Beloved service dog honored by crew and passengers as she takes final flight home

Service dog Kaya
Twitter/Southwest Airlines

A Southwest Airlines flight in Texas had a very special guest this week: Kaya, a service dog who was taking her final flight.

Kaya — a German shepherd who was recently diagnosed with an untreatable form of cancer — took the flight with her handler, Cole Lyle. Trained to help veterans with their mental health, 9-year-old Kaya inspired the PAWS Act, which led to the creation of a program that provides canine training for veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

In a video Southwest Airlines posted on Instagram, the pilot announced Kaya’s last flight to passengers on board. “We have the solemn honor of taking her on what will be her last flight,” he said. “As she goes home to rest where she was born and first met Cole.”

Lyle also posted the video to his Twitter account with the note: “When the flight landed, they loaded Kaya onto a cart to take her out, and when we got to the top of the ramp…the entire terminal cheered and clapped for her. If you were one of them: thank you.”

Southwest said Kaya traveled by plane with Lyle, a Marine Corps veteran, more than 250 times throughout her life.

The airline posted photos from the flight on Twitter, noting that it was honored to fly her home to rest after her “lifetime of hard work.”

A few days after the flight, Lyle took to Twitter to announce Kaya’s passing.

“My heart is broken and I’m numb without you,” he wrote. “But it’s gladdened because you’re no longer in pain. Thank you for epitomizing ‘Semper Fidelis.'”

In an interview with Dallas’ WFAA, Cole credited Kaya with saving his life after he returned home with PTSD following six years in the Marine Corps with a tour in Afghanistan.

Lyle invested $10,000 of his own funds on Kaya, who was trained to help him wake up from nightmares and stop anxiety attacks. Following his graduation from Texas A&M University, the pair moved to Washington, D.C., where Cole is an advisor to the U.S. Senate on veterans’ policies. They worked together to pass the PAWS Act and Kaya became well known and loved by politicians.

Lyle said Kaya also saved him from suicide.

“A dog can be a powerful thing to keep you around,” Cole told WFAA. “If you get to that point, you look down at the dog and say, ‘well, I can’t leave the dog. The dog would miss me.’”

Animals, News, Pets

Related posts

Maverick the dog with his handler and US service member
Meet Maverick, this year's winner of the American Humane Hero Dog Award
Patron the bomb-sniffing dog works in Ukraine
Bomb-sniffing Jack Russell terrier has found 150 Russian bombs in Ukraine
Service dog wears PPE to work in the lab with his owner
Alaska Airlines banning all emotional support animals starting in January

About the Author
Kaitlin Gates
Kaitlin is a freelance multimedia journalist with a degree in journalism and psychology. Along with Simplemost, she also writes for Don't Waste Your Money, where she loves finding great deals to help people save money. Visit Scripps News to see more of Kaitlin's work.

From our partners