Friday, April 1, 2011

So long, old friend

You can all call me on it. You can call me on my complete and utter hypocrisy. I have complained for years about my dogs. Especially Kirby. I've grumbled about him under my breath and quite publicly. We've joked about Kirby having nine lives and wondered when the 9th would finally run out.

But you all know that was utter nonsense, right? Because as we had no choice but say good-bye to our beloved friend today, I was (and am) a total mess. He was a member of our family. He was kind of like the pensive and and quiet relative who sat in the corner and observed. But a family member nonetheless.

Our golden lab, Meg, would be more like a rowdy cousin. She has to be in the middle of everything. She can't stand to be left out. Kirby, on the other hand, didn't need much. Just a head scratch here and there. A fresh water bowl. An occasional belly rub.

He wasn't the smartest dog. He couldn't do tricks, fetch, or follow commands. His breed isn't known for being the brightest. But he could love you. He never growled or snapped or scratched. He was a gentle and quiet old soul who just needed love.

Rob discovered Kirby in a graveyard after his Grandfather's funeral. Yes, Rob literally rescued him from the grave. Rob and his brother Frank were walking back after the graveside service and they saw some kids gathered around an object hiding in the bushes. Rob and Frank looked closer and saw that it was a dog. A mangy looking dog of an unknown breed who was malnourished and very sick.

Rob stuck his hand out knowing that dogs tend to lash out and bite when they feel scared or cornered. This dog simply licked Rob. Rob and Frank loaded the dog into their friend's pick up truck and took him to the vet. They discovered through x-rays that he had been shot with a pellet gun and that the bullets were still in him. Other than that though, he was fine. Rob now had a dog. And the funeral was held in Kirbyville, Texas. Hence the name of our dog.

Rob brought Kirby home some time later and from then on, Rob had his sidekick. I came into the picture about 9 months later. Kirby did not take too kindly to me at first. When I went over to Rob's house for the very first time, Kirby simply looked at me, raised his leg, and peed on the wall. He was marking his territory and telling me that this was HIS house and that Rob was His friend. How wrong he was.

When Rob and I got married and I moved in, Kirby peed all over my moving boxes. This launched my campaign of animosity against Kirby. But it was all an act. He became my dog too. I vented loudly to anyone who would listen about the dumb dog who peed on my stuff but couldn't even sit on command, yet I snuck him food under the table. I grumbled about the stupid dog who just laid around and wouldn't fetch, but I gave him long belly rubs when we were alone together.

We brought Meg into the family in 2006 so Kirby wouldn't be lonely. Rob and I were never home and so we got a big dog to run around in the yard with Kirby. And fortunately they became best friends. Kirby adored Meg and the two were inseparable. We were also so lucky in the fact that Kirby loved my nieces who spent the night with us all the time, and eventually he fell in love with our kids as well.

He has been so gentle and kind with our children. He has never once snapped or growled at them despite all of the fur pulling and all of the little hands reaching in his food bowl. He loved when we had company and especially loved it when Daddy Suttle came bearing treats.

Kirby's favorite things to do were stare and howl. He could win a staring contest against any man and if you started to howl, he would howl right back with you. This was a great party trick that was utilized many times over the years.

Kirby survived many scares. He survived that initial shot by a gun when he was a puppy, he survived starvation and neglect as a puppy before Rob found him, he survived being lost in the woods many times, he survived a dog attack about 7 years ago, and he survived falling out of our friends pick-up truck while driving back from the lake.

But he just couldn't beat this cancer. And honestly, this has happened so fast. He has had cancer spots for years and we always have them removed. He just had surgery a few months ago to have one removed and was given a clean bill of health. My Dad took him to a check-up 2 weeks ago and he was pronounced healthy. Monday of this week we were playing in the back yard.

But two days ago he started acting differently. His heart was racing and his legs were shaking. He couldn't walk and began to stumble everywhere. He was laying in unusual spots in the house and wouldn't get up when he was called. We took him to the vet yesterday just thinking that he had an infection and we needed to get him medicine. We were surprised to find out that the cancer was in his lungs, spleen, and abdomen. There was no hope except for aggressive chemotherapy that would only buy us a little more time. And he's 12. That's a lot for an old dog. So, this morning Rob took our sweet dog to the vet and said good-bye to the friend he had rescued from the grave a decade ago. Even though I knew he was old and had recurring cancer, I am still in a state of shock. 36 hours ago I had no idea any of this would happen. It happened so fast and I am so incredibly sad.

My heart is hurting. I will miss my kids calling out for Meg and "Kuh-bee" every day. Kirby was one of their first words. They look for him every day. Bennett pets him on the floor constantly. I am so sad that they probably won't remember him. I am so sad for out other dog, Meg, who has lost her best friend. We've always laughed that our family was split down the middle. Three boys and three girls. The girls side just got the upper hand when we lost our Kirby.

Thanks for the memories, K-dog. I may have complained about you loudly, but you know it was an act. You know that you had me wrapped around your paw and I want to thank you for all the years of love and joy you brought to our family. You were there for Rob when he needed you the most and you were a companion to me through such transitional years of having babies and moving to different houses and cities. We will always love and remember you and be grateful for how much you loved our children and for how much you loved us. So long, old friend. You were a very good dog.

Kirby's saviors. Literally. Rob and his brother Frank found Kirby and never looked back. Here is Kirby with his cousin, Callie.
Look at young Kirby. I had almost forgotten how many brown spots he had. They turned all white in his later years.
Kisses for Daddy.

My very first picture with Kirby. This was our introduction. He was sniffing me out to make sure that I was a keeper. I'm glad he finally approved.

When Rob and I were first married, we kept my nieces a lot. We loved spending weekends with them and back then Kirby was our only baby. They loved helping us take care of him.

I absolutely love this sweet picture.

Me with our Kirby

Rob and his sidekick

Another weekend keeping Piper and Emmie. We loved to take them on long walks with Kirby.

Piper always had a special bond with Kirby and always wanted to take care of him.

I think Meg may have the hardest time of anyone now that Kirby is gone.

Trying to get a family Christmas card picture when I was 7 months pregnant. Meg was completely rowdy and Kirby, as always, was gentle and cooperative.

Introducing Kirby and Meg to baby Bennett

These two were about as close as dogs could be.

Party animal

Piper found her favorite pillow.

Please guys, I'm too shy. No pictures, please.

So long, Alabama. We're Kansas bound.

Piper saying good-bye to her cousins.

I am SO glad we have this picture. This is how I will always remember Kirby. Mid howl. The hound dog in him just loved to howl. It was awesome!!

Best friends.

Here's Bennett at 14 months. Petting Kirby was one of hr favorite things to do.

Me and my Dad walking our sweet dogs right before Will was born.

Sutton and Emmie with their doggie cousin. They loved playing with him.

My Mom on the other hand tolerated him. She doesn't like dogs at all, so of course, Kirby would always seek her out and lay by her, much to her chagrin. :-) I think she secretly loved him as much as the rest of us did.

My first baby.

Kirby survived three Kansas winters. We didn't know if this Southern dog could make it through one. But he loved the snow and loved to play in it.

Rob and his dog.

Our sweet boy.

Having a staring contest with Will. I have no doubt that Kirby won.

This picture was just taken less than 2 weeks ago. This is usually what you will see at our house when the kids are outside playing. I can't believe how recently this picture was taken. We had no idea what was about to happen.

Morning hugs and kisses with Kirby. Our normal family ritual.

Our last picture as a family with 3 boys and 3 girls. We miss our Kirby so much already. It's not the same without you here, old fella.

And finally, our all time favorite picture of Kirby. Hanging out on a jet ski with Daddy on one of our many trips to the lake. This is how I want to always remember him.


Lisa said...

We will miss him too! So, so sorry!

Unknown said...

Sorry for your loss friend.

Love y'all.

Perri said...

I thought I could make it through your whole post, but I couldn't because I was sobbing about half-way through. The same thing happened to our Zim last March. 8 days after our son, Noah was born. So, I just wanted to say I feel your pain =)

starnes family said...

Well, I can't say anything snarky or the least bit sarcastic now.

Because I'm tearing up! :(

Sweet, sweet story. So sorry for your loss.

Caroline Armstrong said...

Oh Lauren I am such an animal person and since the day we got our first dog I have been dreading the day we will lose him. This makes my heart hurt for you!!!! There is NOTHING like a dog. I remember this picture I wanted to buy once that said:
"I want to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am"
always loving, always loyal, always so happy to see you no matter what. I am so so sorry.

Caroline Armstrong said...

Oh Lauren I am such an animal person and since the day we got our first dog I have been dreading the day we will lose him. This makes my heart hurt for you!!!! There is NOTHING like a dog. I remember this picture I wanted to buy once that said:
"I want to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am"
always loving, always loyal, always so happy to see you no matter what. I am so so sorry.

Shannon said...

What a sweet dog! You forgot to mention that he was also incredibly photogenic! Seriously, all the pictures are so cute and what great memories. So sorry for your loss (and Meg's too)!

terrymary said...

We will miss Kirby too. I still remember keeping him years ago when Rob was out of town. His picture is still in our spare bedroom. God bless Kirby the Wonderdog!

Donnie Manis said...

Lauren, this was so moving I can't even describe it. I never even met Kirby and now I miss him. It's so cool that you have created this tribute that you, your family, and everyone else can read for years and years - especially with all the pictures. I know it was unbelievably difficult, but well worth it.

God bless y'all as you work through this time.

Anna said...

Oh break my heart all over again. To say I understand is an understatement. I am so very sorry for your loss of your sweet boy Kirby. What a beautiful post in memory of him. I am pretty sure he & abbey are enjoying themselves together. :) The pictures are wonderful. Your family will be in my thoughts & prayers these next few weeks of transition. Love to you all!