My dog's name was Kirby

My dog, Kirby, died today. She was 15 years old.

She was born on December 14, 1990 in Marcellus, New York. It was a cold winter's day. Her mother's owners weren't good pet owners, exampled by her mother giving birth to the entire litter outside in the snow. She was the runt of the litter.

I knew a girl whose sister and mother lived upstate, in Marcellus. They asked me one day if I wanted one of the new puppies from next door, "reminding" me that I mentioned I wanted to get a dog. I don't recall making such a declaration, but I told them I'd think about it. They wanted to help get the puppies good homes because the owners were negligent. A day or two later I told them I'd take one. They could pick whichever one they felt would be best for me.

I had never owned a dog before, although my family had several cats around my high school years. The cats always ran away or died before a year. My mom had never really wanted a dog, with the extra responsibilities that go with dogs as opposed to the more self-sufficient cats. I was living at home, but decided to not tell my mom the puppy was coming, to not give her a chance to say "no." I was also working at home half the time, so the timing seemed pretty good.

The puppies were too young to be taken from their mother, so I had some time to prepare. I bought a large cage (for cage training), dog bowl, rope bone, and other mandatory pet supplies. I couldn't keep them at my house, for fear of tipping off my mother, so I kept them at a friend's house.

I explored all sorts of names for the dog while at work. I had a big list of cool sounding names, and even some goofy ones like that can't be said like "!" or sign language for "dog."

The girls and their mother told me that they were going to bring me the puppy named "Elmo," who was the biggest of the litter. I enjoyed the coincidence of Elmo sharing the same name as Elmo Lincoln, the first man to ever play Tarzan in a motion picture (and who saved the live of the first Jane when a lion got loose).

I first saw her when she was five weeks old. I threw out all the other name possibilities and called her "Kirby," named after one of my favorite comic book creators, Jack Kirby. Kirby had worms, so I didn't bring her home right away. After getting some medicine from the vet, she stayed at my friend's house for a day or so.

I snuck Kirby and her gear into the house late one night. I didn't want to wake up my mother before everything was ready. Although the cage and bed were set up, Kirby slept in my bed that night.

I wasn't feeling that great the next morning. My mom was talking to me in the hallway about something, and I brought her to my room telling her I had something to show her. Mom saw the cage, and the puppy, and Kirby's toys, and was a bit peeved about a dog coming into the house without checking with her. "You're going to take care of her! I won't love her!" is what she said, but I couldn't pay much attention because I had to go to the bathroom to throw up. Mom eased off a bit, since I was sick, and started prepping the house for doggishness. My mom quickly fell in love with her. There was no resisting such a cute puppy!

I didn't know it at the time, but one of Kirby's siblings died. They found the puppy frozen to the front steps. The puppy's mother was standing over her, licking her, trying to make her well.

As Kirby grew up, I brought her with me pretty much everywhere. I brought her to visit my friends' houses, to parties, to relatives' homes, to the beach, to random parking lots. She was small, but a bit a bit feisty. She would never back down from any bigger dog. The dogs she met seemed amused by her barky in-your-face attitude. But she was always friendly, and never vicious. She was always gently, gingerly, took food from your hand when offered. I used to say that you could put a baby's head in her mouth and not be afraid.

When I sat cross-legged on the floor, she liked crawling into the lap-hole and falling asleep. When she got bigger and heavier, she continued trying to sleep in my lap whenever I sat on the floor. Eventually I had to just sprawl my legs in front of me and just let her lie down between my knees.

She loved having her butt scratched, more so than reasonable. It may have been related to some flea allergies she had. Those times she had fleas, she scratched and nibbled endlessly, giving herself raw spots and little cuts.

She loved going out for drives in the car. I quickly realized that she could only travel in the back seat, since when I allowed her in the front seat she'd try to come over and sit in my lap. While I was driving.

Kirby loved chocolate chip cookies, and who could blame her? The barest scrape sound as the top came off the cookie jar on the other side of the house had her racing into the dining room for a treat. Chocolate's not good for dogs, so I'd nibble off the chips and give her the leftover doughy parts.

I taught her some basic commands, and on a lark tried teaching her some sign language. At one point I took her for official dog training. The official training never really stuck, but she never forgot the sign language commands. When she was paying attention, she would obey in two languages.

Two notable reasons why I took so long to move out: apartments were expensive, and I needed one with appropriate dogishness. But there were some good points to living at home, so I didn't mind. My mom eventually got her own dog, named Promise. Promise was a couple of years younger than Kirby, and a complete spaz, as opposed to Kirby's quiet, considered reserve and slight neediness. The two dogs were good for each other, although Kirby played a little less with Promise around. This was because Promise demanded ownership of all toys, and to be the center of attention.

Almost four years ago I accepted an offer for a job in Texas. I wanted to bring Kirby, but I left her in New York with my mom when I moved. I decided to leave her because I was going to be at work all day, and Kirby would be bored in the apartment. Also, Promise would be alone all day, too. Finally, Promise was a scaredy cat but Kirby would be a good house protector if it ever came down to it.

My mom told me Kirby waited at the door for me after I left. This wasn't much different than when Kirby waited for me at the door while I was on vacations, except because I moved I wasn't going to start coming in the door at dinnertime again after a few days.

My older brother moved home for a short while, bringing his big dog Augustus with him. All three dogs got along fine. Augustus was more dog-playful than Kirby, so Promise and Augustus ran around the yard together while Kirby hung out with Mom while she did yard work or laundry or whatever. When my brother moved out again, Augustus stayed. Augustus wasn't a bad dog, but he had to be an outside dog for various medical reasons. Augustus died within a year.

It was back down to Kirby, Promise, and mom again. I would come home for holidays and see that Promise was still a spaz, but Kirby was looking older. Kirby never really bounced, and she didn't like to stand up, but you could see that her enthusiasm was becoming limited to vigorous tail-wagging and butt-to-knee thumping.

Last year, out of nowhere, Promise died. She had been playing outside for a big part of the day, came inside, went into the living room, twitched while making a weird noise, and quickly died on the floor.

I could hear Kirby speaking up in the background whenever I talked to my mom on the phone, but I saw Kirby for the last time during the Christmas holiday season. Her stomach was a bit bloated, and her she lost a lot of muscle tone. You could feel some of the ridges on her spine in a way that wasn't normal at all. Within a month after I left, my mom took Kirby to the vet and found out she probably wouldn't live much longer. They gave her some medicine, and soon Kirby's stomach was smaller, she regained some muscle tone, and had a bit more spring in her step.

On Saturday, Kirby's health took a turn for the worse. She couldn't stand up any more. My mom made plans with my brothers to bring Kirby to the vet, but we all pretty much knew that Kirby could not be made well again.

My mom and brothers brought Kirby to the vet today. They said she was in pain as of this new development, and wouldn't survive long. Kirby died around 1:00pm Eastern Time.

Snapshot of Kirby and Promise

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Read Comments (6)

Gil commented at 7:21 AM on June 7, 2005:

I'm so sorry Keith. I know how you must feel.

Joey commented at 10:20 AM on June 9, 2005:

I know we spoke on the phone the other night but I was wondering if you remember that time you, Dina, and myself took the dogs on that hike in Islip. The dogs (Kirby & Chelsea) jumped into that mucky bog and when they came out they were covered in black smelly sludge. I distinctly remember not being able to tell Kirby from Chelsea for a second (Kirby had blond hair and Chelsea had brown). So than we came upon that public pool and I lifted the fence up so the dogs (and us) could get under it. We turned that kiddy pool water black when we were done cleaning the dogs. Only to have them jump in that bog again on the way back to the cars.

It's hard to believe that was almost 15 years ago. I think she lived the longest. I know Clyde died a few years back and although I don?t know for sure (I didn't get visitation rights after the break-up), but I'm sure Chelsea has past on. She wasn't all that healthy when she was pup.

Ill say a prayer for Kirby

Shawn commented at 4:45 PM on June 9, 2005:

Kirby looked progressively worse as the day passed. She couldn't wag her tail or move her back legs. The vet said Kirby's liver swelled so much it cut off her circulation. She would soil herself and looked embarressed, because she was such a well behaved doggie, She turned her head away until she was clean. Her eyes, the night before, were reasonably bright, but that morning they were grey and watery. She still looked happy to be in the company of her people friends.
We took her carefully to the Vet, who was very kind and compassionate, and took her on a dog gurney to the room. While she was being tranquilized we all petted her and gave her words of appreciation and love. She didn't look scared at all, as animals at the vets usually are, she looked tired and accepting of our attentions. She passed on peacefully without any sign whatsoever of discomfort.
I am so sorry for your loss, you raised a wonderful animal that was a reflection of your personality in the best possible way. No animal companion could be as good as Kirby was. She was one of a kind and perfectly behaved, with the most endearing temprament. I will miss her laying on my lap and licking every possible surface she can reach.
She had a low key burial with her favorite toys and now rests with her animal friends.
All condolences,

Eric Johnson commented at 3:01 PM on June 14, 2005:

I remember Kirby and Promise were guests at one of our parties in the Commack house (some of our parties had more canine guests than people). Promise was in her teenage, thinks-shes-invincible years, and decided to pick a fight with her mentor, Kirby. Both dogs stood up on their hind legs and engaged in a battle for the ages. Keith's enhanced the thrill for the spectators by humming the battle theme from The Gamesters of Triskelion
The rest of us placed bets on the outcome (denominated in quatloos, of couse). Kirby was ultimately the victor, and she was rewarded with one of the left-over burnt hot dogs from the grill.

You were an icon, Kirby....both literally and figuratively. You will be missed.

Jonathan commented at 2:41 PM on June 20, 2005:

This all reminds me of the saddest Futurama episode, where Fry finds his 20th century dog in a museum. It makes my eyes well up, too.

I am sorry for your loss. Kirby was a great dog.

Nobody commented at 4:26 PM on June 20, 2005:

Jonathan, thanks for the condolences.

That Futurama episode you mentioned was perfectly written. Although it had a healthy amount of humor to it, it was one of the saddest cartoons I have ever seen. That last shot always gets to me, where the aging Seymour closing his eyes while waiting for Fry to return. Chokes me up thinking about the parallels between Fry leaving his dog and me leaving mine.

I told my girlfriend she shouldn't watch that one if it's on. I have a friend who wants to become powerful enough to bring Futurama back for new shows just so he can re-write that episode's ending.

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