Adopted Dog Helps a Father and Daughter Transform Loss into Life

Kaia’s love and empathy help her family find hope after grief.

Rory + Kaia

After loss, an adopted dog named Kaia helped Rory and his daughter Holly find comfort, companionship, and laughter.

"The morning after my wife passed, Kaia needed a walk — so I got out of bed and I walked her. I walk Kaia six times a day because we live in a condo and she’s very active. She starts my morning, and she ends my night. Kaia really saved us."

My wife Zayna was a breast cancer survivor. She wanted a dog, and I wanted a dog — but we live in a two-bedroom condo. Every weekend she would show me pictures of adoptable dogs, and I would say no. I wanted to wait until we moved to the country so I could have a big dog that I could really play around with. One day she went to run an errand, then called me three hours later and said, “Hide the cats!” That was the day she brought Kaia home.

My wife passed away suddenly four months later from complications due to chemo, on Easter Sunday 2019. Suddenly, it was just me, my 10-year-old daughter Holly, and Kaia. The morning after my wife passed, Kaia needed a walk — so I got out of bed and I walked her.

I walk Kaia six times a day because we live in a condo and she’s very active. She starts my morning, and she ends my night. Kaia really saved us. She’s our built-in therapist. She gave us something besides grief to worry about, and tasks that needed our attention. Whether Holly will admit it or not, Kaia really helps her transition from losing her mom and has given her something else to think about. I just love the way Holly and Kaia are with each other. They swim together, they play at the beach, and they spend about 45 minutes a day in her bedroom just rough-housing — I don’t go in there because all I hear is happy screaming and barking! Kaia always comes out with her tail wagging, and it’s great. 

Kaia is just very loving, and very cuddly. She’s so empathetic and knows when we’ve had a bad day. She goes from my room to my daughter’s room every night and sleeps with us both. She loves everybody. It’s so nice to come home to someone who’s happy to see us. I’m not sure how my wife did it, but she found the perfect pet for us. She obviously knew something that I didn’t know, and having Kaia has been wonderful. There’s no way I would have chosen this dog for this living situation… but both Holly and I would be lost without her.

Each year, the Petco Foundation Holiday Wishes campaign invites adopters to share stories of how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Rory won Maui Humane Society in Maui, Hawaii a 2020 Holiday Wishes award.