Sunday, April 17, 2011


I was on a mission to find a little puppy when I rescued Kenda.  There were several options as I walked through the shelter in Union County, North Carolina.  And then the worker asked if I would like to see one more dog.  He took me to the very back when I saw her.  She was a full grown German Shepherd.  The vet guessed that she was between one and three years old. 

Before I could object, he opened the gate and let me see her.  She was gentle and calm.  I'll never forget when he grabbed the skin on her back by both hands and lifted her up in the air.  He said, "See, she's as sweet as they come."  And, she'd been at the shelter for a while.  And, most people don't take home a full-grown dog.  But, I fell in love.  She was beautiful.  She was going to be my hippie dream dog that went everywhere with me.  I bought her a Grateful Dead bear collar.

I left the kennel with her and stopped a few miles up the road to let her go potty.  I opened the door and she ran as fast as she could to the woods.  I thought for sure that I would never see her again!  But, that was just her style.  If she had the chance, Kenda would run and run.  But, she always came back . . . eventually.

I was a single university graduate -completely care-free.  Her first few years, she slept with me in my bed.  We went camping in West Virginia, North and South Carolina and throughout Virginia.  We went to parks, concerts, friends' houses, and back to Radford for visits.  And, when she could, she would escape the apartment and jump in the community pool.  She scaled walls . . . we joked that she was Spiderwoman.  I taught her to balance a bone on her nose and then pop it in her mouth. She rolled over on command and howled every time she heard a siren.

One time, a bunch of friends went on a canoe/camping trip in North Carolina.  Graham and I were in one canoe with two dogs and a huge cooler.  His dog, Athen, softly moaned the entire journey.  And, Kenda kept jumping in the water.  Everytime we would get her back in, she would be out and swimming within minutes!  She loved the water.

Then we met Jeff.  And she loved him, too.  We moved to Colorado and she became, for the first and only time, an outdoor dog for just a few months.  I bought a down comforter to line her doghouse and had to crawl in it first to show her that it would be okay.

Then we moved to Utah.  She and I lived with two roommates who also each had a dog.  We walked everyday and played often while I was back in school.  And, after Jeff and I were married, we moved again to a house - with Mesa, a black lab mix that we adopted from a farm in Idaho.  Those two dogs were peas in a pod. 

Kenda was always absolutely terrified of loud noises and became increasingly scared of thunderstorms her whole life . . . until she lost most of her hearing.  She was known to chew on windows, door frames, garage doors and fences when a car would backfire or lightening would strike.  She escaped our 6 ft wood security fence at least five times.  I kept fliers handy and had to place them around the neighborhood often.  One time, we lost her for over a week.  And, while walking door-to-door, we finally found her with a nice young couple, comfortable on their couch.  I rescued her from the animal shelter two times in Heber when she went running wild after hearing thunder.  One time she ran straight through the fence.

Kenda never liked to play fetch outside, but was an explorer and loved to chase animals.  She caught everything from chipmunks and squirrels, to lizards (although I mourned each little animal).  She always preferred to sleep on the bare floor, no matter how appealing I tried to make her dog beds over the years.  She never had an accident in the house and never chewed anything that she wasn't supposed to.  And, she absolutely loved children.  They could put their head in her dog bowl or poke her eyes, and she would never flinch.

You couldn't not love Kenda.  She would come up to me every time I was sitting - and if I didn't pet her right away, she would nudge my hand until I did.

She has lived with me in ten different houses, four states, and two countries.  She has driven back and forth across the entire country three times.  She was with me before I met Jeff and while I had three children.

She followed me everywhere in the house, even when it became increasingly difficult to handle stairs.  She was always waiting at the door for me. 

Since we moved back from Canada, Kenda hated being outside.  She wanted to be near us every second.  And, because she couldn't hear well, she always chose to lay right in the walkway . . . which made poor Gavin crazy when she blocked his walker. 

Jeff and I saw her slow down over the last few weeks considerably.  And, she lost quite a bit of weight.  She stopped scratching the door to come in and slept much more.

On Wednesday, our family went to St. George, for one last trip before I return to work next week.  I was so scared to leave her.  In her whole life, we only had to leave her in a kennel a few times.  And, I knew our friends would take such good care of her.  They love animals.

But, it really never crossed my mind that I wouldn't see her again when we left.  I would have hugged her and pet her and told her what a good friend she has been to me for thirteen years.  That she was a special dog and that I wanted more time.

They called us last night from the kennel to tell us that she took a turn and they didn't think she would make it through the night.  We immediately packed the whole family and headed home at 11pm.  I desperately wanted to take her home.  We were only 45 minutes into the 4 1/2 hour drive when they called to tell us that she was gone.  They stayed with her, rubbing her ears, in her last moments.  I am so grateful.

My heart is completely broken that I was not with her.  I am overwhelmed.  I have to think that angels were with her when she passed and that she is now in heaven chasing animals and running through fields of flowers.

We buried her this morning on the land where we will be building our house.  Autumn colored a wood plank with her name and we placed sunflowers on her grave.  Jeff gently pulled back the blanket that had so lovingly been wrapped around her . . . and we pulled off her collar.  As much as I wanted her to have it with her . . . I wanted to have something of her to have and hold.  I kept the collar that she had worn her whole life.

I am so thankful that we were back home in Utah and that we will have her in our yard.  Everywhere I look in this house, I think of her.  I regret not giving her even more love and attention than she had.   And, I'm not sure that I will ever forgive myself for not being with her at the end.  I can't believe she is gone.  I can't stop crying.

Thunderstorms will not scare her anymore.  She will be able to bound up any staircase and jump on a bed.  She will hear the sirens and howl again. 

Kenda loved me unconditionally.  I will miss her everyday.

My mom and dad, who have four dogs now and have buried three, sent me this today.  It is perfect.

Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. Her bright eyes are intent; Her eager body quivers. Suddenly she begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, her legs carrying her faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....


  1. Oh Karen, I don't even like dogs and you have my crying. She was such a pretty and sweet dog. I am sorry you couldn't be with her at the end but I guarantee that she knew you loved her. I am so glad you were here in Utah instead of Canada. Love you!

  2. I have such sweet memories of Kenda and Athena back in their young years. I will never forget what a sweet dog she was. Hugs to you!!!!