We said goodbye to my sweet pup, my best friend of 13 1/2 years, on September 27, 2016.
I’ve spent nearly two weeks empty, heartbroken, and heavy-hearted. But as I make my way through the grief, I’m realizing how lucky I was to have had such a special bond with such an incredible dog for so many years.
When I was 15 years old, I went to look at a litter of puppies after years of begging for a dog since the loss of our family dog. We walked into a pen of adorable 4-week-old husky/hound mix puppies, and one in particular walked right up to my foot, nibbled and pulled at my shoelace, and flopped over.
From that moment on, Kya was my dog.
Four weeks later, we got to bring her home. My parents had made it clear that since I wanted the dog, she was my responsibility. I took it very seriously and read all the puppy training books. I prepared a box with towels for her to sleep in next to my bed, along with a warm water bottle covered in a towel to make her feel like she was still with other pups.
Naturally, it was not a good enough substitute. She whined and cried for an hour straight. I took her out to go to the bathroom, I laid with my hand in the box with her, and still she wouldn’t settle. Finally, I scooped her up into the bed with me, training books be damned. She nuzzled her way into the crook of my neck and we both fell asleep for the night.
When I awoke, it was to a restless puppy who was too small to jump down from the bed—and big pee spot on my comforter. I told my mom and she just said, “Well, you better wash your sheets.”
My dog, my responsibility.
As the months and years passed, Kya grew into the sweetest, silliest, most lovable dog.
She was a terror as a puppy and she never grew up, which I’m grateful for, but she did settle into the most loyal and loving companion.
She never met a stranger and even going to the vet was an enjoyable experience because it meant she got attention, which was lucky because she was at the vet a lot.
Our free puppy went on to have surgery for bladder stones, go on a special diet to prevent more stones and urinary tract infections, and have flare-ups of pancreatitis later in life. When she was still pretty young, she developed a pretty bad limp due to her hip. After finding out she had a pretty bad case of hip dysplasia, we had to decide whether to treat and medicate her pain for life or take her to a specialist for surgery. Considering she was young and had her whole life ahead of her, we opted to give her the best life possible and took her to a specialist for a hip replacement.
She went on to live an active, happy, healthy, full life with walks every day, weekend hikes, car ride adventures, and as many play sessions as she wanted. She was a special dog who loved others just as much as we loved her. She would wag her tail at strangers and wait for them to acknowledge her. She could never get enough pats—and just when you thought you were done, she would paw you for more.
A master of mischief, she worked her way into food cabinets, trash cans, and backpacks, and loved to eat papers and cardboard. Every now and then when she was feeling especially naughty, she’d steal a cat toy or a tissue and run off with it, expecting me to chase her.
Once, after a day or two of GI distress, I brought her in for evaluation. An x-ray revealed some indiscernible objects in her stomach, including two sets of dots that showed up brightly. The vet and I were puzzled. Another day later, she threw up two cat toys—we were seeing two sets of beady toy mice eyes staring back at us on the x-ray. I called the vet and we laughed and laughed.
On the darkest days when I was too depressed to get out of bed and was numb to the world, Kya brought me back down to earth. I avoided living on campus and kept her with me through college, and all throughout my teens and 20’s, she taught me much about unconditional love, loyalty, responsibility, and life. Whether it was raining or storming or snowing 20 inches, Kya thought every day was a great day for a walk—and she was right. She may have literally saved my life.
Losing such a special dog is truly a unique kind of grief. There just aren’t words to describe what it’s like to have lost such a companion, or what it’s like to wake up without a huge part of your purpose and life missing.
I miss getting coaxed out of bed by the tip-tap of dog feet on our floors. I miss my coffee and reading buddy. I miss coming home to a wagging tail, getting ready for the gym while she explored the yard, and rushing back home for our long evening walk. I miss her stink face she always made when she wanted something, and her insistent barks for rawhides/playtime/trips outside/pats/anything to get her some attention.
But I am comforted by knowing that she is at peace, and that I was truly lucky to have her in my life.
Rest in peace, Kya pup. I am so much better for knowing you.
I appreciate you more because of the road I’ve traveled. My story brought me to you. I wouldn’t revise a word of my past if it lead me anywhere but to your door. ~Aaron Polson