Kaia: A eulogy for you, our sweet girl


3/7/2005 – 11/22/2014

Born in maple sugaring season, you came to us in May, full of springtime joy. Your playful enthusiasm and curiosity were contagious.

Everything was a source of delight.

A root to wrestle with at the edge of a garden bed.

A sunny spot to lie in while surveying your domain.

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Fetching your collar in anticipation of—or to suggest—going for a walk.

A grouse or woodcock to sniff out during familiar jaunts along the driveway and railroad bed.

A spot of pee-mail to investigate and answer by replying-to-all.

A hike up Owl’s Head, Little Deer, Wheeler Mountain, or Lord’s Hill.

The sound of a cracking stick, soon to be thrown.

A training bumper or tennis ball to retrieve. Even a soccer ball would do.

A snowball to catch in mid-air.

A brook or pond to splash and swim in, and to scour for underwater sticks.

A chance to play with Kate, Otis, Toby, and other four-legged friends, familiar and newly met. Submissive friendliness was your usual way, but you learned to stand your ground and give a flash of white fang when someone played too rough.

A two-legged visitor to greet with toy in mouth.

A moment’s opportunity to lick and nudge.

A minute or hour’s opportunity to cuddle in a lap, have your cheeks scratched, and purr.

A wrapped present or gift bag to nuzzle, hoping it was a prize for you: a new toy or maybe a treat.

An empty birdseed sack to grab and run around the yard with.

A meal or treat of any kind. Fingers to lick, preferably bearing crumbs, barbecue sauce, a whiff of cheese, or creamy foam from the top of a coffee cup.

A chance to be a self-packing puppy, jumping into the back of the car to lie on your bed, content in the knowledge that—wherever your pack was going—you were going, too.

For all your enthusiasm, you lived with poise and grace.

Everywhere we went, you attracted attention—partly for your beauty but mainly for your sweet, friendly demeanor. Among those who knew you, you earned a reputation for your intelligence, good behavior, and gentle disposition.

You chewed often on sticks, rarely on toys, and never on things that weren’t yours.

You did not waste your voice, and barked only when suspicious. When other dogs woofed and yapped out of simple excitement, you stayed quiet, watching and listening. Only an eager tail, a prance of joy, or a low, impatient whine conveyed your anticipation.

In all these ways, Kaia, you gave us great gifts. And you taught us great lessons: about play and unbridled joy, about family and affection, about living wholeheartedly, and more.

For nine years, we enjoyed your presence in our lives. Yet, looking back now, we see how much we took for granted, how many times we failed to pause and appreciate all you gave us: the profound ways you affected us and were woven into the fabric of our daily lives. (Even in your absence, we continue to learn from you.)

Your departure came swiftly. One week you were running, leaping, and—sleek as a seal pup and less than sixty pounds—still being mistaken for a nine-month old puppy. The next week, you seemed to be having a minor problem or two that puzzled the vets. Two days later, you collapsed into our laps.

You spent the next few hours doing one of your favorite things in the world: lying on your bed by the couch, cuddled into us, purring. We held you, stroked you, and told you again and again how much we loved you. And we talked with the vets by phone, trying to figure out what, if anything, could be done during the weekend, when specialists’ offices were closed and none of the fancier diagnostic technology was available.

Then, with the same grace that marked your life, you died in our arms: knowing you were loved, without pain or distress, without us having to make the awful decision to foreshorten your days.

We don’t know for sure, but you seem to have had a brain tumor that no one suspected until it was far too late. How we wish we could have protected you.

As we head into winter, our grief runs deep. The house feels strangely empty without your presence, the snowy yard blank without your tracks. Part of our family is gone. We are missing a piece.

You are the first dog either of us has ever raised from puppyhood. We dearly hoped for several more years with you, but perhaps the time never seems quite long enough.

Our sadness, of course, is rooted in the joy you brought us, in our gratitude for your magnificent life.

Thank you, Kaia.

We will carry you in our hearts always.

“Out of birth comes anticipation and imagination; out of death and leaving we are given lit memories and stark sorrow, haloed by significance.”

— David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea


  1. Phillip says:

    Bummer, Tovar. A couple of years back, I experienced that loss too many times, too close together, and of course now I treasure every moment with my current dog, Iggy, that much more… knowing way too well how fleeting these moments are.

    I don’t know whose idea it was, to make us with such long lives fall so in love with those whose lives are so much shorter. There’s got to be a lesson there, if you believe in that sort of thing.

    • Tovar says:

      Thanks, Phillip. It has been a rough couple weeks. I’m glad to hear that you’re savoring your time with Iggy.

      Bizarrely, perhaps, your comment about the relative length of lives reminds me of Tolkein’s Middle Earth and similar fantasy worlds with which I was once strongly enamored, particularly of the occasional tragic love between a long-lived elf and a relatively short-lived human.

  2. Carrie Oliver says:


    She was a beauty on the outside and from your words had a beautiful soul. May Kaia rest in peace (or keep chasing rabbits, whatever makes her happy). A big hug for you.


    • Tovar says:

      Thanks, Carrie. I know she felt happy and safe and loved, if a little confused, in her last hours. It feels as though part of her is still very much here, with us and in us.

  3. Tom Sadler says:

    Your loss is heart breaking, our condolences to you and the family Tovar. We are forever bonded in spirit with our dogs. May she rest in peace and you and the family find comfort in the memories.
    Tom, Beth and Lily

    “With eye upraised his master’s look to scan, the joy, the solace, and the aid of man: The rich man’s guardian and the poor man’s friend, the only creature faithful to the end.” – George Crabbe

  4. Dan Williams says:

    So sorry for your loss Tovar. But this is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing you’ve ever penned in my opinion. A beauty that is no doubt inspired by the beautiful relationship that you had with Kaia. What a touching eulogy. Your words make her come alive again in my mind and I’m sure in the minds of many, just as her spirit stays alive in your hearts.

  5. Elaine Retholtz says:

    i am so very sorry to hear of this loss. I know how much you and Catherine loved Kaia. Wishing you both ease and comfort.

  6. John Wooldridge says:

    Hi Tovar,
    I’ve been through this a couple of times now and it doesn’t become any easier, like you I consider my dogs as family and nothing less. But the sadness of their passing is always surpassed by the joy that they bring to our lives. Thoughts are with you throughout this sad time.

  7. Erin says:

    So much of this is exactly how we are feeling too! Snow on the ground without Leah tracks everywhere. My husband described it as thought a hum that was once a normal sound in our lives is now gone and life has gone quiet. Leah was only 5 but those years were filling with adventures, laughs and lots of great memories.
    Sending you lots of warm thoughts and hugs as you go through this transition as well.

    • Tovar says:

      Thanks, Erin. I hoped this would speak to you and others who have experienced, or are experiencing, the same. So sorry that you lost Leah, especially so young. Warm wishes and hugs right back to you.

  8. Donal says:

    Thanks, Tovar, for sharing Kaia and your touching words with us. They capture so well the radiance of spirit and shared soul we felt also with our dearly departed Tipper. Irreplaceable as such beings are, we are searching again to add to our family. And so life goes on!

    • Tovar says:

      Thanks, Donal. I hope you find a wonderful new family member. Though I don’t know when we’ll seek a new pup, I imagine that is in our future as well.

  9. Ruth says:

    i’m so sorry for your sudden loss. There are no words I can offer that will ease the pain the loss of a family member brings. You were blessed to have such a beautiful friend.

  10. Sarah Albert says:

    That’s beautiful, Tovar. It’s good that Kaia was able to enjoy life up until the end. Toby & I have happy memories of time spent playing with her. You & Catherine have been in my thoughts.

  11. Paul Roberts says:

    A wonderful eulogy, expressing such richness and loss. They never live long enough. So sorry to hear, Tovar.

  12. Ingrid says:

    Dear Tovar, I know we connected earlier but I hadn’t yet read this touching post about your girl, your beautiful, four-legged companion Kaia. I always think of our fellow beings as conduits of light and love on this earth … touching the ethereal where we humans sometimes cannot. I know it’s difficult to capture the fullness of spirit that was and is Kaia, through the human design of words. In the end, for all its consonants and constructs, language is still limiting, isn’t it? Yet *your* words — through your heartfelt tribute — guide the rest of us on your journey. We get to feel her effervescence, even if momentary, condensed in time and place by your truth. I can see a glimmer of Kaia in the way you understood her. And in that process, I can imagine the goodness you knew while she was here, paws tracking in the snow … and the depth of your loss as you miss your cherished friend and family member. My sympathies to you and Catherine, I am so sorry. Kaia left her mark of sweetness on this planet. It just has to live on.

    • Tovar says:

      Thanks for your kind thoughts, Ingrid. I’m glad these words give you some sense of who she was, and who she remains in our hearts.

  13. I’m sorry. 🙁 It’s a huge loss, and you’ve paid a beautiful tribute to her. Dogs aren’t just dogs, they’re family. She was beautiful. We lost one of ours a few months ago and I’m still looking for him from time to time.

    We are hugging our 14 year old black lab more than usual, allowing him to act like a puppy in the house rather than “save it for outside,” and putting a blanket on him at night because he gets cold easily.

  14. Torsten says:

    Dear Tovar,
    I´m very sorry and sad to read about Kaia’s departure. You have all my empathy.
    Since Eska was 8, I tried to prepare myself for something like this, seeing other big dogs fading. Now she is fifteen and deaf. So you underlive my future, the future every dog owner has.
    I hope, when the first grief is gone, you will remember all the good times, the days she made you proud, the minutes she made you laugh and the moments she made you happy.
    Run free, Kaia!

    • Tovar says:

      Thanks, Torsten. Yes, Kaia will always be with us in important ways and will always be remembered with great affection.

      I’m glad Eska is still with you.

  15. Richard says:

    I know it’s sad to lose a family member. You have my sympathy!
    I lost my first English Pointer, Calvin, to cancer, and we had to have him put down. The whole family and my hunting buddy’s were there, and then we took him up to our National Forest hunting grounds, and buried him. Hope you realize how lucky you were to have her go peacefully.

    • Tovar says:

      Thanks, Richard. Sorry to hear about Calvin. You certainly honored him. And you’re right: she and we were very lucky that her passing was so peaceful.

  16. Pam says:

    Your tribute to Kaia is so beautifully written….thank you, for you have helped Will and I articulate our own feelings about our dear Mojo loss. The love of a dog is so pure. They don’t have an agenda, nor they they think about their past or future….they offer to come with us, and ultimately do so with an ever present love in every moment they have with us.

    I feel blessed to have met Kaia, and to have spent that bit of time with her recently. I saw so many of the things you describe in her in those few moments. She was special, just like her people.

    • Tovar says:

      Thank you, Pam. I’m glad to know that these words have been helpful to you and Will, and that they convey some of Kaia’s special spirit.

      You have been a great source of love and support to us over these past two weeks. We are grateful. It was also good to see that Gypsy pup so soon after we returned to an empty house.

  17. Benjamin says:

    Tovar – you’ve written such a moving eulogy for Kaia. Thank you for sharing with all of us the blessing that she was and the love she brought to your and Catherine’s life, and to all of us who had the good fortune to romp with her a bit. To one great writer, I want to share these words with you and Catherine from another great writer, Mary Oliver.

    Her Grave
    by Mary Oliver

    She would come back, dripping thick water, from the green bog.
    She would fall at my feet, she would draw the black skin
    from her gums, in a hideous and wonderful smile—–
    and I would rub my hands over her pricked ears and her
    cunning elbows,
    and I would hug the barrel of her body, amazed at the unassuming
    perfect arch of her neck.

    It took four of us to carry her into the woods.
    We did not think of music,
    but, anyway, it began to rain

    Her wolfish, invitational, half-pounce.

    Her great and lordly satisfaction at having chased something.

    My great and lordly satisfaction at her splash
    of happiness as she barged
    through the pitch pines swiping my face with her
    wild, slightly mossy tongue.

    Does the hummingbird think he himself invented his crimson throat?
    He is wiser than that, I think.

    A dog lives fifteen years, if you’re lucky.

    Do the cranes crying out in the high clouds
    think it is all their own music?

    A dog comes to you and lives with you in your own house, but you
    do not therefore own her, as you do not own the rain, or the
    trees, or the laws which pertain to them.

    Does the bear wandering in the autumn up the side of the hill
    think all by herself she has imagined the refuge and the refreshment
    of her long slumber?

    A dog can never tell you what she knows from the
    smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know
    almost nothing.

    Does the water snake with his backbone of diamonds think
    the black tunnel on the bank of the pond is a palace
    of his own making?

    She roved ahead of me through the fields, yet would come back, or
    wait for me, or be somewhere.

    Now she is buried under the pines.

    Nor will I argue it, or pray for anything but modesty, and
    not to be angry.

    Through the trees is the sound of the wind, palavering.

    The smell of the pine needles, what is it but a taste
    of the infallible energies?

    How strong was her dark body!

    How apt is her grave place.

    How beautiful is her unshakable sleep.

    the slick mountains of love break
    over us.

    • Tovar says:

      Thanks, Benjamin. We called Kaia the “the lover of the litter,” and she was.

      Thanks, too, for the poem. Oliver is a marvelous writer.

      I especially love these lines: “A dog can never tell you what she knows from the smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know almost nothing.”

      • Benjamin says:

        I love that line, too, Tovar, and also the final line of Oliver’s poem, “Finally, the slick mountains of love break over us.” When I read the poem, and that final line, I felt that hope … that the ‘slick mountains’ of Kaia’s love break over you and Catherine, again and again, as a balm for your hearts.

  18. Steve Smolen says:

    a beautiful tribute Tovar to this sweet one – love the pictures too
    Kaia had adoring and faithful companions, didn’t she!
    may your home be blessed with Kaia’s peace
    with much love

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