I first met her at 4wks and took her and the biggest male out of the whelping pen and for the first time, outside. It was a cool early spring morning and the male sat and howled. She pounced on dandelions and then sat and quietly observed HER world.

When I returned in 2 weeks the owner opened the pen in the basement and the wee ones poured across the basement floor like a small black and tan flood. I squatted down to spot her but couldn't. "Do you see her? asked the owner and when I shook my head he laughed and pointed. She was sitting on my foot looking up at me as if to say,"You're back...OK let's GO!" She was a challenge from the start and seemed self-assured way past her age and even species. She was feisty and smart but affectionate and determined to please too.

Some special memories stand out right now as I try to realize that she is no longer with me. I remember the afternoon I got the call that Dad had died and as now, this same suffocating blanket of grief swept over me, Kayla jumped on the bed and lay down on top off me and put her chin on my forehead. She covered me, protected me, tried to drain the grief from my heart.

Another time we were at a leash free park with my mother's dog - Toby - a small Bichon and a rather large husky had taken a dislike to Toby being there. I saw a blur at my side and was just in time to grab the husky as it lunged at Toby. I pulled him off and yelled, "No!" and put him down. The owner just shrugged and said," He doesn't like small dogs." As I turned I again saw the flash of husky, mouth open about to chomp on Toby. I reached down to grab him and he just wasn't there. Kayla had hit this dog at full speed. When he stopped rolling about 40 feet away she was standing over him, pinching his face repeatedly as if to say,"Toby is MY buddy! What part of NO don't you understand? Fool!"

I remember a horrible night when she was three maybe four years old. There was a raging blizzard outside and she kept bugging me for a walk so I finally bundled up and went out. As we crossed a park a few blocks from home I passed a grove of trees and headed up to the road. Kayla hung back and I thought maybe she'd had enough and was turning for home but she wasn't. She was looking into the woods. I suspected a skunk or coyote and whistled her to come. She didn't. I whistled and called again and she stood her ground. She NEVER disobeyed like that so I called again. She shuffled, put her head low and pointed into the woods again. OK so it took me a while.

She was insisting that there was something I HAD to look at and wasn't moving until I did. I walked back to her and asked her what she was looking at. She bounded into the woods and stood over a young man who had had way too much to drink, had taken his clothes off (that's why he was so hard to see) and was going to end it all in the snow. He was unconscious when the ambulance finally came for him. The Doc in Emerg said another 15 minutes and they couldn't have brought him back. I never found out who he was and to this day I wonder if he ever got his act together. Now, years later I'm sad that I didn't recommend her for a K9 Hero award. She had no SAR training. She just knew that what she saw in the snow that night wasn't right and I had to do something. I suppose animal behaviorists would tell me it was "wishful thinking" . That I was anthropomorphizing regarding her intelligence. When she'd get up and go to the front door and wait for her walk in the evening it was clear to me that there was much more than the dark instinctive void we have been told our animals are limited to. She didn't just go to the door though. She'd go over and gently pick up her "Go for walk at night collar" and take it with her. When she lay down she'd put a paw on the side so it was looped up like a big "O" sitting on the floor and then put her nose through the O and point her head at the ceiling and shake her head back and forth to get the collar to go over her head and around her neck. She never managed to put it on completely because of the ridge above her eyes. It was a prominent ridge, a high ridge. It had to be high because behind it was her BRAIN!

Our last few minutes together were pleasant. She was not in pain and I had parked so the sun shone down on her back. I climbed into the rear seat with her but because my vet was very busy we spent over half an hour there. The words flowed and the time passed. I spoke of the games we played when she was younger; hide and seek at the cottage, tugOwar with her rope, long walks along the beach and digging in the sand, walks in the forest with her buddy Max...I went on and on telling her about all the things I could remember. I watched her eyes as I spoke and I could see her "going back" in her mind to those days when things didn't ache and joints and muscles worked. Whenever I spoke of something she really enjoyed she'd turn, press her forehead into my chest and growl then move back to listen to more memories.

When my vet (JoAnn Best - Oakville Animal Clinic) came out to the car Kayla greeted her with a big kiss and then knowing what was to come she put her head in my arms and went quickly and quietly to her God as I told her how much I loved her. It was a honour to have had her for a friend.

My Kayla is gone.

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