- Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
By Kayla Bell
EDITOR’S NOTE: Kayla Bell graduated in 2021 with a degree in Human Health Sciences. Originally from southern Illinois, she was learning to adjust to the rhythms of UK’s campus when she heard about a place called 4 Paws for Ability in Xenia, Ohio. 4 Paws is a non-profit organization that breeds and trains puppies to become service dogs for children and veterans with disabilities. Dozens of UK students volunteer with the group, and Kayla wanted to help, too, so she decided to foster one of their pets.
4 Paws introduced her to Norbert, an 8-week-old German Shepherd/Golden Retriever puppy that changed her life forever. The pup would live with Kayla for more than a year and a half, and the pair were always together. Still, she knew one day, she would have to give him back.
As an intern in CHS Creative Services her senior year, Kayla wrote a web story as the semester came to a close about what it would be like to graduate — and what it would be like to finally have to say goodbye to her favorite companion. The story was one of the most-viewed we’d published this year. Why? Because Kayla and Norbert’s lives were never the same.
You can read all about it right here.
Now, as a recent graduate working in Lexington, Kayla’s life has changed. But so has Norbert’s — and it may just bring them back together.
Here’s Part 2 of “When Kayla met Norbert …”
— Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director
On the morning of June 28, I dropped Norbert off at 4 Paws to continue his journey toward Advanced Training. I honestly did not even make it out of the parking lot before I started crying. My heart was crushed as I walked away from the facility knowing that could be the last time I had him at home with me. Eighteen months and 25 days together made us inseparable.
After dropping him off, every morning was so different than what I was used to. I didn’t wake up to him being excited when I let him out of his kennel. I came home from work and was not able to see his wagging tail as I walked up to his kennel door. I felt like a part of me was missing. It took me time to adjust, and I can’t say that I ever fully did.
Everything is so different now. Since graduating, I sometimes found it hard to believe that my time as an undergraduate student was over. A Human Health Sciences graduate, I’m now an Orthopedic Trauma Research Fellow. I have an office in the Kentucky Clinic and I’m currently in the process of applying to physical therapy school.
But I was distracted. I spent each week anticipating Fridays when I would get an update on how Norb was doing up there.
On July 14, I got a call from my traditional program coordinator giving me an update. Little did I know, that call would be one that I would never forget.
She told me that due to a few issues Norbert was struggling with, they released him from the program, and he was going to be promoted to a “fabulous flunky.” After hearing that, my heart dropped. I wanted so badly for him to do well, but his issues were important. He struggles with nervousness when meeting new people and encountering new environments.
She then asked me if I was interested in adoption.
“Yes!” I said, before my brain could even process the possibility.
I spent the next few days getting the necessary paperwork together and making sure I had everything I needed to bring him home for good. That next Monday, July 19, my friend Lucy and I set out for Xenia, Ohio (the headquarters of 4 Paws) so I could pick up my boy. When I saw him for the first time in three weeks, my heart felt like it would explode. Knowing that he was getting to come home with me for good made it that much more of an emotional moment.
Now, he never fails to put a smile on my face when I walk upstairs to let him out of his kennel after I get home from work. Our afternoons are then filled with long walks and lots of play time.
But there are still times when I forget that he is mine forever. He is adjusting to living the pet life, and I have never seen him happier than he is now. He’s now acquired a love for squeaky toys, sticking his nose out the car window, and (unfortunately) barking. He is the sweetest boy, and I cannot even begin to describe how lucky I feel for getting to adopt him.
Just like every student, he decided which path he wanted to end up on, and now he has his forever family that loves him unconditionally.
I have 4 Paws to thank for making the second half of my college experience the absolute best, and for giving me my forever best friend.
I encourage anyone that is interested in fostering to go to https://4pawsforability.org and apply to be a volunteer trainer. There are a lot of adorable puppies that will be needing fosters. It requires a lot of investment, but it is also very rewarding. It will absolutely change your life while you are working to help your pup learn to change someone else’s.
I can truly say that it is has been an experience like no other.
Now we’re ready to face our futures … together.
See Kayla and Norbert’s reunion right here: