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Friday, February 24, 2012

kyra | burlington ontario pet photographer

I have tried to write this post several times, and I keep tearing up. It's so difficult to find a starting point for such an emotional story.

Meet Kyra, a gorgeous three-year-old Siberian Husky. She entered my model call a while back and I picked her out of several entries, not only because I've never had a husky in front of my camera before, but also because her story — and the story of her companion Jill — is so powerful.
You see, Kyra saves Jill's life every day. With her devotion, companionship and ability to understand when humans cannot, Kyra stops Jill from taking her own life. Every day.

Let's rewind a bit before going forward. Jill is a competitive ultra long distance marathon runner. That's right, ultra. She runs distances of up to 160 km on forest trails. In 2008, she competed in 10 races and made the podium in nine of them. She was training to make the Canadian Women's Ultra Marathon Team. When Jill's original canine running companion (husky Kysmit) became too old to accompany her, puppy Kyra became a member of the family. By the time Kyra was three months old, they were running together.

"From the very first moment her little paws touched the trail I knew by the gleam in her eye and the grace of her gait she was born to be a runner," says Jill. "Not only because of her breed, but I could sense the desire in her heart and the ache in her soul to run. We were two peas in a pod."

At the time, Jill was also a busy volunteer and coach, worked a full-time job and had two active children. Her days started at 4:30 a.m. and didn't slow down until 11 p.m.

In 2009 she had a mental breakdown and attempted to end her life.

She was diagnosed with manic depression, anxiety and anorexia. One month later, her mother passed away, followed by her beloved husky Kysmit. Unable to work and alone all day, Jill turned to Kyra. Or perhaps it was Kyra that turned to Jill.

"I plummeted to the darkest place I have ever been to in my life and no one could understand me or knew what to do," says Jill. "But Kyra did. She would sit with me while I cried, resting her head on my lap. She slept by my side of the bed and paced the hallway with me when I couldn't sleep. And if I needed something, she knew what it was. Be it something to eat (she would lead me to the kitchen), get out of bed (she would pull off the covers and lick my face until I rose) or go running (she would bring my running shoes to me). She helped me feel just a little of her sunshine."

That sunshine began to grow stronger as Jill recovered.
In 2010 Jill competed in her first 80-km race in two years. Two kilometres from the finish line, Kyra was allowed on the course to bring Jill home. Kyra has also inspired Jill to follow a new path in life. She is taking classes to become a certified dog trainer and handler. She hopes to train therapy dogs for people with mental illnesses, and one day have those dogs recognized as official service dogs. 

Jill is still coping with her mental illness with Kyra by her side. She calls Kyra her safety net — Kyra can sense when Jill is about to have a panic attack and they travel everywhere together. With her canine companion in the car, Jill knows she won't run it off the road.

Now, when dark thoughts creep in, Jill thinks about what she will leave behind. She has a debt to Kyra that keeps her alive.

"I owe her a lifetime of runs in the forest, of snuggles at night, of cookies and unconditional love like she has given me," says Jill. "She does not label me mentally ill and did not pull away from me like some humans in my life. I don't know what she sees when she looks at me, but I know that when I look at her I see the sun, I see joy and I see hope for my future."
Thank you Jill for sharing your story so openly and honestly in the hopes of helping others. And thank you Kyra for being such a kindred spirit to Jill.

Although she was a busy girl during our session — always exploring, nose to the ground, eyes searching the trees — Kyra's presence is one of serenity and light, which I feel so lucky to have experienced.

The nurturing and healing powers of four paws is awesome. I hope the sun keeps shining bright for you Kyra and Jill!


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At February 24, 2012 at 1:55 PM , Blogger nattyjphotography said...

What an amazing story, definitely brought tears to my eyes. It's amazing what an animal can do for us and vice versa.

At February 24, 2012 at 1:59 PM , Anonymous Lucy said...

What a beautiful and inspirational story. A deserving dog indeed. The photos are just beautiful.

At February 24, 2012 at 3:16 PM , Blogger stacey said...

Thank you for stopping by! Animals are just amazing, aren't they?

At February 24, 2012 at 5:29 PM , Anonymous Jo Reason said...

Very touching, and yes it also brought tears to my eyes, what an amazing dog and what an amazing owner.

At February 24, 2012 at 6:11 PM , Blogger Maggie said...

What a beautiful dog, and an amazing story of courage and friendship. One of the best things about being a photographer is being able to capture stories like this in images.

At February 24, 2012 at 6:22 PM , Anonymous Bry Photography said...

What a cutie! I love the color and creamy backgrounds. You should take the people out of the backgrounds though :)

At February 24, 2012 at 6:52 PM , Blogger stacey said...

@Bry Photography - do you mean the sledders? I don't mind them - lends to the wintery feel.

At February 24, 2012 at 7:14 PM , Anonymous Tara Colburn said...

Awesome, beautiful, inspirational story. Thank you for sharing.

At February 24, 2012 at 7:23 PM , Anonymous Deborah Chetwood said...

Beautiful photos! I can't even pick just one.

At February 24, 2012 at 9:06 PM , Anonymous Cindy said...

What a wonderful story and a beautiful dog! Thank you for sharing both with us. I will go to sleep this evening with a warm heart.

At February 25, 2012 at 12:41 PM , Blogger De tout, de rien said...

Stacey, you have captured the heart and soul of this wonderful companion. I can see the pure joy in her face. She's gorgeous. There's so much to be said about the healing power of animals. I have a friend who owes her life to her dog too. He passed away recently after 13 wonderful years, but by then, she was strong enough to go on, as she had made a lot of friends in the neighbourhood thanks to walking her dog.

Power to the paws!

At March 1, 2012 at 10:59 AM , Anonymous Vince & Sherry said...

My wife and I are so happy and honoured that when Kyra left our home to be with Jill, that she was destined to play such an invaluable role in her life and to be loved as much as she is.

Thanks Jill

Love Vince & Sherry

At March 2, 2012 at 10:25 AM , Blogger stacey said...

Thank you everyone for your lovely comments!

At March 31, 2012 at 1:41 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful story and one that I too can relate to. If only our little four legged friends knew how important they are to us. All the best to Jill and Kyra.


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