Story and photos submitted by Heather

Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.
— Anatole France

Kai came into my life almost 14 years ago. I like to tell her that we were destined to be together. She has saved me from dark days countless times, and loved me unconditionally even when I know I didn’t deserve it. She has taught me to open my heart and how to love more deeply than I ever could have imagined. She comforts me when I am in pain, and has given my life purpose. She isn’t just a dog to me, she’s my baby, confidante, therapist, teacher, partner in crime, co-pilot, best friend, protector, and companion. Kai and I are connected at the soul. We are family. I live with PTSD, social anxiety, chronic pain, and have battled depression in the past. With Kai by my side I can get through anything. I have had other dogs before but Kai is special. Maybe it’s because I am so grateful for all that she does for me.

Kai has had chronic environmental and food allergies since she was a puppy, and was diagnosed in June 2016 with Long Nerve Disease. Long Nerve Disease is a degenerative condition that is killing her laryngeal and sciatic nerve for an unknown reason. It causes hind-end weakness, coughing, and breathing issues. It’s a slow-progressing condition, but she will eventually lose complete mobility. Her care to treat the Long Nerve Disease is time consuming and expensive. She’s on many medications and supplements, goes to rehab (massage, physical therapy, hydrotherapy), and has acupuncture treatments. This is all to keep her strong, improve her coordination, and to keep her muscles and nerves communicating for as long as possible.

If that wasn’t enough, Kai is now facing more medical issues. Kai just had eye surgery to remove an eyelid tumor, and is showing early signs of liver and kidney disease. An ultrasound showed bilateral enlarged adrenal glands, and a hyperechoic liver. With these findings, and her most recent blood work, Kai’s vet is suspecting that Kai has Cushing’s Disease. The tests so far haven’t confirmed a diagnosis yet. Since Kai is still a very happy girl I have decided to do whatever I can to find a diagnosis and a treatment. It’s karma in the simplest form- I am returning all the unconditional love and care she has given me all these years.

In the 14 years that Kai has been by my side we have faced plenty of adversity but we always managed to get through it together. I have always put Kai’s needs before my own, and I will continue to do so. I recently lost my job, but besides negatively affecting my finances, I see it as a blessing in disguise, or silver lining. I wouldn’t have caught the early signs of her additional health problems if I was working all day. I’m able to be home to care for Kai full-time. I’m spending quality time with her and making memories. Even though Kai is ill, she is still helping me by guiding me toward my life’s purpose. I went to art school and always wanted to create a career around my passion for art. Coupled with self-doubt and the death of my mother it was a career path I would never get to explore until the need to help my dog was greater than my fear of failure and rejection. I started Freckle Dog (named after Kai) to help raise funds for Kai’s veterinary expenses. I make and sell jewelry and home décor accessories for dog lovers. My focus has been on memorial bracelets, and though it can bring up raw, sad emotions I find it very rewarding to comfort others who have lost a special dog in their lives. I want to honor and celebrate the special bond people have with their dogs. The unconditional love of a dog heals all wounds and our lives are much richer with dogs in it. Not everyone is lucky enough to experience such a relationship with a dog, but I hope to create products and art work to share with those who have been blessed with a special dog in their lives like I have with Kai. It’s all for the love of a dog.