They love us unconditionally, enriching our lives and giving us far more than we can ever give them.
And when they pass away, they leave a hole in our hearts.
Sometimes, the best therapy is to share their stories with others.
By popular demand, the Herald-Leader again offered bereaved pet owners the opportunity to pay tribute to their deceased pets. We received more than 50 tributes, far more than we can print.
We picked the most touching tributes from Central Kentucky families — including one family that lost two beloved pets this year — to share here and in the Herald-Leader.
As we say goodbye to 2008, pause to remember the pets who made the year unforgettable.
She left us so fast —
Just three weeks after
Her sister had passed.
The color of red merle,
Like fudge ripple ice cream.
Eyes of amber and brown.
Beautiful Aussie girl.
She was a Velcro friend,
Herding from room to room,
Even into the bathroom.
On that you could depend.
A week ago today
I sensed something was wrong.
She collapsed at my feet,
A scene I'll long replay.
It was cancer, you see.
A type that was quiet,
Doing its dirty work.
Well done, despite our pleas.
Who would have ever guessed
After thirty-five years
We'd lose two in three weeks?
But our lives have been blessed.
To lose our canine friends
Leaves a hole in our hearts.
Grief will lessen with time,
But our love never ends.
Quinn and Corliss West
Died: Oct. 14
It was August of 1991, time for our son to pick out his new Jack Russell puppy. He couldn't resist the runt. She commanded control of the litter and my heart too.
Once home, Midge took over, parading through every room as though she owned it. She wasn't an easy pup. Obedience was defied at every opportunity as she tore at plants and walls, shook rugs brazenly, and snarled like a miniature grizzly if anyone dared try to get her out from under the couch.
That stick of dynamite was a mama's girl, my constant companion.
Several weeks ago I had to let her go. I miss patting her aged white head and thin body that once bounded through the grass like a prancing deer. Sometimes I still expect her to round a corner tagging along behind me. Memories comfort me. I remember her birthing four puppies from that petite frame, standing on top of me early every morning, whining in my ear to go outside, and always nipping at our son's feet each time he returned home from college.
I don't know of any other dog to have a time-out chair but she sure needed one!
A year ago Midge was having a rough go of it. I laid my hand on her head and prayed for a little more time.
Midge's body grew weary, but her tenacious terrier spirit lives on in Heaven. One day I will be with her again.
I'll always miss you, Little Midge.
Quinn and Corliss West
Mar. 25, 1994—Aug. 11
There has never been nor there ever will be a more special dog to me than my beloved Scottie, Bernard. He came to me almost by accident. He was the last one of a friend's litter. He bounded right up to me when I was visiting. He was 3 months old, a tiny fluffball with huge ears. It was love at first sight for the both of us.
I knew immediately I was taking him home. I went home and puppy-proofed my apartment, went out and bought supplies and brought him home the next day. He waltzed into my apartment like he had been there forever. Everyone loved him. He had a personality that filled up a room.
As the years passed, we grew and lived life together. He was there on my first date with my husband, brought the ring down the aisle at my wedding, was there to greet both of my children home from the hospital, and made me smile on my darkest days when no one else could.
He took a turn for the worse this summer and I had no choice but to put him to sleep. I know it was a gift I gave him, but I was heartbroken. I held him in my arms until he was gone.
I miss him more than anyone knows.
Bernard lived a wonderful 14 years and gave me countless happy memories. For that I will forever be grateful.
Spike, aka "Spiker Bird"
Spike, a blue front Amazon, shared my life for 16 years. Around Spike there was a grand display of life. An unconditional little friend, he was a creature of moods, an endless source of sounds. Quiet often, observing his human flock, a mutual admiration society we shared. He created a warm, bright spot in my heart for the rest of my days. With perches all over the house, his favorite was my knee while I read, listened to music or watched TV, providing treasured memories.
I'm thankful beyond words that when Spike died, I was holding him in my hands. His back was close against my chest and neck as I whispered to him "you're OK, Spiker, you're OK." He cried out five times, each time quieter, and in less than a minute, my little friend, my little buddy of 16 years, was gone.
I have never in my life known such grief — never.
We had a perfect yellow lab named Jake. Dad gave him to Mom, in a basket with a big red bow, the first Christmas they were married. He was their first "child." Then came three more of us, who were real people. Jake loved us all. Mom and Dad said that when our big brother Jude was born, Jake sniffed him and licked him on his little bald head, to welcome him into our family. He did the same when each of us was born.
Jake loved to swim and fetch tennis balls. He loved long walks, and we enjoyed walking with him. He had beautiful big brown eyes, and always looked like he was smiling. We smiled back. When Jake got old, he couldn't do all the fun things he used to. But, that was OK. We still loved him the same. We sometimes used him like a pillow when we watched TV. Occasionally, we snuck him food under the table, as a treat.
Right before he died, Jake's heart, lungs, and liver stopped working correctly. He felt bad all the time. That made us sad. We buried Jake on a sunny day, in our backyard. We miss him every day, especially when we come home and he's not there to greet us. We hope he's happy running and playing in heaven. We hear that in heaven, dog biscuits taste like cheeseburgers, and that Jake can eat as many as he wants without getting a bellyache. We know we will see him again someday. We're glad.
Matthew and Hannah Kluemper
Editor's Note: Matthew, 9, and Hannah, 6, composed this tribute with their aunt, Joan Kluemper, as a surprise for their parents, Kim and Mark Kluemper.
You evil feline. For 16 years you swiped food from others' plates. Oh, the many times you ran through wet paint. The times you threw up on our clothes, and pooped under our beds. You tore holes in our ductwork, robbing us of heat to make the crawl space a winter paradise. You urinated secretly on our gas logs, which upon ignition caused sudden evacuations of the house as the horrible burning aroma gagged our family and friends. You once jumped into the pool, only to shred the arm of the man who was saving your wicked life. When your rule was threatened, you lured unwitting other cats and kittens onto Colby Road to meet their demise. You survived long on your wits and foul deeds. But now, no longer will your sandpaper tongue wake us up at all hours. No longer will we hear your screams of pleasure and pain in the night air. And to the amazement of all, you managed to die in your sleep. We'll miss you, old buddy!
Sweetie came into my life when she was found roaming the streets. Sweetie quickly worked her way into our house and hearts.
Our other dog, Fancy, quickly let Sweetie know who was queen of the house. Smart dog. Better to be second in our house than living on the streets. She would follow me around, always seeking that extra pet or rub.
Sweetie had two goals in life, attention and food. Her food always vanished with breath-taking speed. Seems that Sweetie never forgot her roots on the street, and was always concerned that this meal would be her last.
In 2004, Fancy died. The effect on Sweetie was evident. Anyone who says that dogs do not have a personality are greatly mistaken. Due to her depression, we brought another dog into our house. Sweetie was now the queen of the household.
In 2006, I went through a divorce. Sweetie, more than anything, brought me out of my depression. Seeing the pain that I was causing her by my actions brought me out of my shell, as I could not stand to see her suffer.
In 2008, however, her other life goal was her undoing. I always joked that Sweetie was part goat, as she would eat anything. In late March, she got into something. Vibrant one day, dead the next. I buried her the following day. However, she will always live in my heart, and her spirit will always be by my side, nuzzling me for the next pat or rub.
Richard A. Whitaker
Haley, my love, you hold a special place deep within my heart. A place no one else can fill.
Twelve years together wasn't nearly enough. I miss your sweet "meow-wow," your quiet purr, the satin softness of your fur beneath my palm. I miss the warmth of your body tucked next to mine, the gentle touch of your paw against my cheek.
I should have been with you, not 2,000 miles away when you needed me most. Had I known you were sick, I would never have left. I tried to get home to you, but leukemia snatched you away too quickly. How I longed to see and hold you, to tell you over and over again how much I cherished you and the bond between us. I should have been there, holding you close, as your sweet spirit slipped from this life to the next.
Amanda held you for me. After you were gone, she clipped some of your precious fur to save for me. She clipped all three of your colors: gray, cream, and the purest white, pure as your generous heart, as your unconditional love.
I think about you every day. I look for you in the back corner of the yard, tucked between the clusters of ornamental grasses, your long fur rippling in the breeze.
I will always keep you in my heart, in a place reserved only for you, Haley, my love.
Christy and Kevin Cassady
Aug. 3, 1995—Oct. 30
Chelsey was a brown and tan Yorkie Russell terrier who was small in body, but big in spirit. Her days were filled by relaxing in the sun, lying in wait for snakes and squirrels in the backyard, sniffing for the chipmunks under the flower bed, chasing away the birds, and guarding the house from cats and the occasional poodle. Her evenings consisted of snoozing softly on her favorite blanket, burrowing under the covers in the bed, and snuggling with "Baby" — her snowman squeak toy for which she held special affection.
Our days will never be the same without the soft sound of her feet on the floor, her sharp, excited squeals as she ran down the sidewalk or over the picturesque pastures of Gainesway Farm, her friendly growls as she showered us with sweet, slobbery kisses, and her constant, loyal affection. Chelsey never ran out of love, only time. She will be sorely missed and fondly remembered for all of our days.
Billy and Wyvonna Purvis
Fourteen years together sure passed quickly, didn't they, Bart?
I will never forget: how small you were when you came to live with us; watching you scamper on the floor, too small to hop on the couch but trying; how we played, chasing each other, and then you rolling over for me to rub your belly; and how you would run to meet me at the back door, leaping into my arms.
I remember how you and Mr. Kitty loved each other and how you played for hours. I'll always remember our PAWS class where you trained for your VA visits and the look in your and the veterans' eyes as I lifted you to bed level so you could love each other.
And I will never forget the sick feeling in my stomach when I heard the awful "C" word from Dr. Egan and how tired you became the last year of your life, or following the surgeries, watching the silhouette of your lamp shade headdress as you visited your favorite fireplug before bedtime.
And I will never forget that last trip to the vet and the ride home, me holding your lifeless body in my arms.
I will never forget that you were one of my most trusted friends and loved me no matter what and cheered me the times I was down. I'll always remember you, Bart, and how much joy you brought into my life.
How quickly those 14 years passed.
Ebony Angel Midge
April 26, 1996—Oct. 21
From a very tiny ball of black fur you grew into a beautiful little Schnauzer. Along the way you became a great little friend. You were a great playmate to your best bud "GoLi" until she left us last year. To soothe the both of us, I brought home a little brown schnauzer. You welcomed Buck into your life, took him under your care and helped him learn the do's and don'ts, all the while running and playing with him. You developed a serious health condition that we knew could not be overcome. I made you a promise to be kind when your time came. You struggled so valiantly to be the same as always. But it was not to be. As hard as it was, I kept my promise with a broken heart. You will be missed until, well, forever.
Alexandria "Alex" Clark Neal
Little did we know how much our decision to adopt a puppy from the Lexington Humane Society would enrich our lives. The pup known then as "Daisy" would become the central figure in our house for over 14 years as "Alex."
We adopted Alex in January 1994, which was a very cold time to be trying to housebreak a 4-month-old pup. She did not care how cold it was while checking out her new surroundings; we did, but we survived.
Though not a lapdog, she was as loyal and clinging as any dog, always around us when we were home. The only time she was a lapdog was during the ice storm when we were without electricity and the house was extremely cold. She got in our laps under our covers because she was so cold and nervous and she knew we would take care of her.
Throughout the 14 years in which she was a part of our family, we had many great times and memories which will never leave us. Alex was always there to greet us at the door with her bark and bright eyes.
We cried and said goodbye to our dear Alex — also affectionately known as Ralex, Munch and Stinkie — the last Saturday in May. She was our "doggy daughter" and a favorite granddoggy, too.
We love you, Alex, bunches and bunches and bunches more. And miss you every day.
Memories never die. Alex lives on as long as we are on this earth.
Ron and Karen Neal
Feb. 2, 1993—Jan. 12
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
of giving your heart to a dog to tear
— Rudyard Kipling
Beloved friend, companion, and protector, we know we will see you again because God's word says, in Job 12:10, "In His hand is the soul of every living thing and the breath of all mankind."
As a final gift, she gave us sunshine on a cloudy day.
April 10, 2000—June 3
Darby loved everybody, especially Ashleigh and Elisabeth Walton. They had tea parties with her, played dress-up and put bandages all over her. She loved going swimming in Evelyn and Joyce Sinclair's pool. She loved boat riding and jet skiing. Darby's owners loved taking her for walks and playing with her. Darby was a very good dog.
Helen and Bill Walton
Buddy was my Yorkshire terrier. He lived until he was 14 years old.
Buddy was my companion, friend and pet. I miss him as much today as the day he died.
Buddy shared his love for us. He was my dog during the day but he was dad's dog at night.
It is just so sad how cancer can take away ones that you love so much.
I just wish he knew how much we loved him.
Rest in peace, Baby Bud.
Jack and Marilyn Burton
Casey, we found you at the pound, shaved, sick and malnourished. Although we already had two dogs, your little spirit won us over and we brought you home, hoping to give you a better life. Little did we know how much better our lives would become because of you.
You were a constant companion, quick to give affectionate licks on the nose, and would lovingly put your head on our shoulders and look at us in such a way that we could truly feel your gratitude. We had you nine years, till a tumor took you from us.
On that final day, when your suffering was too great, we took you to the vet and released you from your body. We brought you home and placed you in the backyard, where you rest peacefully. I can see your resting place from the kitchen window, and each morning and night, I say a little thank you for your loving presence in our lives. We all love and miss you.
Terry, Don, Gracie and Buddy
This poem is dedicated to Jodi Girl Rogers, our sweet baby. She came to us as a rescue dog after her owner was murdered. She had been badly traumatized, but became so special to us in the five years that we had her. She actually passed away peacefully in her sleep on the fifth anniversary of her previous owner's passing.
a grieving dog that no one thought would be able to bond with another family,
and her slow transformation to her new life.
soulful eyes and a beautiful silky coat that she loved to have brushed, especially around her ears,
a sweet girl who loved to nuzzle us and lean into our legs when we were standing nearby,
a friend to all our critters who loved sleeping with our old mama kitty and running in the woods with her pal, Joe.
our laughter as she chased a couple of skunks into the woods, who then turned and chased her back out of the woods.
her fear of the dark,
her joy at a sunny day,
and all her unconditional love.
Cheryl and Jim Rogers
Oct. 6, 1994—Feb. 23
A happier and kinder dog you'll never meet. Our Cocker mix loved people — from babies to the older folks — and he shared his toys, his cheerfulness, and his kisses with all. Dom always had a sparkle in his eyes, and he was a dog who could actually smile. He was blessed with high intelligence and the ability to understand and comprehend many, many words. He knew our actions perfectly and could even second-guess us. We're pretty certain that when God created Domino, the mold was then discarded. He was a survivor and fought the battle of Cushing's disease for over six years, two bouts of cancer with chemo treatments, allergies with monthly shots, and hyper-thyroidism. He conquered those ailments, although the lymphoma was returning again. However, even with our help and his vet's expertise, Dom could not overcome the quickly growing tumor in his abdomen which was entangled in his liver and stomach. He was so brave and fought hard for several months. He tried his best to show us his best side and keep us from worrying, but he was growing weaker each day.
On that Saturday, we showed him how much we truly loved him by making that difficult decision. He was a joy for us to love and be loved by him for almost 14 years.
We'll miss you, Domino!
Judy and Pete Johnson
Mya brought joy to my life every day. She was my little angel and will always hold a special place in my heart. She will forever be missed and loved.
Precious and her sister, Roxy, were adopted 15 years ago from a friend of my husband. She wasn't a lap cat like her sister, but loved being wherever you were. She was content to lie at your feet. She would follow me from room to room. When she was younger, she used to fetch milk rings. Her favorite toy was a furry toy mouse.
Precious had kidney disease. Her body just gave out on her.
The phrase "a small dog with a big heart" barely starts to describe Winston. He was so much more. Everyone who had the chance to meet Winston walked away with much happiness, knowing that they had met such a wonderful animal. Winston was my best friend for more than six years and I'm grateful for every minute that I had with him.
Winston was the kind of dog that let little kids pull his tail and ears and then cuddled and played with them. Winston was proof that people and animals deserve all the kindness and respect that we can muster. Winston was the living example that our investment comes back to us thousands of times greater.
Editor's note: An additional tribute came to us from Winston's vet, Kimberly Sears of Village Animal Hospital in Lexington. It reads: Winston was an extraordinary dog, to say the least. He truly loved his owners and was the most pleasant patient. Even when he was having problems, he didn't let it show. He was still a tough, outgoing individual who won the affection of everyone who met him. He will be missed by many.