They Come Out That Way | The Kayla Chronicles

They come out that way.

I first realized this was true years ago when my mom adopted a shelter puppy, Heidi. Heidi, a Basenji mix, defined challenging. She was cute and fuzzy with big batlike ears but also very difficult to train, extremely high on the energy scale, and she pretty much destroyed everything she came into contact with. My mom took her to puppy school, repaired things, gave her lots of love...did everything she could think of.

Finally, completely desperate, she gave her to my ex-husband, Matthew, who took her everywhere with him, in his little white convertible Miata, and Heidi turned into a great dog. But it took having an owner who could be with her ALL the time.

Before Heidi, I really thought that dogs were dogs and that I had it all down as far as raising them went. My dog at the time, KD, was a doll. Sure, she was a little obsessive (okay, a lot obsessive) but she was also smart and wanted to please me, so she did what I asked most of the time. We called her our magic dog and she was our first baby.

In case I wasn't convinced by Heidi, fate brought me Kayla. Ah, beautiful little Kayla, with the big brown eyes and the floppy ears and the softest fur. At the time, I was volunteering regularly at the county animal shelter. Another volunteer called me and said, "Can you come get Kayla? She's just been returned for the fourth time and I'm hiding her so they won't euthanize her...come quickly." I hopped in my car and drove right down, plopped her on my lap, and brought her home.

Well, shucks. My dog education had truly begun. Turns out this little eight pound puppy had been returned for biting people's faces. Now, she didn't really BITE, as in drawing blood, but she certainly nipped. ALL THE TIME. She also could scale five foot fences, dig under just about anything, and claw a door jam to shreds in about ten minutes. In addition, she proceeded to dominate every other puppy at puppy school by jumping on their necks and wrestling them to the ground. Spunky, our Kayla.

The original plan was that we'd foster her and then find an appropriate home. Once I realized that with all of her issues she really wasn't going to be adoptable anytime soon, I talked Ron into letting her stay with us. Fourteen years later, she's still here.

We did finally solve the biting problem (a squirt of water from a spray bottle stopped her when nothing else did), the digging problem (chicken wire and cinder blocks under all of our fences) and the Houdini problem (six foot fences everywhere and metal plates on all the door jams.) But then, just when we thought we could exhale, Kayla brought another challenge into our lives.

She ate rocks.

Yes, correct, rocks. I'm not sure if you've ever had a dog eat a rock, but it can cause a lethal intestinal blockage. Which means if you don't catch it in time for the vet to give them a nasty potion to make them vomit it up, surgery. Cut that sucker out. Which we did. Four times. At $1200 each time.

The fourth surgery, we decided, was the last. There just wasn't any more budget for rock removals. So I SCOURED our back yard for every little rock I could find. I loaded buckets of them and then covered everything with a very thick layer of bark, just in case. Thank God, there were no more rock eating incidents, and she outgrew that problem.

Then, puppy school over, we enrolled in regular dog school. My little dominant puppy had turned into an easily distractible, slightly dog aggressive, adolescent terror. Naively, I thought it would be a good idea to take a break from dog school and let her mature a little. Unfortunately, by the time I took her back, she had a full out case of dog aggression and couldn't even be in class with other dogs.

A handful, this one.

Over the years, Kayla has mellowed. She still freaks out if we're gone too long, and until very recently, stopped only because of a lack of confidence due to her old age, she would attack other dogs if given half a chance. She also could always get the best of Gracie. One of her favorite ruses was to act like there was something super fantastic outside, and get Gracie to follow her. Then she'd sneak back in and take whatever it was she wanted, usually Gracie's food!  But she also learned along the way to give the world's softest kisses, to snuggle up against my legs for naps on the sofa, to walk nicely on the leash (okay, mostly...) and to be a loving part of our family.

Kayla & Grace
What I'm coming around to is that she really did just come out this way. The good and the bad. You roll the dice when you adopt a pet, and you best go into it prepared that it might just be more difficult than you imagined.

And if this reminds anyone of parenthood, well, yes, that too. Absolutely.

Ah, but the love. That love trumps all.

Kayla, 2005


  1. You expressed it beautifully, perfectly. Made my heart swell and my eyes fill.

    1. Thank you so much Heather, for taking time to read, and for commenting. I'm glad you liked the post:)

  2. We say that my Bailey "has issues". That's an understatement, of course. She's mostly a doll when we are home, but once we leave... Chewed doorways and window sills, backyard plantings for snacks, digging everywhere EXCEPT at the fence line. But, when it comes down to it, all that matters is that we love each other, she and I. All of the rest of it, well, that's just "stuff". Although, I do miss having a beautiful yard... one day, when she grows out of it. :)

    1. Ah, I'd love to meet Bailey. I'm sure she is a love. I am sorry that she tears up your yard though! And your window sills...


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