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Spot of Sanity: Ode to Shasta Rose

December, 1992, brought a special creature into my life. Shasta Rose was an unsocialized puppy mill Cocker Spaniel from a pet shop.

Even at just 16 weeks, this little red beauty was terrified of people. I frequently went into the pet shop to buy supplies for my two cats. Of course, I always had to say hello to the puppies. Because of Lady and the Tramp, I usually gravitated to Cockers, although I’d never known any before.

Throughout Shasta’s life, little girls would stop and happily exclaim, “Look, Mommy! It’s Lady!”

The sales girl brought her out to me, and the rest was history! Shasta “chose me” by licking my ear as I was holding her, so I instantly fell in love! Now I know better, and today I wouldn’t buy a puppy from a pet shop, but back then I didn’t realize the horrible conditions puppy mill dogs have to endure.

I will always be forever grateful to my former husband, Eric, for bringing me back to that store and surprising me with bringing Shasta home! She was the best gift I have ever received, and one of the reasons I exist to be writing this column here today.


In spite of doing a whole bunch of things wrong, what we did right was to form an incredibly special human animal bond. She saw me through the hardest 14 years of my life, when my depression, anxiety and PTSD were at times seriously out of control. She gave me a reason to struggle to get better. She was shy with strangers throughout her life, but by the latter years of her life, she had progressed to letting strangers pet her! She was my shadow, and I took her with me almost everywhere I went. Shasta taught me how to bring a shy dog out of her shell, and at the same time, she taught me too! I didn’t realize how much she helped me cope with everyday life. My parti Cocker Spaniel, Poppy, who shares my life today, helped me to realize just how important a role Shasta fulfilled in my life.

My happy red girl, Shasta, who continually lightened in color with age.

Shasta always adored kids, and my fondest memories are of my nieces and nephews forming an obstacle course in the hallway at my sister’s house. I would throw a tennis ball to the end of the hallway, and she would go over, around, and under the kids. She’d grab the ball and go back through the course to bring the ball back to me! Too bad I didn’t know about flyball back then. She would have been a natural!

Shasta had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure (CHF) 16 months before her death, but was expected to live just 4-6 months. The oncology veterinarian said that the CHF would kill her long before the liver cancer. Shasta surprised all of the veterinarians who were responsible for her care, with how unwilling she was to pass out of this life. She seemed to know that I thought I would completely fall apart without her. I dreaded that day. I’m sure the last few years of her life were not enjoyed as fully as they could have been, because I was dreading having to say goodbye to my sweet girl.

At the end and I don’t want to let go!

Even though she had a liver tumor and CHF, Shasta had a good quality of life. I gave her cardiac medications 5 times a day, coaxed her to eat, and doted on her hand to paw! All good things must come to an end, and on March 8, 2007, Shasta suffered a catastrophic rupture of a liver mass. She was thrown off balance by her abdominal cavity filling with blood.

Unfortunately, she was standing next to the edge of the pool when she lost her balance. I was standing next to her at the time, and was able to immediately remove her from the water. I wrapped her in towels and brought her to my bed, but she couldn’t seem to get warm.

A stuffed banana was Shasta’s first toy and her favorite. It lasted all 14 years of her life!

Shasta progressively deteriorated after falling in the pool. I hadn’t realized that the mass had ruptured, or of course I would have taken her to the vet sooner. She was just 17 lbs. by this time, down from a normal weight of 26 lbs. After a week, Shasta told me it was time to go. The light went out of her eyes and she told me it was time. I always worried I wouldn’t know when it was the right time to end her life. I needn’t have worried, for she showed me the way, right to the very end.

In the days following her death on March 15, 2007, a calm came over me, and I realized how very lucky I was to have had Shasta in my life for 14 years. I wrote this poem shortly have saying goodbye to Shasta.

This column is dedicated to my first Spot of Sanity – Shasta, and all of the other precious friends we’ve had to say goodbye to lately.

This was my last and most special Christmas with my girl, Shasta, in December, 2007.

Ode to Shasta Rose

Precious little dog

so sweet & so loving

Nose sniffing, ears flapping,

tail always wagging


I’ll miss you sweetheart

as I walk by our lake

When I see other dogs

My heart surely breaks


I’ll always remember

how your love was so true

Your memory brings comfort

when I’m lonely and blue


Thank you, Shasta,

for being in my life

You gave me the strength

to continue to fight


Now that you’re gone

I want you to know

that your love and devotion

helped my bruised soul, grow


I miss you dear one

More than I imagined

My tears fall, my heart aches,

But I try not to be saddened


To all those you knew

you gave us such love

A joy-filled sweet dog

A heart pure as a dove


Bravely fighting so long

you stayed with me in life

I miss you so much

It cuts my heart like a knife


I know that it was time

You’re tired & needed rest

And I consider myself lucky

I know that I am blessed


I’ll miss you forever

My waggitty best friend

unconditionally loyal

You helped my heart mend


You’re with me in spirit

now and forever

You will always be

my most precious treasure


Have you had a critter help you in a difficult period of your life? Let me know in the comments below. I look forward to interacting with you all!

Did you miss the last Spot of Sanity column? Find it here at Veterinary Conference Insider Info

About Kim: Kim Kiernan found a new appreciation for humanity through the love of two Cocker Spaniels, Shasta and Poppy. She is an equal opportunity animal lover, who can never answer the question, “Do you like cats or dogs better?” She achieved her Registered Veterinary Technician license in 2012 and continues to be active on animal health care and behavior forums. Poppy and Kim drove across the country in June of 2013, so Poppy could be a bridesmaid in the Wigglebutt Wedding, a fundraiser for Life’s Little Paws Cocker Rescue. She started Spot of Sanity to advocate for mental health treatment with the help of companion and assistance animals, and to illustrate how animals can enrich our lives with better health, companionship, and purpose.

Editor’s Note: Fidose of Reality is proud to have a new guest contributor on board with us. Twice a month on Thursdays, we’ll be sharing this new column dubbed “A Spot of Sanity.” Please read all about Kim Kiernan and her Cocker Spaniel, Poppy, to the Fidose family. Here’s Kim’s first column if you missed it:


  1. M. K. Clinton says

    Well, now that I am crying like two-year old from reading your story, how do I respond? That was such a lovely story and it touched my heart deeply. I truly can’t imagine my life without Bentley. I’m so happy that your sweet Cocker helped you with your struggles. She was a beautiful “Lady.” Bark More, Growl Less Barking from the Bayou!

  2. anne morris says

    Kim, Such a beautiful tribute! With my one year anniversary of saying good-bye to my Casey girl, you put into words so many of my feelings.
    Thanks you:):)

  3. Chelsea Price says

    What a beautiful girl Shasta was! And how brave of you to write this amazing post! I teared up reading it; losing a pet is one of the most difficult things a person can ever go through. I can relate to Shasta being there for you through all sorts of tough things – my dog has also helped me through some really hard periods of depression and anxiety. It’s amazing what pets can do.

    Thank you for this post.

  4. Peggy LAVELLE says

    Beautiful story Kim. Shasta Rose reminds me of my Candy, whom we got from a pet shop also not knowing she was a puppy mill dog. Stupidly I asked the per store clerk where her brothers and sisters were! He told me that they had already been adopted..So naive we were. Thanks for the wonderful heart wrenching story you shared.

  5. Lynda Benoit says

    Beautiful poem Kim. I lost my Sassy in 2007 as well. We think that we will never love again, but we do.
    Tears are streaming down my face.
    You are so fortunate to have the videos of Shasta. She really loved her balls and kids, didn’t she?
    Great article, as always. Thanks for sharing your precious baby with us.
    Love you and Poppy sooo much <3

  6. Jodi says

    Nice tribute, Kim. Shasta was a lucky girl to have found you as her mommy, and she brought you joy and a reason to survive those dark times. So happy that God gave you to one another. Blessings, friend.

  7. Ruthie Rensel says

    Shasta….such fond memories of a sweet pup. Still miss her. Wonderful tribute Kim.. Much love to you .

  8. Eric Kiernan says

    From your former husband Eric, Shasta is still the greatest gift I gave anyone. I always knew that she was your “Emotional Eye Dog”. I will never forget that we were in an argument in our apartment in Tustin just after getting Shasta and you started crying. You were in a chair, and Shasta came up, put her paws on your legs and licked the tears off your face. It both astonished you and cheered you up right away. I loved her very much as well, and I am so proud of you that you have the courage to write this column.

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