Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Big Kahoona

The first time I saw her she jumped up on the gate to her chain link kennel, stared me straight in the eyes and dared me to take her home!

If I had known then what that stare meant, I'd have wished her well and walked away. All I saw was big brown eyes an an underweight dog in a kennel too small for her. I loved her instantly and paid her adoption fee on the spot.

Kayleigh was the toughest dog I have ever known. Tough in every sense of the word. She was huge, tough to control, tough to confine, tough to train with a stubborn streak a mile wide. It took her a long time to realize she didn't have to defend herself here; that there would always be enough food; I would not forget to feed her and there were more tennis balls if she wrecked one.

Kayleigh pushed her limits her whole life. There were several emergency runs to the vet...she liked the taste of porcupine, she ate a box of toothpicks, her littermate who we briefly fostered tried to rip her throat out. There was never a dull moment in her younger years!

We were not the perfect home for Kayleigh. She was not meant to be a pack dog. She would not tolerate most dogs anywhere near her territory. Kayleigh had an out of control prey drive. If it was smaller than her, it was prey. She had been hungry as a puppy and she never forgot that feeling. Age mellowed her a bit, but she was always a 110 pound handful!

By the time we realized Kayleigh was not just having adjustment issues, that she had real issues that weren't going to be easy to fix, it was too late. We loved her and she had such a history of chaos that we could not have responsibly placed her in another home.

So we set out to give her the best life we could within her limits. My husband built her a pen more secure than the local jail; full of places she could dig with lots of room to stretch her legs, connected to the shop ; so she could still be an inside dog. I would sneak her out late at night in summer and take her to the quarries for a swim. She loved to swim!

Kayleigh was tough, but she was not tough to love. She was full of personality, vibrant and happy. She had a quirky sense of humor and more than a hint of mischief in her eyes. She firmly believed she was not too big to be a lap dog. She loved a good belly rub, a long cuddle and a good game of fetch.

Kayleigh turned 13 in October. Acute kidney failure stole her from us yesterday.

She taught me more in the 11 years we shared than I could have learned from 100 easier dogs. I will miss her dearly.

It wasn't a perfect life; I hope it was enough.

Kayleigh, the Big Kahoona
October 21, 1998 - November 23, 2011