Op/Ed

Clippings: Obituary for a spirited rescue dog

REINA MARSALA KIRKALDY

We lost one of our two rescue dogs late last week, and one of my first responses was to write her obituary. 
If I were a runner or a woodworker, I probably would have grieved by pounding the pavement or starting a new shop project, but my instinct was to sit at the laptop. Plus Reina had a tale to tell as well as a tail to wag, which she did often, except not while being petted. Doing two things at once seemed a bit much for her to handle. 
When the piece was written I figured it would be shared with friends and family on social media, and it was. 
Then I considered that at least a few readers might be considering rescuing a dog. Reina posed challenges that are typical of those from many rescued pets, but she also offered rewards that most often come along with them as well.
Those considering the rescue option should know there are several good adoption agencies, as well as, of course, Homeward Bound in Middlebury. Patience and careful online as well as in-person research, when possible, are recommended — find a good match. Reportedly there is a pandemic shortage, too. 
Please don’t take an animal that doesn’t seem like a fit. Rescuing a dog, or adopting any pet, is a serious, multi-year commitment not to be taken lightly. You’ll sense when the right one comes along. 
This particular tale illustrates one such decision. We believe it came out on the plus side of the ledger, but it had its moments. Here’s the obituary:
—————
Reina Marsala Kirkaldy, 11-ish, scourge of all squirreldom; destroyer of unguarded books, slippers and paper products; enjoyer of rides and walks; slow processor of life’s decisions; and loving puppy, has gone to that place where the treats flow freely and small furry animals move slowly.
Reina, who joined the Kirkaldy family in 2012 after an unknown but clearly difficult youth in Kentucky, finally succumbed on Friday, Dec. 4, to complications from mast cell cancer.
Apparently a mix of pit bull and black Lab, she had been abandoned in a high-kill shelter before being rescued from there by kind local folks. Reina was then picked by the Kirkaldys from a series out of online pictures because of an adorable face and a convincing, if somewhat misleading, description, and then delivered to her forever home in Vermont.
Reina quickly distinguished herself as faithful to her family and distrustful of male visitors, a few of whom graciously accepted our apologies for minor wounds before Reina mellowed with age. 
Reina often obeyed commands and behaved herself when watched, or when not distracted by such threats as our neighbor Steve watering his garden or our other neighbors’ grandchildren playing in their yard, or when she saw cats, squirrels or other dogs when we walked. 
Walks were an adventure with Reina. As her human sister Kaitlyn noted, Reina treated every smell like it was the last one she would ever encounter, thus requiring lengthy investigation. 
A stroll around the block with Reina therefore required everything short of stocking provisions for the journey. At the same time we had to remain alert for the moment Reina saw something she wanted to chase and forgot she was on a leash attached to your arm and shoulder. We also became the owners of the entire neighborhood due to her enthusiastic marking of territory.
Walks also proved to be a measure of her repayment of Reina’s increasing faith in us and ours in her, and her understanding of the new world around her. We could see her gradually overcome the trauma of her years before us. 
At first when we walked she cowered from passing bicycles and children. Reina learned to ignore the bikes, and even if she never fully trusted unpredictable youngsters she no longer considered them existential enemies. 
Reina loved to snuggle, and would express her affection by falling asleep next to us on the couch — after staring at the empty spot for five minutes and pondering whether to take it — and then snoring. Frequent side effects of her digestive tract are best left unmentioned.
Reina is survived by her mother, Kristine; her father, Andrew; her loving two-legged sisters, Kaitlyn and Kiera; her four-legged sister, Crown, who joined the family in 2010; and many squirrels. 
She was predeceased by the one squirrel she apparently caught (we found it expired in the front hallway), an animal whose sacrifice gave Reina a lifetime of hope; and one skunk that to our chagrin somehow made it into our fenced yard and did not survive an encounter with Reina. 
The family wishes all who read this to remember Reina by wagging their tails. 
We really will terribly miss this odd, but lovable little puppy. 

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