Ode to Kaylee

Why my dog was the best dog. Of all the dogs.
I’m very happy that this weekend was so gorgeous, and as I promised yesterday, a full post on that is to come. However, yesterday afternoon was full of bad news, which put a bit of a damper on my mood. 
I’ve written before about how hard it can be to be so far from home and feeling helpless when bad things are happening, and yesterday was a painful reminder of that. But just like last time, I think that writing about things will help. Or at least, I hope it will. 

To say that I’m an animal person is a bit of an understatement. I am definitely one of those people who “squees” pretty much every time I see something with fur. Every time I pass by a dog I want to be friends with it, and I’m convinced that people who don’t like dogs have no soul.* Germany is a great place to be if you’re a pet owner, and it’s rare to see a restaurant that doesn’t have a doggie bowl ready and waiting for their canine guests. This is something I love here.
But all the dogs in Germany were lacking, in that they weren’t my dog. This was my dog…
Photo courtesy of my sister
Her name was Kaylee, and she was awesome. Unfortunately, she was also 15 years old, and her age was showing when I was home last month. And in the last month, it got much worse. Finally this weekend, my parents had to make the decision that we all really, really, really, wanted to avoid.  I know my parents did what they thought was best, and I’m trying to be okay with that fact right now. Thus this post….

She really was the best dog ever. I know everyone (or mostly everyone) thinks that about their pets, but she was. I’m happy to back up this claim with some evidence, so for your consideration, here are ten reasons why….

1. If you ever wondered how English Springer Spaniels got their name, all you had to do was meet Kaylee. Within the first weeks that we had her, we learned that she could jump over the back of our fairly-high backed couch from a stand. No running starts needed. In winter she took particular joy in bounding through the snow, no matter how many  nice potty-paths you shoveled for her.
Winter, 2006

2. For the last 15 years, my parents haven’t really needed to wash the floors in the kitchen or dining area. Any food that reached the floor was immediately hoovered by our furry vacuum cleaner. Anything that is, except grapes. Or lettuce. 

3. She was very concerned with keeping the herd together. If we were in different rooms, she would go from place to place, checking on everyone. She was the most relaxed when everyone was in the same place at the same time. 

4. She was very courteous, and always let you know when she needed something. If it was outside time, dinner time, walk time, you always knew when she was ready for something. In fact, she was much more vigilant than we were sometimes. One summer afternoon I was getting out of the shower when I heard her nails going “click-click-click” across our deck to go out. An hour or so later, when watching the baseball game with my parents, I said, “hey, where’s the dog?” As I said above, she liked to be where everyone was, so her absence was strange. Neither of my parents remembered letting her out, which marked their first joint Senior Moment. We all went out hunting for her, and eventually found her halfway around the neighborhood, licking the bottom of someone’s grill that had been left outside.
Plastic hot dogs < real hot dogs
5. Determination was her middle name. If she wanted to carry a 6-foot long stick around the beach when she was a tiny puppy, she would drag that thing all over the park. If she wanted to swim for freedom from the canoe when it started raining, it would take all of my sister’s energy to keep her in the boat. Basically, if there was something she really wanted to do, then not even an electric fence would stop her. I was not as smart though, because I never learned from my mistakes. Often mornings looked like this: I’d let her out and stand in the doorway while her nose went up in the air, sniffing. Then she’d glance at the house, the nose would go up again, another glance at the house… and she was off.  What’s the problem with that? Well… usually I let her out in the morning while in pajamas, shoe-less, and bra-less. Having to race around to find shoes and appropriate neighborhood clothing in a Wisconsin winter is particularly fun all the while she was off trotting around the neighborhood to see her doggie friends. 

6. Springers are hunting dogs, and her sense of smell was amazing. Since she was basically the baby of the family, she used to get all kinds of Christmas presents. But even when the rest of the gifts were wrapped and waiting under the tree, we had to hide hers. Even if she never saw it come into the house, somehow she would sniff out whatever belonged to her, and unwrap it early. Much like having small children around, we always had to stash her toys, new leashes, boxes of treats, etc., and only put them under the tree on Christmas morning.

7. Her other hunting instincts were pretty impressive, considering we never taught her to hunt. When she was a puppy, she’d point at birds. And when she stole your stuff, she never destroyed it. Instead she’d sit with it in her mouth and wait. One day my mom came home from work to find my cat, Frodo, batting around the stick from her hair piece. Kaylee was just laying in the living room, with the leather part in her mouth. Just waiting. 

She was also lightning fast. If you were having a conversation while holding a cookie in your hand, sometimes you’d go to take a bite and it was gone. Only then you’d notice her on the other side of the room, crunching away. And God help you if you had popcorn…

Action Kaylee
8. Speaking of Frodo, turns out that a cat can teach an old dog new tricks. One area of the house that Kaylee never attempted to reach was the counter. Then Frodo came into the house, and after a period of careful observation, Kaylee was able to conquer the counter too. Sort of. I came downstairs one day to find her standing on the counter looking at me. She was about 10 at the time, and although she knew she could get up by jumping on the bar chairs, she was also smart enough to know that the laminate floor was too slippery to jump so far. So there she was. 

The A-Team of naughty, right here
8. Besides being smart enough to know her limits (how many people can say that?), she was smart about everything. She was great with tricks, but sometimes failed on the execution. But when there’s a treat coming, who’s going to notice if you combine the shaking/rolling over/playing dead into one spastic doggie flail? We also had names for all of her toys, which led to some great games. A particular favorite was called “Where’s Bill?” This involved taking her squeaky plush Bill Clinton doll (he was dressed in jogging gear and had a chicken on his shirt…. don’t ask), and hiding it somewhere in the house or outside while the dog was sequestered in her crate or the bathroom. Even when you tried to trick her by making a racket all over the house, she always hunted down Bill. 

9. She had trick hair. Part of the reason we chose her from the litter was that she had very unusual markings for a Springer. She was missing the usual white stripe on her face, and she was almost half-and-half brown and white. Oddly, the brown half of her seemed to grow at a much faster rate than the white side, which led to a half-fluffy dog. She also haaaaaaaaated haircuts, so when the time came it was often a 3-4 man job. She was small for a Springer, but all muscle, so it was a bit of a challenge. Unless of course, she was doggie drunk. 
One memorable afternoon, my parents returned from the vet. My mom came into the living room saying, “Hmmmm, why don’t you hear doggie toenails on the floor? What’s going on?” Of course, I freaked and ran around the corner, to see my dad carrying Kaylee in, while her puppy head lolled over his arms. Turns out that after a couple of shots (clarification: vaccinations, not alcoholic shots), a punch-drunk dog should be an easy haircut target, right? Well… easier than usual, yes. But much harder to stop laughing when every time we turned the razor off, and she tried to stumble off of the bean bag and escape, falling over like a college freshman on the first weekend away from home. 

10. A lot of dogs get kind of cranky as they get older. Not this one. She was always happy to see anyone, and wanted to befriend anybody who crossed her path. This was a particularly valuable trait in my teenage years, when I’m sure that my family had about enough of that angst-y nonsense. Not Kaylee. Always happy. 
For the last few years, I’ve joked that Kaylee was the most co-dependent dog in the world. She could be laying right next to you, but if you stopped petting for a second, she would let you know. But now that I think about it, I think we were dependent on her. These days more than ever, it seems that friends are fickle, and even family can come and go more easily than maybe it should. But not dogs. At least, not my dog. 
For my sweet-faced girl… the most beautiful girl in the world. I will miss your announcements, your nose snuffling at the door in the morning, your full-body tail wag. I’ll miss your floppy ears, and your big sighs when it’s time to go to bed. You were the best dog anyone could want, and I knew you would be from the first time I picked you out of the mass of wriggling brown and white. 

Normally, I’m not one to discourage comments, but just once I’ll say this: If anyone has even a thought of leaving a “it’s just a dog, not a person,” please don’t. Just don’t.

*Also, people who don’t like the Beatles.

10 thoughts on “Ode to Kaylee

  1. I am so so sorry to hear about this, Heather! She definitely sounds like the best dog ever and I can imagine how much you are hurt and how much you are missing her. Our pets are family members and it is so terrible to lose them. I am thinking of you and your family and I am sending you lots of hugs!

  2. I am really sorry for your loss. I can tell through your words just how much you loved her and will always love her. And that dog loved you unconditionally. After my mom passed away, our family dog Popcorn the Pomeranian was taken with promises of visits and progress reports by my aunt and uncle. And then they gave him away to a friend of theirs without asking and they never told me who. I'll never know what happened to him, and I still get all teared up thinking about it. That dog truly loved us, and we loved him. I understand loss, and I know it really sucks to be so far away and missing her. So digital hugs send your way and hope if you ever want to meet up, I'm around.

  3. Thanks Allie. I know that feeling too, but honestly I think it's better if I don't know where Frodo is at this point. That way I can imagine him being happy and healthy somewhere… takes the edge of the guilt from having to rehome him when I moved. Sort of takes the edge off anyway. We are overdue for a meetup, so give me a shout when you're up to it!

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