Category Archives: dogs

Unconditional Love – Remembering Kira

Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them
Thom Jones

Three years ago, on Blue Monday 2019, I saw a scruffy and forlorn German shepherd staring out at me from a Rescue site on Twitter, and I knew in my soul she was already a part of me.

She was advertised as a five-year-old with issues and EPI, a life-long health problem. We spent a couple of weeks persuading the Rescue centre she should be ours and on 10th February she was.

From rescue centre to our home… February 2019 © Lisa Shambrook

Her age ended up being fairly ambiguous, as she’d been advertised as five for two years on social media, so it was more likely she was around six or seven when she got to us. She’d been rescued from a home of neglect when she was three, so her early years were troubled, and then she spent at least two years in a rescue kennel miles away from anywhere and pretty much alone. She was fostered and rehomed several times, but always returned because her anxiety was too much to deal with. Nicola, a foster carer, did her best to save Kia and gave her love and training, but wasn’t able to keep her. A year later Kira came to us, her forever home.

We thought we’d have longer with her, not even three years, but she filled a lifetime in those few years…

Kira: six or seven years old © Lisa Shambrook

She was a dreamer – always staring off into the distance and looking romantic. She was my soul mate, she was everything.

Kira the dreamer © Lisa Shambrook

We soon realised that her anxiety was too great to be able to walk her locally, she was too reactive to other dogs, so it was off to the forest and she loved it there. Like us she loved solitude and the purity of nature.

Out in the wild © Lisa Shambrook

Flowers, they were as beautiful as she was. I could never get over how pretty she was, she blew me away every time I gazed at her. She was like the stars in the sky, the flowers in the hedgerow, the water flowing in the river, she was uncontainable.

As beautiful as the flowers © Lisa Shambrook

There was a gentleness that only we saw. She saved it for those she loved and felt safe with, and there weren’t many people in her life that gave her that. She was a teddy bear, a soft cuddly baby, and a dog that loved with everything she had when she loved you. She only trusted a handful of people in her life, and if you were one of those, you were truly privileged.

Happy and content © Lisa Shambrook

She was never happier than when she was out exploring. She always walked at the furthest point her lead let her, but if you took her lead off out on a walk, she panicked. She needed to stay connected and it gave her security and comfort.

Walks and wonder © Lisa Shambrook

Kira loved her cuddly toys. Elephant was her first and favourite with us. Kira’s toys were generally not for playing with, they were for comfort. She decided what happened with her toys. If we tried to take her indoor toys outside, she’d shake her head at us, and immediately take them back indoors. She wasn’t one for fetch either, throw a ball and she’d stare at it then back at you, and ask why?

Kira and her beloved toys © Lisa Shambrook

The day it snowed on New Year’s Eve 2020 was one of her best days! She loved the snow, eating it, catching snowballs, and racing about with us in it. It was beautiful, and her smile says it all!

The best snow day ever © Lisa Shambrook

Back in Brechfa she was her true spirit, a fae of a dog, a forest dweller, and a creature of magic

She had a wild heart that filled you with wonder.

At one with nature in Brechfa Forest © Lisa Shambrook

Then it all went wrong. She slowed down a little, but at what we thought was nine-years-old dogs do get a little slower. She had an ear infection, which got sorted at the vet. Then in September she started reverse sneezing, didn’t seem much to worry about, but it didn’t go away. In October it got worse and she began coughing. The vets were lovely, Kira’s a very difficult dog to take to the vet due to her high anxiety and panic, but the vets saw her outside and dealt with her with incredible care. At first we thought she had kennel cough and she was treated for that, but it didn’t get better. She lost her voice, lost her bark, and I knew something was really wrong. Kira was a chatty dog that talked all the time, and now she couldn’t.

Wild at heart © Lisa Shambrook

After six weeks she had scans, x-rays, and a biopsy. At the back of her throat was a mass. It was an aggressive malignant salivary gland tumour. We were devastated. We hoped we’d have longer with her, but eating became difficult. We gave her tins of salmon, her favourite, until one day she couldn’t eat anymore, and the tumour was too large to allow comfortable eating and breathing. We knew the time had come.

After we knew © Lisa Shambrook

Sunday 14th November was the hardest day, and she passed peacefully away in our arms.

Our hearts broke but we let her go to run free in far flung fields, and to find Roxy who would mother her like we did. There is nothing like the pain of losing your soul mate.

Kira: 2012 – 2021 © Lisa Shambrook

She is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog.
You are her life, her love, her leader.
She will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of her heart.
You owe it to her to be worthy of such devotion.

– Agnes Repplier

Kira: always smiling © Lisa Shambrook

Kira – our German Shepherd – May 2012 – 14th November 2021

When your Dog is your Soul Mate

No one can fully understand the meaning of love
unless he’s owned a dog – Gene Hill

When Your Dog Is Your Soul Mate - The Last Krystallos

We often find parallels in our lives with each other, but what if it’s with your dog?

My dog, Kira, loves deeply, has panic attacks, is needy, anxious, and completely unsure of herself and I seem to have chosen a dog that I mirror to an extreme extent.

Lisa and Kira - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

They say you shouldn’t/can’t *project human emotions onto a dog, but if there is ever a dog that is me – it’s Kira! Dogs, animals, can often have psychological issues. Maybe I have an autistic dog? Who knows?

Anyway, although we have similar physical issues with daily meds and needs, and that might have been what drew me to her, I had no idea we’d mirror each other so completely.

Kira and me April 2019 - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

It’s strange and revealing watching reactions to her knowing I conjure so many of the same ones. I know I overshare a lot, and if she could be understood I’m pretty sure her constant vocalisation would be the same. She trills, purrs, whines, and chats all the time. She and I need to be heard, to put our thoughts and emotions into words. We need constant reassurance. She needs to feel our love even when we’re so loving she cannot possibly misconstrue our affection. She doesn’t always do as she’s told, or follow demands, because (and yes, I’m guessing) they don’t always seem common sense to her – they often don’t to me, but, like me, she tries to please to an extreme degree. She’s well trained and conditioned, but needs to reach out of it to find herself. She struggles to let go but when she does she’s a free spirit and bounds through the forest with utter joy and thrill!

Kira GSD - Brechfa Forest - May 2019 - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Kira is scared of people and dogs. Her fear of other dogs, her own species, is so ingrained, so great that it instantly throws her into a panic attack. I understand panic attacks. We’re supposed to be training her with dog exposure, to normalise it, to show her other dogs aren’t a danger, and to a degree we are. But I cannot ignore a full blown panic attack and just leave her in the situation that fills her with terror. And possibly this is our closest moment – needing reassurance. Ignoring the panic lets it continue, growing into a monster she cannot control, but as I hold her, and soothe her, and stroke her, she calms. She does what a child in fear does leaning close, crying, needing that contact, that assurance, and the comfort softness gives. I know, because I’m the same.

My pup obsesses with her toys, loves routine, is triggered by specific small noises, and loves with complete abandon. I think we’re twins!

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole - Roger Caras - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Kira is at her happiest when she’s with the people she loves, she doesn’t need anyone else. I laugh, because that’s been my ethos for forty-seven years! Her complete acceptance of us when we collected her and her immediate love and affection was a surprise as we’d been told she’d be slow to trust, but she met us and we became hers.

When people visit, her anxiety rises (I don’t do well with visitors either). I’m not sure she’s barking and protesting the visitor to protect us, but more to protect herself. She’ll calm around people who are more familiar, but with amusement it’s noted, that as she sniffs about them quite happily, until she realises they’re making eye contact or even daring to talk to her, she’ll spike, jump back, and bark again. When people she doesn’t know are necessary and they show authority she’ll give in and accept them, but only because she has to. Back again, with the only ones she needs she’s secure, content, and relaxed, brushing against us like a kitten craving attention, purring like a tribble, and loving like she’s been deprived.

She’s had love in her past, beautiful love, but it’s taught her that she only needs those closest to her, and breaking that cycle is something I’ve never been able to do in my own life, let alone hers!

Kira GSD - May 2019- The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I think we exist in the same bubble. I worry that I overshare, that people will tire of me, that I’ll be too needy, that I’ll do things wrong – say things wrong, that my anxiety and strangely wired brain will push people away, and that despite every single proof otherwise that love will be fleeting, floating away on the wind where I can’t catch it.

I know much of my dog’s behaviour is the same as normal dogs, you’ll recognise it in your own pup, but it’s the detail, the utter symmetry of my life and hers that throws me into wonder. I’ve spent my life fighting my mental health, my debilitating sensory issues, extreme empathy, panic, depression, and anxiety. I’m still battling them, waiting for adult autism assessment, for recognition and acceptance. Like Kira some of my issues won’t ever change, and they can’t, and possibly shouldn’t, be trained out of me, because they are me.

Kira and me April 2019. - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I wasn’t even looking for another dog after losing our beloved Roxy last year, and I have no idea why a passing Tweet from a rescue centre I didn’t even follow caught my eye back in January, a short, one-off tweet about a dog with problems needing a home, and people to love and love her back – but it did. They sometimes say dog owners look like their dogs, it appears Kira and I are much more than that, we’re soul mates, and we were meant to find her. I thank every wheel that was ever set in motion to make this happen, you know who you are.

Finding those you love and who love you back with no barriers
and no boundaries isn’t easy, but it’s what makes life worth living.

A dog smiles with its whole face - ears, eyes, nose, whiskers, mouth, tongue - Pam Brown - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

*My brain needs to add a caveat for those who will shrug, or mock, or claim I shouldn’t push human emotions onto a mere dog. I truly believe animals can think than more than we can possibly imagine, and seeing as we cannot ever know their thoughts, don’t try to shame me. A dog’s love and empathy is inherently deeper and more totally committed than a human is, and maybe, just maybe they are much purer and greater than we will ever be.