In Kiki’s Eyes

She’s 14 years old.  Still active, she is gray in the muzzle; everywhere else she is completely white.  She is the older dog; the wise one.  You can see how her bones ache by how she moves.  It is different from when she swam ten miles behind my kayak without any effort.  But even though different, her spirit is still willing.

This morning at 6:30 when I put my walking shoes on, she is first in line with a toy in her mouth, squeaking it excitedly, unable to contain her enthusiasm for the anticipated walk.  And though it is so hard for her to get up sometimes, and impossible for her to jump in bed anymore, the dog follows me everywhere, at all times.  Where I go, she follows.  For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you lodge, I will lodge.” (Ruth 1:16).

Kiki is vigilant.  Her eyes watch each move I make and they don’t let me get far away.  Sometimes I try to sneak away from her so she won’t move around so much.  I know moving is painful for her.  And because she doesn’t hear so well, sometimes I can.  But most often because she watches me so diligently, her failing eyes catch a glimpse of my movement and when she is sure which way I am going she pushes herself up to move next to me.  When I look down at any given time, there she is next to me, at my feet.

My other dog Kali comes to be petted, but Kiki is just content to be near me—wherever that is and whatever it costs.  It is the nearness of me that she wants.  She does not concern herself with the consequences of discomfort.  When her eyes see me move, she moves with me.  I am so used to her being in that place for all this time that just her presence comforts me too.  It is a mutual relationship.  Her loyalty and blind love keep me in awe.  Her obedience is not to earn my love, for that is already freely given, but it is a result of her love for me and her desire to please her master.  She does not count the cost.  She is always watching and waiting.  Her part is to watch and keep her eyes focused on me.  No matter how she feels, she is with me.  Her eyes see only one thing—her master.

Over time things change.  Kiki becomes unable to take walks anymore, but she is still able to swim.  So in tribute to her I put my walking shoes in the closet, knowing I could not watch her sad eyes when I left her behind, and instead we swim.  Or we just sit outside together.  I watch her now to see where she moves and I follow her.  I change my life to suit hers.  She had done that for so long for me.  It was only right that I repaid that loyalty.

Until the day before she died, she swam happily, like nothing was wrong.  I took such pleasure in watching her do what she loved.  On the day before she died I took her to our favorite swimming place.  I did not know it would be the last time we would be there together and for that I am grateful.  It was the perfect day, sunny, low humidity and blue water.  We had an amazing day together, like nothing was wrong.  And she swam and rolled on her back in the sand.  It was a glorious day set apart for us to be together.

On the day when I would have to put her to sleep, she was so weak and frail and could not move very well.  But when I picked up my keys to take her to the vet, she stood up and followed—for, unbeknownst to me, the last time.  That was Kiki.  Until the final seconds, she watched and followed.  Where I went, she went.  For her there was no other way.

Kiki’s health changed so much over this past year.  But Kiki did not change one bit.   Kiki was a living example of how we are to be with our God: to put our eyes upon Him and to see where He moves, and follow Him.  We ought not look at our comfort or how we feel at the moment, but just follow and enjoy the peace of being in His presence.

There is comfort in blind obedience and knowing that there we are safe and protected.  I knew that if I could only have a part of Kiki’s obedience and loyalty and focus, my life would be so much smoother and it would glorify the One who made me and loves me so dearly.  Just as Kiki’s faithfulness gave me so much, so I would give my Heavenly Father all that I had—just as Kiki did, never counting the cost, watching carefully and waiting.  She followed until she could follow no more.

Maria Vernachio (LCSW; MSW) writes from Ocean County, New Jersey.

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