Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Kyla Aug 5, 1999–June 27, 2011

She leaped out of the crate and into my arms, I fell in love. She was 5 months old and had just flown from Los Angeles to Denver to join our family. You would think she would have been nauseous, or smelled bad from nerves, or just been timid with all the travel and uncertainty about her circumstance, but no, she was energetic, happy and immediately loving. I clipped her collar and leash on and walked her around to relieve herself before starting an auto journey the rest of the way to her new home. I put the crate in the back of the car, but let this puppy ride up front in the passenger seat next to me. Somewhere along the way, she relaxed, and rested her head on my arm. She already trusted me to be her caretaker, and I was smiling inside and out. She came from a breeder where she was somewhere in the area of Omega in the pecking order, lots of dogs much higher up, so when she went into our home, as the only dog, and saw the dog bed, she bolted to it and made claim to it first thing. I laughed. It was the first time she made me laugh, and I cannot tell you how many more times she made me laugh over the next eleven years. My husband came home a couple hours later and he too fell under her spell. We named her Kyla as she was a graceful, rather petite Kerry Blue Terrier and the name seemed to fit her.

Her Family copy

Terriers by their nature have a lot of energy and Kyla was no exception to that. She was also amazingly intelligent and could figure out how things were done then manipulate the circumstances to suit her where you wouldn’t even know it; for days sometimes. I don’t consider myself stupid, but there were times when I would realize that she had been training me for days and I would have to adjust to regain the upper hand. She loved to be chased and would do almost anything to get you to chase her, including taking the freshly folded socks from the laundry basket, give you a sideways look and take off. It was kind of funny until she started to lose her baby teeth and got blood all over the socks. Breaking her of this habit would prove challenging if one wanted to be able to leave a basket of clothes on the floor. She taught me to give her cookies by eating the mulch in the yard. I didn’t want her eating the mulch, so I thought I was so smart to distract her into the house with cookies. She dropped the mulch and came running for a cookie. It was later, I realized, that she had learned the consequence of putting the mulch in her mouth resulted in getting a cookie. OK, off to puppy school with Kyla. It should be called Dog Owners School as that is what it really is. She loved it. She loved other people, she loved other dogs and she loved the clicker training. After getting the basic understanding of how we might be able to manage a workable life together I was able to train her to roll over, sit, shake, lie down and stay (well at least for a little bit). She had the energy of multiple dogs and quickly turned her manipulation on her Dad. He is a light sleeper and could be convinced to get up in the middle of the night and play. He was the playboy for her and she loved this. This was a problem we needed more help with.

Fortunately the breeder in California was breeding and some puppies would soon be available.  So when Kyla was around 2 years old, we got her little brother, Fergus to keep her company. He was 8 weeks old. We hoped he would help use up some of her energy so she’d sleep through the night. It did work, but we got more than that as a benefit. The two of them became best buddies.

Fergus was tiny at first and Kyla was the proverbial nasty older sister for a while. She didn’t hurt him but she was far more intelligent and could basically get him to do whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. We had a split staircase at the time and she would run up one side and stand at the landing. Fergus was about the height of the stair and he would pull himself up each stair to chase her and as soon as he made it to the landing she would bolt down the other side. If he was resting on the bed, and she wanted it for herself, she would find some toy and shake it in his face and toss it in the air with all the drama as if to show him that this game was the most fun game ever imagined by a dog and he should want to join in. As soon as he showed some interest she would run off and up he’d get to chase her. She’d drop the toy and run to take the bed. Fortunately, most of the time Fergus didn’t realize he had just been tricked. I had empathy; I too had been a victim of her intelligence on more than one occasion.

They had a grand life, once the gate had been left open by a repair person and she took off on an adventure and Fergus of course went along with her. I, of course, heard from a neighbor who saw them trotting away. So, off I go in a total panic, afraid they might have been hit by a car, but they had gone towards kids, and away from the busy road. I turned the corner and saw their large Kerry Blue butts swinging side to side, tails up and wagging, heads up and having a good old time. How can you get annoyed when they look so cute and no harm was done? I didn’t, we went home and had cookies but from then on watched the gate more carefully.

BlizzardMarch03 030

In Colorado Kyla was a snow dog – she loved heat and would lie in front of the fireplace but she was no whimp when it came to snow.  This was taken during the dig out from the 03 blizzard.

Kyla had been a runt. The breeder hand fed her so maybe her doggie mother knew something. But you know what they say about small and fierce. Kyla was one tough dog. She had an incredible pain threshold and experienced, I hate to say, numerous trips to the vet over her lifetime. She sliced her paws in two places on steel edging in our lawn (I’ll never use that again in a yard, ever, ever, ever).  Later, she was rolled in the yard by her now much larger brother playing rough house and ended up with a puncture wound in her chest.  She got some weird eye infection and had to be treated with a host of anti-inflammatories and antibiotics over a several week period. We had a trip to Italy planned and paid for, so we have to thank Beth, who stayed at the house with the dogs for being such a great nurse to her during that time. All these injuries healed and she never lost a step during any of it. After moving to the Seattle area we had to put Kyla and Fergus in a doggie daycare for one day while our movers moved our furniture in. That day, a Cocker Spaniel decided to give Kyla a pierced ear. I guess he didn’t know she loved dogs and was not a threat in any way whatsoever. We didn’t even know it happened until that night at bedtime I was giving her some love before going to bed myself and she made a little whimper when I touched the ear. It too healed but left a permanent scar on her psyche. She would never ride in the car again without a lot of nerves and shaking to the point you’d be afraid she was going to have a heart attack. Two years after that, she and Fergus went into the yard one morning and unbeknownst to me a feral cat was back there . A huge chase ensued and Kyla being faster with quicker turning actually got to the cat where the cat felt threatened and scratched out. I’m absolutely positive that Kyla just wanted to sniff the cat and let the cat sniff her, she never had an aggressive bone in her body. I was able to get the dogs in the house after the cat treed itself. Kyla was running from window to window to see if that cat was still out there, tail still up and wagging but her left eye was winked down. I got her to come to me and when I touched near the eye she squealed out, so I knew she had been scratched. Off we went to Dr. Rice, who referred us that day, to a dog ophthalmologist. The scratch had been a deep puncture wound and the ophthalmologist didn’t know if the retina had been scratched or not. If it had, she might have lost her eye. Again, drugs, oral and drops, anti-inflammatories and antibiotics needed to be administered round the clock. We did not know if the eye could be saved. The instructions from this vet were ominous. A large cone on the head and we were instructed to keep her really quiet; no jumping, no running. She didn’t like the cone and insisted that I feed her. I allowed her this. She needed nourishment and without jumping and running how much fun can a girl have, I thought. After a few weeks we were out of the woods, eye intact and vision in good condition. She did have dry eye and the eye doctor thought maybe her thyroid might be low. Sure enough, thyroid medication and viola a whole new lease on life.

I have one regret with Kyla and that is that I never got her to be a therapy dog. She was a natural for it. She knew when you were hurting, sick or just needed to be given some attention. She was with me through various colds and injuries including a knee surgery, and would always lie at my feet being ready to be there for you. I had a friend visit once who was going through some personal hell.  Kyla went over and put her head on this friend’s lap,  looked up at her with her beautiful doe eyes and just stayed there, as if to tell this friend that it’d be alright. Kyla loved to sleep next to my husband and if she heard or saw him lie down on the floor she would run over and curl up in his armpit and put her head on his arm or chest and they would sleep like that together.


Lyle with Kyla on the left and Fergus on the right enjoying a few z’s on the weekend.  This is a photo that I could have taken on many occasions.

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She had so many attributes but I think her greatest attribute was her ability to make me laugh. From the socks to liking the skin of a sweaty friend whom we had just met, to teasing her brother or doing antics to get cookies she brought a sense of joy, energy and enthusiasm to my life. Her strength through all her travails has been inspirational, and I hope yet to become the person she thought I was.


Kyla patrolling the yard the summer of 2010. 

In early March of 2011 she was diagnosed with lymphoma. We met with the oncologist and Dr. Rice, her regular vet, and made the decision to give her Prednisone and Chinese herbs to treat the cancer, the symptoms and make her as comfortable as possible for whatever time she had left. After a week, she made a remarkable remission, and her energy and life were apparent. She was again playful, hiking her toys between her legs, trying to hump my husband’s foot.  I never did figure out what that was about, but maybe she thought his foot was alpha, and if only she could be dominant over that.  She ran some, played with Fergus, and outwitted me. I was overjoyed and couldn’t believe our luck and her will to live. Kyla and I had a battle of wits over her food and medicines.  For a while I would have a trick to get them down and then she’d figure it out and would refuse to eat that so I’d go off and figure something else out and that would work for a bit then she’d decide to stop eating that. I think part of her will to live, was to see how many different cuisines she could try out that she hadn’t been given earlier in her life. As it turned out, quite a few different ones were used over the last four months. We had read that a diagnosis of lymphoma in a dog results in death generally within 4-6 weeks and she lived to late June, nearly 4 months from diagnosis. She got to spend time in some warm weather which she had always enjoyed, many hours of being hand fed, hugged, petted, massaged and loved, walks in the yard and visits with the neighbor dogs through the fence. She reminded me that she trusted me as her caretaker and wouldn’t leave my side or allow me to leave hers. At the very end I was just spending my days reading or sitting and being beside her as she slept. Finally the cancer was just too much and she didn’t have any more energy to give. I carried her from room to room and even held her head so she could drink water but knew in my heart that it wasn’t fair to ask her to continue like that. My husband and I decided it was time, and we were so fortunate that our vet, Dr. Rice was willing to come to the house to take care of her.  We just didn’t want to put Kyla in the car since she had never gotten over the nerves after getting bitten in the ear. Kyla was glad to see her vet whom she loved and she relaxed in her presence. She knew Dr. Rice would take care of her and she lay down on her bed by the window and soon it was over, very peaceful, no pain and with an outpouring of love for her from her parents.

I hope there is a special place in heaven for all the pets whom we’ve loved and their owners. I want to spend time in eternity with her. Eleven years were not nearly enough. Kyla, we miss you, and hope you are having a grand time wherever you are. Godspeed my love.


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