in memory of PYLA

April 2010


January 1993 - April 10, 2010


The very first day she was rescued by Animal Advocates, Pyla lived up to her reputation as an escape artist by pushing open AAS founder Judy Stone's window and dropping onto the sundeck, jumping off the deck onto the grass, hopping over the fence and taking off. Having no idea where to look, Judy was just putting together some posters an hour later to search for her, when Pyla suddenly appeared in the window again. Having spent much of her first three years tied to a fence and being beaten and yanked by the collar regularly, it was no wonder Pyla wanted to get away. But something about this new place was different, and she came back. There was a kind human here, and friendly dogs to play with.

Pyla was severely traumatized by her mistreatment before she was rescued, and it would take fully five years before she finally stopped her submission urinating.  Once, at the very beginning, she lay on her back in a supplicating posture on Judy’s bed and released a warm stream of urine straight up in the air which she fanned with her pleading tail, spraying the sheets, her tail, the wall and Judy.

In that first month of her new life, Pyla, unused to her new freedoms, got lost on a hike at Lighthouse Park. After several hours of fruitless searching and calling, and sitting in a van full of dogs for several hours in the dark, Judy was forced to give up and go home praying that Pyla would be alright until she could return the next morning. Several hours later in the middle of the night, a very distressed Judy heard the pitter patter of canine footsteps on the deck. Pyla had found her way back to her new home, a distance of over five miles, despite never having been to Lighthouse Park before. 

Pyla loved nothing more than to swim with the ducks in the tide pools at Ambleside and the river mouth at Harbourview Park. One summer night, Pyla and her friend Zipper swam for over two hours, patiently and enthusiastically pursuing ducks in the protected pools of low tide. The ducks, enjoying the game, would tease the dogs by staying just ahead of them, and then taking flight and landing in another part of the little lake whenever the dogs got too close. Undeterred, Pyla and Zipper would turn around and take up the chase again.  When Judy was finally able to coax them out of the water, night had fallen and she took two very tired and happy dogs home to rest.

I met Pyla when we adopted our German shepherd cross Eddy from Animal Advocates and started going for walks with Judy and the dogs she was currently fostering. By that time, Pyla was 12 years old and had been living with Judy for over seven years. I was aware that previous adoption attempts had failed because of Pyla’s extreme fear of men, but for some reason she seemed to accept me. One day at the river, Judy asked me casually if we could foster Pyla for a couple of weeks, as she had many dogs to deal with at the time and thought it would be a nice break for Pyla as she had shown such trust of me. I was elated by the idea, and when I mentioned it to Marie, she agreed!

On Pyla’s first day with us, she came into the house full of enthusiasm, jumped on every chair in the place, and charmed us all, including our elderly and cranky cat and especially Eddy, whose eyes were shining with pleasure. Within hours we were in agreement that we could never willingly give her up, and Marie would come to enjoy a very special devotion from Pyla.  Although I did most of the feeding and walking, Marie’s gentle nurturing manner earned Pyla’s eternal love. Their evening neighbourhood walks together became a precious ritual for both of them.

We learned to speak softly at all times around Pyla, avoid sudden movements, and never, ever, hold her by the collar. We also made her a solemn promise that she would only meet nice men in her new life, and I am proud to say that we lived up to that commitment. To the very end of her life, I would always make sure to raise my hand slowly to greet people at the park, to avoid frightening our special girl. 

Soon after the adoption I found out about Pyla’s stamina when I took Eddy and Pyla on a trail walk and we came to a steep set of about 50 wooden steps. Knowing that Pyla had suffered a smashed femur in a serious car accident some years before, I wasn’t sure if she would be able to do the stairs. I was ready to turn around and go the other way, when Pyla sprinted past us up the steps and smiled down at us as if to say “What’s keeping you two?”

One day soon after that, Pyla swam out way, way too far at Harbourview Park pursuing geese and disappeared around the point into the industrial area. Because she was already hard of hearing, and her unlikely heritage of hound, beagle, and whippet meant that she was not very inclined to cater to humans anyway, it was difficult to have any influence on her from the shore. It did not help my frantic state of mind at all to notice a harbour seal and several boats in the area. When Eddy and I arrived back at the parking lot, after a fruitless and increasingly despairing 45 minute search on the other side over the boulders of the industrial area, there was Pyla, soaking wet and wagging her tail with great good cheer. She had enjoyed another delightful adventure swimming with the Canada geese.

Among my favourite memories are the times I took Eddy and Pyla to Spanish Banks on sunny summer days when the tide was out. What a joy it was to watch Pyla and Eddy running from one sandy island to another in six inches of warm summer water! Ever the responsible shepherd, Eddy would keep a keen eye out for danger, while Pyla’s to-hell-with-tomorrow attitude spoke of sheer delight and enjoyment of the moment. 

When we adopted the black, middle aged chow cross Zipper a couple of years later, our family was complete. Zipper had lived for over four years with Judy, and knew Pyla and Eddy before we did. What a pleasure to see Pyla at 17 and Zipper at 13, crouching down on their haunches to initiate elderly puppy play. 

Getting Pyla in and out of the car was always an adventure. She would get in when she was good and ready, and no amount of coaxing would change things. Sometimes I would wait as long as ten minutes, but I never minded. Pyla had been through too much in her life for me to ever be impatient with her. As she got more ancient, though, she often forgot that she was no longer a yearling and she would take a flying leap out of the car, only to land rather ungracefully on the grass, her legs no longer able to hold her weight. Undeterred, she would get up and happily continue on her way. We became worried about her aging bones, though, and began to park only in specific locations, where there was a curb or a slope that would cushion her landing. Finally, we started lifting her in and out of the car, knowing that while she still hated to be handled, the coming trip to the river would make up for the momentary discomfort. 

In May of 2009, Pyla suffered a serious stroke and barely survived. Her will to live gave her another year of life, and although she listed to the right like a car out of alignment and sometimes seemed confused, she still enjoyed her food, her bed, and her evening walks with Marie. She and Zipper would still get down on their haunches and scamper around the yard for a few playful moments before their morning walk. Zipper seemed to watch out for Pyla more, as if she was aware of Pyla’s illness.

One day, several months before Pyla passed away, I was going through a file of articles on animal rights that I had cut out many years before, and came across a Georgia Straight feature dating from 1997 on grassroots animal rescue organizations. There, to my astonishment, was a picture of Pyla with Judy and her Animal Advocates friends, fully eight years before I met her. Looking at the picture of Pyla as a young dog staring eagerly at the camera, I found myself thinking sadly about how things might have been if we had found her back then and enjoyed a full life with her, instead of just the last five years of her life.

Friends have often commented on how difficult it must be, adopting senior dogs that have had traumatic lives, knowing full well that they will not be with us as long. I always say yes, it is very difficult knowing that our time together will be shorter, but the pleasure of giving them a loving home, plenty of fun and exercise, and a full tummy makes it all worthwhile. Pyla was a wonderful and unique dog, and she gave us far more than we could ever hope to give back. But like Zipper and Eddy, she was a middle aged mongrel when we adopted her, and she stood little chance of finding a forever home.

Pyla's death leaves a pain in our hearts that will eventually fade, but will never heal. We miss her so much.

Eddy's Happy Ending story and videos

You can help to pay AAS's vet and rehab bills so that we can go on doing this for the dogs that have only us. All donations go directly to real animal welfare.

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