I got Kiley as a birthday present for my thirteenth birthday. I had wanted my parents to get a dog all summer and after three months of begging they finally gave in. My mother and I went to the Largo SPCA and there she was. My mother saw her first. A tiny yellow lab mix sitting quietly in her cage. Somehow my mom knew she was the one and went to call my dad. I sat in the cage with her and she chewed on my fingers. I felt like I had spent all summer at the SPCA and always left empty-handed. Always teased with the possibility of getting a pet. I didn't want to get too excited incase my parents decided they didn't want her.
My mom came back and said that we were going to take her home. I remember sitting in the lobby stunned while she filled out all the paper work. The vet said she had been one of a litter of puppies they had found abandoned and with worms. She would have to take some medicine for a few weeks but she was the healthiest puppy in the bunch. We got her during the "Dog Days of Summer Special" and she was half off the usual going rate. She would come to be referred to as the best $15.00 we ever spent.
My mom and I brought her to the van to take her home. I got in the passenger seat and placed her on my lap. I told my mom that I had decided to name her Kiley. My mom asked if I wanted to put her on floor for the ride home. I wrapped my arms around Kiley and I said "No, she is my girl, she stays with me". That was the moment that I allowed myself to fall head over heals in love with her. That moment set the tone for our entire relationship.
She followed me around the house, stayed in my room with me while I was drawing, and cuddled with me every chance she got. For thirteen years she was my constant companion. I moved to Orlando to go to college but I never got tired of her jumping on me every time I walked thru the door.
On my way to work one day my mother called me to tell me that Kiley wasn't doing well. She was old and had been having some health problems for a while, and earlier that morning she had fallen over and was unable to get herself back up. I got my shift covered and raced back to St. Petersburg.
By the time I got home I realized she was in a coma. She was still breathing but she couldn't move or open her eyes. I laid down next to her and said "Baby Girl I'm home". She made some faint squeak as if she was trying to let me know that she could hear me. I laid on the floor next to her for five hours. Always touching her so that she knew I was there. I had my arms wrapped around her when she passed away.
A short time after she died I made my first copper plate print. I wanted it to be in memory of her.
Once I moved away to college I was always afraid that I wouldn't be able to be with her when she died. As difficult as that day was, I was so glad that I was there to comfort her in the end. I was there on the day we got her and I was there on the day she left us. Every day in the middle was gift.
In life she always looked out for me and in death I took care of her. For the copper plate I show myself standing over her with my hands behind my back. This is meant to represent that I am protective of her, yet I understand that I have to let her go. The tree of life grows from her and shelters us both to show that life goes on and there is renewal in death.
I miss you Baby Girl.