This is the story of Kirby, a little 7-pound Japanese Chin.
He had his Good Citizenship Certificate and was a Certified Therapy Dog. He was light brown and white in color with large, very dark, sparkling eyes and his only fault was, in the eyes of his owners — he was old.
Kirby was 10 years old and like many people who think animals are disposable, his owners surrendered him to a “kill shelter.” The reason given — they wanted to get a puppy and didn’t want to deal with an older dog who might need medical care.
So here was Kirby on the cement floor of a shelter, scared to death, lonely and not understanding what had happened to his life!
A very nice lady had put her name on all the shelter lists in her geographic area so she would be notified when a Japanese Chin was brought to a shelter. One day, she received a call letting her know about Kirby. She went through all the background checks and references to become Kirby’s new mama.
She lived 2 hours away and made arrangements to pick him up the next day. She called in the morning and was told he was on the list to be euthanized that morning. Oh NO! Apparently word had not reached the workers who do the euthanizing, so she told the volunteer to pull him as fast as she could. The volunteer thought it was already too late, but went back to check. Fortunately, the vet had car trouble on his way to the shelter and was delayed, so Kirby was saved and waiting for the nice lady to pick him up.
The lady took him to the vet and it became apparent that Kirby had either been abused or been in an accident. His eyes were permanently dilated and appeared to have had shards of glass pulled out of them in the past. He had a metal plate in his head from head trauma and was very timid.
The nice lady took him to her apartment and began to make him feel comfortable and heal his spirit. Slowly, he began to trust the nice lady, go with her on trips and enjoy life. The nice lady was diabetic and she was amazed to learn that Kirby was able to “tell her” when her blood sugar was getting too low. Since he had been a therapy dog in his former life, she figured his training involved working with a diabetic. Perhaps the person had died and that was why he was no longer needed.
Kirby and the nice lady, who called herself “mama,” had their first Christmas together and a good time was had by all. The lady didn’t have any family nearby, so Kirby was her family and they spent it together with special treats and meals for both. He got lots of new toys for this first Christmas – toys he loved to play with.
The nice lady worked out of her home, but this particular day she had to travel to meet a client and Kirby stayed at home. He was having a nice snooze when all of a sudden his front door was broken down, firemen rushed in and tore down a wall in the back of his apartment so they could get to gas lines. Kirby didn’t know it, but the apartment complex was on fire.
The firemen paid no attention to him and the neighbors who had been evacuated were being held back by a barricade and police would not let them save the little dog, nor would they do anything to help him. Adding insult to injury, the apartment manager failed to call his mama to let her know what was happening.
The neighbors watched in astonishment as Kirby began rescuing what meant the most to him — his little toys. One by one, he carried them out of the burning building and placed them safely in the grass — far away from the building. He would trudge back into the building to rescue another toy, each time getting dirtier and dirtier from the soot and smoke.
All in all, he saved eight of his new toys and with his last bit of strength, got himself back to the apartment and lay down in the bed on his mama’s pillow. He trusted she would return to get him. Kirby waited and waited and finally his mama did come home. Of course, she was absolutely terrified when she saw what had happened, recognized his little toys on the grass, but did not see Kirby!
She rushed into the apartment to find him, expecting the worst. But there he was — covered with dirt, soot and coughing from the smoke — but very much alive. She was amazed at his courage and bravery in saving his little toys and returning to his apartment to wait for the one he loved more than anything. The neighbors told her how he was ignored by authorities, but how determined and brave he was. He did not receive a citation or medal for his bravery, but everyone who knew him regarded him as a true hero who showed what unconditional love is all about!
Kirby did have damage from the smoke inhalation and it affected his lungs and trachea, compromising his breathing. Kirby lived to spend several more Christmases with his beloved mama and they both learned to love each other even more, if possible.
Sadly, this year will be different for the nice lady. Kirby’s breathing problems finally caught up with him. He began having severe breathing problem as his trachea was collapsing and his lungs simply were unable to do their job. The nice lady consulted two vets who basically said there wasn’t much that could be done. They said to keep him hydrated and comfortable and gave her some medications that might help.
He lay on his mama’s pillow, which was his favorite spot in the apartment. He wasn’t eating or drinking water, so she started to take him to the vet’s office to get some fluids into him. But something stopped her. She could hear gospel music coming from a neighbor’s apartment and a soft breeze started to blow. She rushed back into the apartment as Kirby took his last breath and she could tell him for the last time how much she loved him!
So many people have been touched by this little dog who only wanted love, a memorial fund has been established in his name to help other Kirby’s. If you have an opportunity to rescue a discarded animal, trust that you will be rewarded many times over with the unconditional love of a pet you can’t imagine life without.
Carole Tomas is the owner and president of Pet Pleasers, Inc. She is a graduate of Ohio University and a Charter Member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. When she began Pet Pleasers in 1985, business was conducted Old School via a landline, snail mail and an answering machine the size of a breadbox. No internet, email, text messaging, digital photos, social media or mobile phones! What has remained constant over three decades: Carole’s love of animals and an unwavering passion for professional pet sitting.