Eight years later we still miss Kylie every day. We’ve learned that grief doesn’t pass it doesn’t even fade, it becomes part of you, and at the same time it takes parts of you that don’t come back, and you grieve for that too. There is no “moving on”, it’s just that life keeps going on and pulling you with it, like you’re in a river without a raft so you just have to keep your head above water and hope the current at least slows down for a while sometimes.
Four months after loosing Kylie, Isabella came to live with us. It was too soon. But there she was on petfinder.com, in South Carolina of all places (long story). She had been pulled out of a high-kill shelter and put in foster care over a year earlier by a wonderful rescue group called the Heartworm Project who thought she was probably about nine-ish. And even though she only caught our attention because one of the three photos of her looked strikingly like Kylie, which is probably not a healthy reason, it was not too soon for her to have a forever home.
Yet we had hesitated, then totally backed out, before one of us decided to get on a plane on memorial day weekend to go meet the dog who was quickly dubbed by friends as Hillbillie Kylie, or HBK for short. With a pronounced limp and a jacked-up grill and cologne by R.J. Reynolds, I decided pretty early into our first date that we should try and give her a better life for whatever life she had left. Because even though she was purportedly as much as seven years younger than Kylie, she could have passed for Kylie’s older, less sophisticated cousin from down south. Despite the resemblance to Kylie who was obviously mostly Jack Russell, it was very hard to even speculate what breeds Isabella was. With her tiny head and big tail, her big chest and tiny waist, we said they should have named her Dolly (as in Parton). It was the rescue that had named her Isabella, but it became apparent quickly that name was a little too… high falutin’ for her, so we just called her Izzy, and we decided she was made up of spare parts! And when it was required on official forms to narrow it down to a couple breeds, we settled on Beagle/Corgi.
She was meek at first but willing to be affectionate, unfortunately we weren’t just yet so we discouraged it, which made her kisses become increasingly rare – so when you got one it was special! Then that meekness faded away too, by the way. Izzy is so different from Kylie that soon we saw no resemblance whatsoever between the two, and slowly but surely Izzy carved out her own space in our lives, in our hearts, and in our family.
She was nuts!! A total weirdo but in a totally different way than Kylie’s nutty weirdness. Izzy is funny, but whereas Kylie was the class clown who loved to make us laugh, she did not like it if we were laughing at her rather than with her. Izzy on the other hand was accidentally, unintentionally funny and while sometimes she definitely seemed to know it, she could truly not care less if you were amused by her or not. Izzy loved us, no doubt, but she was very comfortable being herself and letting you know when you being yourself was not pleasing her. She went from being an opinionated but polite southern belle, to a totally empowered, if not a little mouthy, feminist with a strong sense of agency. And we wouldn’t have it any other way!
Izzy had more than strength of character, she was tough as nails! She had so many physical issues that I won’t list here because they did not define her, but more than one of her care-givers called her a medical marvel! She would bounce back from even major procedures like nothing had happened, usually within 24 hours, it was nothing less than amazing. She would roll with the punches and pick up speed! Of course sometimes that was to her detriment which gained her another nickname – Suicide Sally – she had no fear!
She also had no love for other dogs, something she did have in common with Kylie. Our plan had been to eventually get two dogs, so they could be friends and playmates and we could just be their parents. We weren’t looking for that powerful bond again like we had with Kylie; she was our best friend and our whole life, and loosing her was devastating. This time we wanted to have dogs in our lives and care for them, but try to lessen the impact when they leave us (stupid humans). So we made sure to make sure that Izzy got along with other dogs. Her foster mom said she did great, so we told Izzy from the beginning she could be an only child for a year but then we would be looking for a sister for her. However, on the very day that I signed her adoption papers in a vet’s office, Izzy was growling and snarling at any dog that came in her line of sight. It seemed odd but, well maybe she just gets nervous at the vet. But nope. She proceeded to be nasty to any dog she encountered, and about a year later when we introduced her to her newly adopted, adorable little sister, Leeloo, she was not amused. [As a side note, there were some other issues with Leeloo and we felt terribly guilty that we couldn’t make it work. But we did find her a wonderful forever home with a sister who enthusiastically welcomed her into the family.] So Izzy got to be an only child after all! Eventually she did make a few frien-emies with dogs that belonged to our friends so she was willing to tolerate them. But almost without fail Izzy at some point, peed in all their houses (even though she never peed in ours), and typically took over their beds. Or, in the case of Roxie, a boxer mix who was three times her size at least, when we went to see her new house, Izzy got up on Roxie’s bed and just took a dump – in front of everybody!! This was definitely one of her more embarassing habits yet somehow still oddly endearing.
Something she did NOT share with Kylie was a love of snow. Kylie reveled in the winter wonderland whenever she found a blanket of snow on the ground. Izzy just took to the couch, disgruntled, and waited for it to pass. She was also not the sophisticated, seasoned traveler that Kylie was, but she did take a couple short road trips, and was happy to ride along to run some errands. She was just generally content to be at home with us, in fact she was just generally content, and a happy little dog despite her shortcomings, including her shortness. Although when one girl was working most week days an hour away from home, Izzy became quite accustomed to four-star accommodations in the dog-friendly hotel, where she got complimentary breakfast of scrambled eggs and sausage, chauffer service in her stroller, and her own ‘hotel bed’. She was still a little bit country though, so she liked going to the county fair at the grounds next to the fancy hotel, it was like the best of both worlds! And eventually, Izzy became the biggest and best part of our new, post-Kylie world. She made it a manageable place to live and laugh and even love again.