my rays of sunshine

Before there was even the thought of Ella and Louis – the Magyar Vizsla brother and sister that I talk and write about a great deal – before them there was a dog who came walking up to our car on a little road in southwestern South Dakota on the way from Sturgis down to Colorado. There was no intention of taking this dog. None. She was a mop of very dirty black hair, and looked painfully hungry. After giving her a bit of food, she jumped into the car and insisted that she was coming with us. Clearly of her own volition.

Lyle in snowy Colorado

Her name was Lyle, and there was something about her that I’d never experienced as a dog lover. See when I was a child, we always had dogs. My brother Michael had an incredibly strong connection to each one, but the very first dog, Dandelion, lived an astoundingly long time and he was especially fond of her. So much so that when she died, he was unconsolable. From my perspective, this was preposterous. ‘What’s wrong with you?‘ I wanted to ask him. ‘The old dog’s gone, which means we get a brand new dog. Maybe even a puppy.‘ He only wanted Dandelion. Once again, this made no sense to me.

So, back to Lyle. Brought her to Germany, and she was my only responsibility in the early days when I was still polishing my German. She’d run alongside my bicycle as I went to get papers from the main train station. She’d watch German television with me and offer sympathy when I insisted that I’d never get this language.

She was the perfect café dog. For hours, she’d sit next to me as I nursed my tea (sometimes even a coffee) and read book after book in my native tongue and sometimes even struggled through the daily papers in the adopted one. She was simply happy to be alongside me.

You see where this is going, right?

Lyle and me

In late January 2005, Lyle was healthy one day & violently ill the next. Before I could even consider taking her to the vet, she was up through the night unable to sleep. Took her out to the street in the middle of the night and she desperately wanted to go deep in the snowy bushes and be left alone. I held her the rest of the night and sometime around dawn she died in my arms.

I was suddenly my brother who I’d ridiculed. For months, I cried everyday. She had been my companion in such dark, frustrating moments. I didn’t want a shiny new puppy. I wanted Lyle.

Still brings tears to my eyes when I think about her.

Sometimes you really need more time to grieve the passing of a pet. And anyone who says they need more time…

I completely understand that. Without reservation.

But in this case, the only way to still the waves of inconsolable emotions was to get a new dog. Or in this case two new dogs. Then there it was written in the local Munich paper:  ‘Hamburg family has Magyar Vizsla puppies‘. Went to get them at Easter time. In the photos, they were still tiny. They were anything but small when I first saw them. The thing that sealed the deal for me was Ella laying next to me on the bench at the family’s house in Hamburg, and she began to purr. Just like a cat. She still does it to this day. It’s easily the most adorable thing she does, which says a lot. Louis was very standoffish. Over the years, he’s grown to become anything but that.

Here they were when they were still quite small:

Louis (on the left) and Ella as puppies

And if you know me at all, you know that my day revolves around these two. Happily. I’m sure I’d go outside if I didn’t have them begging to be taken, but I wouldn’t go as often. Or for as long.

I literally have hundreds, if not thousands, of photos of them. I’m loathe to include too many, but here are some of my favourite:

Ella listing to the port side
in the autumn leaves
Going up Wendelstein-one of our favourite hikes
serious glove tug
goodnight happy dogs

Happy Birthday my rays of sunshine. You give so much more than you take. Thanks to all of you reading for loving them too.


  1. I can scarcely see to write this and my tears are mostly for Lyle who, incidentally, looked gorgeous. She was clearly clairvoyant and picked you because she knew you were meant to be together.

    You know very well how I feel about your rays of sunshine and that I love them from afar. My tears as I write of them are completely emotional, one of the reasons I am glad I joined Twitter is that I know of their existence. I feel I know them so well.

    In a way it is terrible the way this *people* take your heart and enslave you; I know this so very well from experience.Thank you for sharing them with us Ken.

    1. Oh wow Barbara, thanks for that. Yes, I’ve often wondered if Lyle was somehow waiting for me to come along and pick her up. Logically it sounds preposterous, but there you are.

      1. I agree 100% with you Barbara, animals (especially the strays and abandoned) pick their doubt about it,

  2. How wonderful! It nearly made me cry thinking about my sweet Jasper whom I lost last year after 15 years of companionship. I adore my Chester now just as much. I can’t imagine life without dogs. Happy birthday Louis and Ella.

    1. No Jim. I didn’t know you were from Montana. What incomparably beautiful country that is. Gorgeous.

      Your encouragement means a lot to me. You know I like your writing.

  3. I’ve been around dogs many times in my years (note the disconnect). Growing up I never wanted a dog or understood why anyone would want the responsibility. Our family adopted several and each had their own persona that I was much too busy to deal with. Je suis a Pekingese, given to me on loan from my sister when I got my first apartment changed this. The diva she was, with a penchant for fois grasse (she developed this habit while being lodged in my large handbag fed {unbeknownst to me} by the men behind the deli counter at Zabars). She went everywhere with me my constant companion. When she was lost (long story for another time), my heart broke and I spent many days praying that whomever found her would love her as much as I did. It took several years for me to become willing to accept another. When we did, our purpose was for my daughter to experience the joy having a dog would bring. So, YODA, knight of Melrah was purchased. An Akita of large proportions and equally large love. When he passed after 17 years of unfettered devotion we decided we were done. I have since reconsidered and opened my heart, vicariously, through twitter, to Ella and Louis. The reports of their daily jaunts remind me of what it was like having one of my own. Thank You and Happy Birthday and many many more.

    1. So touching that this brings up the emotion in people that it does. Although this blog has veered towards becoming a Dachshund Blog on a few occasions, I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise anyone that I’m partial to larger dogs. Your Akita would’ve been just my sort of dog. I’m sure of it.

      17 years? That’s a testament to how good your home was. I’m sure of it. Thank you Jo for saying something.

  4. This is a beautifully written testament to the power that our furry family has over us. Their loss is painful and it does take a long time to get to a point where you can invite another dog into your home. We lost my chocolate lab, Snickers, right after my daughter was born. It took us five years to get another dog and this one chose us. Sometimes I still feel a loss.

    Thank you so much for the pictures of your puppies. They are stunning.

  5. Beautiful sharing Ken, thank you…. those of us who really really loves animals and our pets knows exactly how you feel. The grief we feel after beloved pets die is no different to the grief of living through the loss of our human family members.

    1. Much appreciated Kasia. This sort of thing is sometimes ridiculed in less-than-polite company, but clearly the people who come here want to hear about these dogs.

  6. I love them all. I love Ella and Louis, of course (I love the russet coats on Vizslas – so beautiful – and those faces! I could never be sad with those faces looking at me, not ever, I don’t think) but aw, Lyle. I’m so partial to a good rescue story, with my background as a shelter worker. I love them all.

    And I totally understand the grieving, of course, as I’m still in the midst of it, myself. And as I write this, Dumbcat wants to sit on the keyboard. STOP IT DUMBCAT THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU.

  7. Ken, you know your two beautiful dogs touch me more than I thought they ever could – seeing them in “person” or is that “in dog”? was just wonderful. I wish you many more happy years with them. So now I’ll clink tea cups with you and toast to us all meeting up again in the not too distant future.
    And by the way “Lyle” was lovely.

    1. Yes Jackie, you know I still remember the first time you mentioned on the teablog that you weren’t much of a dog person, but still liked the look of these dogs.

      It was really touching when you took to them so wholly when you met them face-to-face. Their love is infectious. It’s true.

  8. I was one of those who could not conceive what all the fuss was about when a family pet passed on. Then came Kizzy. She was irreverent, silly, had a tendency to run off (once for two weeks!) and we adored her. Then came a time when Kizzy began to change. Senility had made her skittish, frightened and caused her to be very destructive when left alone for any amount of time. The Vet tried medications, but eventually told us we needed to consider what we had been secretly dreading. My poor husband was inconsolable. I ended up being the one who had to take her in, and to return with an empty collar and leash. I felt sad, but not like my husband. I still didn’t “get” it.
    After Kizzy, we decided to get a pair of dogs. Pearl and Aggie were sisters. Both Labs. Pearl was jet black and Aggie, a golden yellow. I LOVED my Pearl, she was sweet, well mannered and loyal. One day my husband called at work. I needed to come home. Pearl, my dear 7 month old Pearl, had been killed by the neighbor’s dog. I was inconsolable. I had such a overwhelming sense of grief. Someone kindly drove me home from work, where I found Pearl laying in the yard, with her sweet sister Aggie curled protectively around her. My husband said Aggie would not leave Pearl’s side.
    I get it now. These furry, slobbery, 4 footed darlings are FAMILY. And they mean the world to us.

  9. This story made me cry!! So sweet. I understand the dog love sir. I have a Lab/Great Pyrenees mix that is my best friend. In fact, he’s asking to get on the new couch that he’s not allowed to get on (per the dog-dad in charge, I’m a total sucker for couch/dog time) at this very moment. Also, my cousins have a Vizsla, and I will be sharing this story with them. I imagine you had tons of adventures raising those two loves from pups!! They are ADORABLE!!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *