NOT FORGOTTEN: Ceremony honors The Oaks' adored canine

COLUMBIA CITY —Kenia, The Oaks’ beloved chocolate labrador, was remembered with fondness, love and great fun.Kenia, who died Feb. 16, was a special therapy dog at the Columbia City nursing home. A special ceremony was conducted last Wednesday and her ashes spread around the base of the pink dogwood tree planted in her memory just outside the entrance of the well known health care facility.Chad Smyth, executive director of The Oaks, welcomed more than 35 people attending. Many patients watched from the lounge area inside the home.“Anyone who has a pet knows that they can become a part of the family,” said Smyth.“In many cases, they become our children. And so was the case with Kenia. She became a part of us. To this day I still hear her bark, or see shadows of her walking into my office. Although gone, she still lives within us,” he said.“Her passing makes me think about Genesis 3:19. ‘By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return’,” said Smyth. Holly Restemayer, director of nursing, read an Anglican Prayer. Activities co-director Julie Osterman was originally going to read it but was too distraught to offer the prayer.“I’m so sorry Julie. It was unfair of me to ask you to do that,” offered Smyth.Smyth told of Kenia’s rough beginnings in life and how for the first five years was used as a breeding dog of chocolate Labrador puppies in a mill.“Her qualities were so outstanding she was used for a breeding dog. She was an excellent mother as she gave life to and care for more pups than we know. That’s what she was all about … giving love. And that she did well,” he said.He told how in late 2004 The Oaks took on the challenge of introducing Person-Centered Care to the Whitley County community. “The Oaks was one of the select few who were included in the Indiana pilot project. That’s when we adopted Kenia in the Indianapolis area. She was a rather plump and slightly scared dog,” said Smyth.Kenia was a healer.Many patients and staff told stories about the beloved Kenia. “She was known for the Kenia Dance,” said Charlynne Gervais, activity assistant. “Kenia would jump and spin around.”Gloria “Butch” Glass, patient, told how Kenia would enter a room and always backed out. Glass placed a shepherd’s hook with Kenia’s favorite toy on it beside the tree.“Kenia knew her rounds. She knew when it was 4:45 p.m.,” said Smyth.Angie King, activities co-director, showed and explained the shadow box made especially for Kenia and the residents and staff at The Oaks. “This shadow box will be placed on the wall in our nursing home. It has a lock of her fur, her leash, collar, beaded necklace and her cement paw print. It even has her special Easter hat with her name on it. She wore it every Easter,” said King.Each worker and patient took turns placing dirt around the base of the tree.