If you don’t have a pet in your life, it’s sometimes difficult to understand how close people can become to their animals.

The death of a pet often feels like the death of a family member.

Last week, we lost our dog of 15 years. Her name was Keina.

Keina came from our pediatrician who bred his standard poodle, which led to a beautiful litter of the most adorable puppies.

We chose Keina from the litter and loved her from the instant she became ours.

Technically, she was Emma’s dog, but in no time she became our beloved family pet.

For over a decade, she has been an important part of our lives.

Fifteen years is a huge chunk of my life. So much has happened in those years.

To put it into perspective, I’ve known Keina longer than I’ve known two of my children. Both Ari and Mili came to our home after Keina. They have all grown up together.

The number of things we have gone through as a family—both happy and challenging—has happened with Keina by our side every step of the way.

Having a pet is a commitment—but it’s worth the journey.

When Keina was younger, she was trouble.

She didn’t like to chew on the small-ticket items like shoes or stuffed animals.

No…the things that she liked to chew up were the couch, the baseboards, and the seven-foot-tall grandfather clock.

Keina obviously had great taste and loved chewing on the expensive things. This lasted for at least six months.

But once we were finally able to crate-train her, we really didn’t have any issues.

When she was seven years old, Keina got really sick.

She was so sick that we actually thought she was going to pass away.

When Olivia was just 12 years old, the day after her bat mitzvah we had to take Keina to the emergency vet.

We sat there all day, waiting to hear the news of what was happening to her. All we knew was that she had lost so much weight in a very short period of time, and we thought it might be cancer.

The wait was difficult because she really was part of the family.

Caring for a pet is like caring for a loved one.

When the diagnosis finally came back that Keina had something called Addison’s disease, we were so grateful it wasn’t cancer.

But she couldn’t regulate her cortisol so anytime she got stressed, her body would shut down.

This became eight years of treatment. For eight years, Keina would get a shot every month, and she would take steroids every day.

As time progressed, she had a couple of relapses where we realized that she really needed the shot every 28 days instead of letting her go any longer than that.

But all of the efforts we put into keeping her healthy and happy were absolutely worth it.

Overall, she lived a really good life.

Yes… it was a lot of work. But pets are part of your family, and they are always worth the work.

As Keina got older, things got more complicated.

If you believe what they say about dog years, then at the time of her death she was 105 years old.

She struggled with both her vision and her hearing, but we treasured the days we had with her.

The one thing Keina never struggled with was asking for a treat. She would bark at you.

But it wasn’t just any bark, she had what we called the treat bark. He would let out one bark and then keep doing that same bark until you gave her a treat.

She had us trained very well.

But in her last days, she got really sick and wouldn’t even eat a treat—and that girl could eat a treat anytime.

That’s when we knew it was time to let her go.

Putting Keina to sleep was not an easy decision.

Keina has filled our lives with so much happiness that it was incredibly hard to say goodbye.

But when you see your beloved pet in so much pain and suffering, the most humane thing we can do is let them go.

There’s a beautiful organization in Sarasota called Sugar’s Gift that has helped many pets and pet owners find peace with end-of-life care. I haven’t ever seen an organization like it anywhere else, but it’s an amazing organization and a 501c3.

Their purpose is simple. They pay for a vet to come into your home to help your dog go to sleep in the peace and comfort of their own home.

Once your pet is finally at rest, they have an animal EMS come and pick her up. They then bring back her cremated remains in a beautiful urn if that is what the family wants.

This made the process very easy for us because I didn’t want to take Keina to the vet and have a white sterile room be the last thing she ever saw.

I wanted her to be home, in her own bed, surrounded by those who loved her. We were very fortunate that we could do this for Keina.

The vets were very compassionate, and it made things so much easier for all of us.

This includes the three other dogs we still have at home. We were all able to say goodbye. And I truly believe this made a really big difference for all of us.

One of the greatest things about animals is their ability to spread happiness.

For the past 15 years, Keina really has been a major part of our family.

Having her as a pet has brought so much joy.

Some people even call their pets “fur babies” because they don’t think of them as pets. They are an important part of the family.

For us, Keina was always there to make you happy.

That’s one of the greatest things about having pets, especially a dog. No matter what, they’re always happy to see you.

They want to comfort you, and they don’t talk back—which is sometimes a huge bonus.

There are so many statistics about pets and how they help with mental health and how they can even help with physical illnesses—especially support animals.

I recently watched a video where a medical support dog can actually sense when its person starts having heart issues with an irregular heartbeat.

The dog can help the person sit down, grab their medication, grab their water, and grab the phone.

All these incredible things pets can do, they do because they love us.

All too often we underestimate and take for granted what animals do for us and how much better our lives are because of them.

So this article is for Keina. We feel so fortunate to have had her in our lives for 15 years.

Her life mattered—and we are better because of her.

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