An Extraordinary Life

The following was written by Aubrie Kavanaugh:

Like most of you here, I am still struggling to process the loss of Harley. Our community loss simply cannot compare to the loss of Rudi Taylor and Dan Taylor or even those who spent a lot of time with him like Michele Burchfield, Teddy and the Straders. I mean no offense at all when I say that I’m still getting choked up knowing that he is no longer here. I don’t really have a right to feel that way, but I do.

As I think about how we all came to know Harley, I think we can all agree that the whole sequence of events was extraordinary, if not magical. He was left in a bucket to die. What are the odds that he would be saved? Surely those odds were against him from the start. Mill dogs die each and every day in ways most of us would find criminal. It is a miracle that he was saved at all.

Then when we think about who made them their boy, that is also extraordinary. There are a lot of people who love dogs and a lot of people who could have given Harley a charmed life, far removed from his suffering in the mill. Surely the odds were against him crossing paths with the Taylors who we all must admit are extraordinary people. Their incredible work to help educate the public about mills and to help save other mill dogs is just something magical to behold and it is something many of us would not have the strength to endure.

When I think about the success of the Harley to the Rescue campaign, I just have to smile. Who could know that casting Harley and Teddy as little superheros would affect us all so profoundly? Saving mill dogs is dirty, difficult heart wrenching work, but because of the incredibly positive energy behind the way it was and is handled, we all smiled and cheered every time they set out on a new mission to save more dogs.

Like all of you, I voted every day for Harley to be named the Hero Dog last year and when I heard he had won, my heart swelled with pride not because I had anything to do with it, but because I knew what it meant to his family and to Teddy’s family and to the Straders and to every person who has supported or volunteered with National Mill Dog Rescue. When I watched the ceremony on television, I knew he won but I still got all choked up watching the process and hearing Theresa’s voice when his name was announced. I could not stop crying while I had a smile so wide it made my face hurt.

I will not compare losses with any of you. That would just be selfish. But I will say that life has taught me that no one gets to stay, human or canine. We all have a finite amount of time to live and love and learn and try to make a difference. When I find myself so incredibly sad for the loss of Harley, I am reminding myself how incredibly fortunate we all are that we even knew about him in the first place.

Harley’s life was both extraordinary and magical. I plan to hold that in my heart when I think about him and as I move forward, working to honor his memory with my new projects related to mill dogs and related to National Mill Dog Rescue.

We are all so very blessed.

~Aubrie Kavanaugh of Paws4Change

Harley, Mom, Dad, Michele, Teddy and Theresa Strader arriving in Denver after the Hero Dog Awards.
Harley, Mom, Dad, Michele Burchfield, Teddy and Theresa Strader arriving in Denver after the Hero Dog Awards.

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