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Dream Life in Paris

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Everything about him was shrouded in mystery. Everything from his ancestry to his very parents and even where he came from. He was like a beautiful ornament that we stumbled upon by chance, brought so much joy and happiness into our lives, and left as suddenly and mysteriously as he had come.

He had the color of golden wheat, dark wise eyes, long legs, and a hyper, sometimes aggressive personality. He was barely eight weeks old when we found him wandering aimlessly in the streets, terrified, hungry, and vulnerable. He was homeless, and when we had him examined by the vet, we realized how cruel the world had been to him the few weeks he’d been around.

He must have been born in the streets and later abandoned or wandered off from his family and got lost. The evidence was in plenty: scratches on his face, a sprained back limb, and a scar on his left ear. He was in pretty bad shape and needed three sessions at the vet’s, complete with a week of therapy before we could be certain he was going to be alright. Since he didn’t have any known family or background, naturally, we took him in, and he became a part of us.

Kelly was a mixed breed dog, and as is the case with all mixed breeds, we couldn’t place where he came from. All we knew was that he was now one of us, and the love and joy he brought into our lives was immeasurable. He was naturally a happy dog who had had a rough start in life. But these didn’t dampen his spirit or stifle his ability to love. He demonstrated this from the outset: ever wanting to cuddle, obediently following instructions, and being the center of attention during play times.

As he matured, so did his personality. He had this possessive and protective streak, which was so adorable. We live in this farm home where we got turkey, chicken, and goats. Kelly made a perfect addition to this mixed setting. Once, when six-year-old Petey was attacked by the ever-aggressive Madea, the mother turkey, Kelly was the first to intervene. He was a year old then and was rather tall and big for his age.

The moment he heard Petey’s screams, he swung into action, lunging powerfully at the offending bird and sending Madea scampering for her life. Kelly followed in hot pursuit, tail wagging dangerously, fangs out and clenched. His eyes, usually soft and full of love, reddened and burned with anger. Were it not for Dillion, the farm hand who stepped in to quell the melee, it could have been a fatal fight. Even Petey, the victim, was shaken. It was the first time Kelly’s aggressive, vicious personality played out in the open.

Over time, we got to understand Kelly. He was just an innocent, loving dog that had had a rough start but was eager to prove that he was lovable and could love back. Being overly protective and sometimes dangerous was his way of ensuring our protection and security, and we loved him dearly for that. Each time we had to let people in, we had to remind him to chill, or he’d bark dangerously at whoever walked in through the gate if they weren’t family.

Once, a delivery guy showed up when it was raining. He had his raincoat and boots, and Kelly, appalled by this rather unusual dressing, reacted aggressively. In hindsight, the poor guy was traumatized and resorted to calling in advance in his subsequent deliveries. Could you please keep your crazy dog out of sight for a few minutes? I come in peace.

It was hard to tell whether it was a childhood trauma or an inborn character. We just found it amazing that the same Kelly who scared the living daylights out of strangers could be so soft, so harmless when he’s snuggled up in a cuddle. And boy, didn’t he love those cuddles. Even after he’d turned three and was so big and heavy, he was always alternating between Julia, Levi, Petey Jude, and Lorna, always looking for the softest lap to bury his head in and go to sleep. He loved country music and enjoyed long baths in the afternoon. He was an active dog who loved the outdoors and had a bullish, mischievous streak. He enjoyed chasing the goats around the farm and scaring the hell out of the turkeys, much to the chagrin of Madea, with whom he never got along.

We didn’t have any other pets when Kelly joined us, having buried our aged cat Nexie a few months back, so it was just him. Although we lived on the farm, with time, it became apparent that Kelly was lonely. The occasional dog dates and evening walks were not helping. Once when we took him on a playdate at the Warrens, he didn’t want to leave, partly because the kids spent the better part of the afternoon running around the yard (he was a runner who enjoyed the chase) and partly because Buffy, the Warrens’ dog was a cute bitch of a German shepherd.

Poor Kelly was in love. It took a lot of petting and soothing to get him to come home.

From then on, Kelly grew increasingly restless and was always looking forward to the next date with Buffy. If we had known this restlessness would end in tragedy, we could have increased the frequency of those dates.

One day, I arrived home after picking up the kids from school and couldn’t find Kelly. Instead of being met at the gate by a hyper, over-excited Kelly wagging his tail and clamoring for a hug, we were met with silence. The kids, long accustomed to Kelly’s welcome, got out of the car in panic. Where was he? It was unusual for him not to show up when the car pulled into the driveway.

Petey and Julia quickly entered the house and ran upstairs, frantically calling his name. He didn’t respond. We then searched the barn and goat shed, but nothing. Dillion, who had been working in the shed all along, was taken aback. Where was Kelly? No one knew where he was. Had he run off, and if so, where to? And suddenly we realized where. The Warrens! Since they lived less than two miles away, we drove there in minutes. Rosalind Warren was shocked, but no one had seen Kelly since his last date four days ago. Buffy, who thought we had come with her boyfriend for another date, stared at us expectantly.

The reality that our dog could be missing hit so painfully that Julia and Petey broke down. We went around the Warren home and knocked on neighbors’ doors, asking if anyone had seen a golden, powerfully built mutt with sharp ears. Nothing. Evening was approaching, and there was still no sign of Kelly. That’s when we turned to social media, making desperate appeals to pet-friendly groups to spread the word. Would anyone call us if they encountered a lost dog fitting that description? We also left word with a few animal control agencies in our area just in case Kelly ended up in the streets and was seized.

We had a horrible evening that day. The kids were inconsolable. Levi locked himself in his room and cried the whole night. Petey and Julia woke up with red, puffy eyes the next morning. No one had dinner. How could anyone enjoy a good meal when we didn’t know where our Kelly was? Knowing his aggressive nature, he probably encountered the wardens and ended up in some cage. It was gutting, and we felt guilty for not protecting him when he’d been protecting us all his life.

The next morning, we woke up to a distress call from Dillion. He’d found Kelly lying by the roadside not far from home and could we come down and rush him to the vet? When we got to the scene, Kelly was lying in a lot of pain, half-conscious. There was blood in his mouth, and his breathing was inconsistent and laborious. There was no time to wait, so we called the vet’s office to inform them we were on the way.

When we arrived, Kelly was sent straight to the emergency room. The bleeding hadn’t stopped, and he was barely breathing now. We knew what had happened even before the doctor could confirm. Someone had knocked down Kelly in a hit-and-run case, and he was bleeding internally. It was not yet established the extent of his internal injuries, but one of his limbs was permanently broken, and even if he’d make it, he’d be permanently disabled on his right back leg. It was too much, and we cried until we were sore.

The doctor did what he could, administering intravenous (IV) fluids transfusions and performing oxygen therapy. However, after nearly two hours, he told us that we’d need to say our goodbyes at this point. His spleen was ruptured, and his left lung and liver were damaged. Although the bleeding had stopped, it was clotting at an alarming rate.

Kelly wasn’t going to make it.

The news plunged us into another round of mourning, this time from regret. We had failed Kelly, failed to protect him. It was gutting and traumatizing. When we walked into the emergency room, Kelly lay whimpering softly on the gurney. His breathing had dropped significantly, and it was heart-wrenching to see life slowly ebb out of him. His eyes were tightly shut, and although they had cleaned him up, there were still traces of dried blood on the corners of his mouth.

Doctor Haroldson was most sympathetic, having known Kelly from the time they saved his life when he was a helpless puppy four years back. In their condolences, they said the dog was in a lot of pain, and they would most probably have to euthanize him if it didn’t happen fast. We asked for a final moment with Kelly and were allowed.

The whole family gathered around him, wishing he’d open his soft, beautiful eyes one more time. Everyone was sobbing their eyes out as we petted and kissed him, and Petey, overwhelmed by it all, hugged him tightly on the gurney and wept bitterly. It was a traumatizing scene, one I wouldn’t wish to go through again.

We were given an hour to say goodbyes, but the moment Kelly felt our presence in the room and heard us weeping, he felt a final assurance of love and slept peacefully, never to wake again. Minutes later, after he had died and we’d cried ourselves sore, we gathered around him and watched him sleep, free from pain and suffering at last.

In that tiny room filled with medical paraphernalia, we reminisced about the strange dog that wandered into our lives, and our hearts then left as mysteriously as he had come. It was coincidental that when we met him, he had been beaten and bruised by life, and we had to rush him to Dr. Haroldson to save him. Again, when he was leaving our lives, he ended up at the vet, beaten and bruised by life. Only this time, the blow was fatal, and we couldn’t save him.

He was a cute dog just looking for love, and although he found it in us, we admit it was not enough. He needed a companion of his kind, and he died looking for her. On this, we admit we failed him, and we’re forever sorry.

On the evening of 16th May 2015, Kelly, an All-American mixed-breed canine, was hit and run over by a car after he wandered a mile away from home. He sustained internal injuries to which he later succumbed on the morning of 17th May 2015. He died peacefully, surrounded by his loving family: Jude and Lorna Olsen and their kids Levi, Julia, and Petey. He was four years old.

The family is still traumatized by the tragic and sudden death of their beloved dog, Kelly. Eight years later, they’re yet to heal, let alone thinking of getting another dog. People have asked them why they can’t move on and get another pet.

In their own words:

Kelly was a special dog. He was a poor, helpless puppy who’d probably been orphaned and had gone through so much before he found us. Our meeting was special, one that stemmed from vulnerability, compassion, and mutual, profound love. And that love isn’t something we can transfer from one fur friend to another. It was special and belonged only to Kelly, so we’ll mourn him for as long as we can. People who believe it’s impossible to feel such pain after losing a pet have probably never kept a dog or loved them much to be affected by their death. We’re not ready for another heartbreak yet.”

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Teri O'halo McMahonn

Teri O'halo McMahonn

Writer & Blogger

I’m just like you. I’ve gone through pain in its various forms. I’ve lived with the pain of neglect and abandonment, watched my baby die in my arms, nursed multiple heartbreaks, and buried all my best friends. Like you, I became numb with every blow life dealt me. That was until I realized talking about these unpleasant life realities is a great coping mechanism. By confronting rather than suppressing my suffering, I was able to heal and find acceptance and closure. I’m not saying it was easy. My resilience and strength were severely tested. And yet, “Still I Rise.” That’s why I can easily relate to your current pain, no matter the tragedy. That’s why I’m here to help you cope with it by talking about it. It’d be an honor to have me tell the world your story.

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Teri O'halo McMahon

I help families bring out the beauty and character of their dear ones by writing obituaries, tributes, eulogies and mini biographies that define their legacy. Obituaries that go beyond the usual bland and dull announcements, capturing the essence of their true selves.

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I help families bring out the beauty and character of their dear ones by writing obituaries, tributes, eulogies and mini biographies that define their legacy. Obituaries that go beyond the usual bland and dull announcements that fail to capture the essence of who those people really were.

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