The Gift of Rally | The Heart of a Dog
I was never a dog person. I didn't have anything furry growing up, only scaly fish, hibernating turtles and tree climbing lizards (all of them were my brother's). But once I became a mom, after eight years of seeing three pairs of big, pleading eyes begging for a dog, I caved in to my childrens biggest wish. They showed great effort by putting in the hard work and earned their first dog by babysitting and petsitting. I won't lie, once we got that energetic puppy it was an enormous adjustment. There were times when I questioned my sanity giving in to my kids. After all, Koa was supposed to be my kid's dog. But she soon became my responsibility since I was home during the day when my daughters were in school.
The day Sami picked out our dog from the liter. Thank you to the Novakovich's who gave us our most special dog!The day Sami picked out our dog from the liter. Thank you to the Novakovich's who gave us our most special dog!
In time I saw the enormous gift a dog brings to a family. Five years after we brought Koa into our hearts and home, Kevin (a co-worker of my daughter and husband) was diagnosed with terminal melanoma. The pressing question was what would become of his faithful companion Rally, his Black Labrador. I surprised myself when I told my family we needed to adopt him.
Kevin's immediate family lived back east. Seven California families stepped forward and raised their hands to adopt Rally. When it came time for them to decide we got the surprising news, our family was chosen. Another gift of a furry friend would soon be arriving.
On October 7, 2010 Kevin's mom Mary and Kevin's dear friend Betsy brought Rally to his new home. At eight years old, Rally was a mature dog but as active as a puppy. Rally loved to lick endlessly to show affection (which meant we had lots of slobbery kisses). He often went under our legs to show he was submissive and it was his constant way of greeting us whenever we returned home. Rally quickly made himself at home which included being a new friend to five-year old Koa. They often played tug-of-war and swam and hiked together. They each gave way to the other, respecting each other's space. Eventually Rally ended up sleeping in our room and Koa moved on to Alli's room which worked out for everyone.
Our dear friend Betsy, with Rally at Santa CruzOur dear friend Betsy, with Rally at Santa Cruz A seemingly remorseful photo of Rally after he ate some of our turkey dinner on Thanksgiving.A seemingly remorseful photo of Rally after he ate some of our turkey dinner on Thanksgiving.
A month after we got Rally we celebrated his first Thanksgiving at our home. We quickly discovered he was a bit of a wild goose. We learned that he still counter surfed to see what delectables were there for the offering. Turned out it was our Thanksgiving turkey. We were sitting down to dinner when we heard a loud 'clang' coming from the kitchen. We caught him in the act just in time before the turkey was consumed.
Rally soon became very attached to me. He became my shadow, following me whenever I moved from room to room. When I sat down to work he would park himself right by my side. He didn't want to miss anything. He loved going for car rides and we figured Kevin must have done the same, taking him everywhere in his pickup truck. Until his last day Rally rubbernecked whenever he saw a pickup truck as if expecting to see Kevin returning for him.
Rally loved visiting his in-between home with Betsy and Andy, where he lived when Kevin was in the hospital. So, when we made plans to visit our youngest daughter in San Diego, we dropped Rally off to stay with them. His stay would extend for 10 days as we would be traveling right afterwards to Cape Cod for my mom's 90th birthday milestone. It would be a long time without Rally who had been slowing down and diagnosed with tumors on his spleen. But his pep was still there and he still wanted to go wherever we went and maintained a great appetite.
While we were in San Diego, in the middle of a loud and crazy football tailgate, I got a phone call. Andy called to tell me that Rally wasn't doing well. I closed my eyes to stop the tears. Soon after the first call I got another, it was Andy again and he gave me the news. After a hearty breakfast and then lunch a few hours later, Rally's legs gave way and he collapsed and died. It all happened so fast. The gift of taking care of Rally came full circle.
Seven years after we got Rally, he died at the home where he stayed when Kevin was sick. He was under the roof of friends, near Santa Cruz, his first home. He died in September, the same month Kevin passed away. Alli and Danielle with Rally on August 12, 2017Alli and Danielle with Rally on August 12, 2017
That evening I was compelled to find a photo of Kevin that was on his memorial program. In that photo of Kevin he was holding Rally with a leash he had made from thick mountain climbing rope and a simple carabiner. I searched the internet figuring it might have been posted by someone. It was. Surprisingly I discovered that Kevin was from Cape Cod. Somehow I thought he was from Maine. We were going to Cape Cod, a place we'd never been before, in just a few days.
I quickly texted Betsy, who put me in touch with Mary, Kevin's mother, and Rick, Kevin's brother. They lived not far from where we were staying in Cape Cod. My family made plans months and months ago to celebrate my mother's 90th birthday on Cape Cod because half my family lived on the east coast. After multiple texts and phone calls with Mary and Rick, we had a plan.
We met Kevin's parents, along with Rick and Maureen, two of Kevin's siblings, at Kalmus Beach on the Cape. When Kevin was younger he learned to sail and swim there with his siblings. Kevin grew up in this quaint seaside town, which must have been the draw for him to live in Santa Cruz. As we picnicked, we heard stories about Kevin growing up, as told by his parents and siblings. We saw pictures for the first time of Rally as a sweet puppy. We'd always wondered what he looked like back then. He was cuter than I imagined though his eyes were the same ones I looked into for seven years.
Toward the end of our visit, I surprised Mary with the rope leash, tied with a ribbon, that Kevin made. It was the same leash Mary and Betsy used when they brought Rally to our home 7 years ago. Kevin was an avid hiker and rock climber, so this leash was so symbolic of who he was. I thought about the knot he tied that was still in place, having never changed a thing. After I gave it to Mary she told me she cut a piece of that rope 7 years ago as a memento, and now I was giving it back to where it belonged. Our eyes both welled up with tears.
It is clear that God's plan with our loving dogs is to risk welcoming their unconditional love into our home with hearts wide open. Their love keeps us in the present, not looking backward or forward but fully engaged in today. Everyday we have to feed, walk, brush, and play with them. Their soulful eyes and their wagging tail greet us with no expectation other than to love us wholeheartedly, unconditionally.
Our family was so blessed to have the GIFT OF RALLY just shy of seven years. He lived a good life, nearly half under our roof. Now he's reunited with Kevin in God's fields - hiking, mountain climbing and racing in the ocean once more.
This is dedicated to my daughter Sami who if it wasn't for her dogged persistence we would never have a dog; to Danielle, who encouraged me to open our home to Rally and loved and trained him; and to Alli, who smothered Rally and Koa everyday when she came home from school. Even though Rally was an old dog he proved to be one smart, loving and playful furry friend to the very end. Special thanks to Betsy and Andy, who were always there for us and Rally, and to Mary, Dick, Maureen and Rick, your son and brother was a very special soul indeed.
Tina, This was beautiful to read. I was so touched to read the story and see the beautiful pictures of Rally with your girls....and our extended family. We are all so blessed that Kevin and Reilly brought all of us together. And, Rally was so blessed to have such a an amazing and loving family. He was a happy happy dog!
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