin Marathon, with Dawn still sleeping, I was walking out to the garage to drive downtown to the race start – my first marathon after Dom passed away, Landry just 6 months old, and waiting for me in the hallway to the garage was Kayla. She stood right in the middle, making it impossible to go past her without putting my bags down and patting her on the head. I told her that when I see her again later in the morning, I would be a marathoner again and I would be the best one I had ever been.
She was the last interaction I had that morning with someone who loved me before I crossed the starting line and ultimately the finish line in one of the hardest races I’ve ever run. I remember later that day petting her and telling her how we had done that day. She was always there for us, which is the best part about having a dog. Absolute, unconditional love.
As hard as it was for Dawn and I to take Kayla to the vet, knowing it was our last car ride together – it was of course the right thing to do – as she simply wasn’t enjoying a quality life any longer and it was now time. We were both with her in the end, just like we were that day in Valdosta, GA when we brought her home with us – her paw banging on the cage of the doggie carrier non-stop, hour after hour as we drove home to South Carolina.
In a word, Kayla was relentless. At times it was frustrating, but in the end, I think that is what I loved about her the most.
Relentless. She would have made a hell of a marathoner.
God speed Kayla. Dawn, Landry and I miss you very much.