On Tuesday afternoon, Sunny – a red Pit Bull who survived being thrown from a bridge in 2009 and inspired Louisville, Kentucky’s largest Pit Bull rescue, Saving Sunny, Inc. – passed away peacefully in the arms of her mom, Kelsey Westbrook, and her dad, Jamie Davis.
BarkPost shared a story about Sunny in February 2016, chronicling her diagnosis with oral sarcoma but more importantly, what she meant to our community. Sunny’s unbelievable journey had its closing chapter because of cancer, but it was a mere blip in the great adventure of her life.
Because of Sunny, a family began to grow in Louisville – a strong, vivacious, beautiful family who advocates for equality for not only Pit Bull-type dogs but for humans as well. People met and fell in love – with Pit Bulls and more specifically with Sunny. Her love for humans and desire to be around us weird, two-legged creatures was immense. Her kisses were so popular that a shirt was created that read, “I Kissed Sunny The Pit Bull.”
The love for Sunny – the dog who literally fell from the sky – is overwhelming and rests tightly against the deep sense of loss felt by so many of us. Our community is currently a pouring of stories shared of how Sunny changed them. She helped them to find their passion or charted a new course for them. She is the reason they met and adopted their heart dog. Sunny meant that their dog received medical care or food or behavioral help. Just meeting Sunny – a little dog who just happened to be a Pit Bull – began a love affair for so many. The list of what Sunny has given to all of us is endless, and that list will only expand as her namesake rescue continues. Sunny’s impact is perfectly portrayed by a hashtag that began shortly after her diagnosis, #SunnySavedMe.
Lula, a Pit Bull-mix who we rescued in March 2014 and our second dog, was one of those helped by Saving Sunny. Because of Sunny, our dog – who would continually pace, who didn’t care for human affection, whose behavior seemed so wild – began to bond with us. Lula started to sit in our laps, regularly – a behavior so initially baffling that my boyfriend would ask, “Who is this dog?” She learned that our home was a safe place for her and we all began to truly love one another.
When you encounter a spirit like Sunny’s, it’s almost as if you imagine them always being here. And she will be. She is.
Sunny’s physical self is no longer of this world, yet those who met her, those who loved her, have all taken something with them from her or the rescue that she so bravely inspired. And because of that, even those who never met Sunny will see the glimmer of a little red Pit Bull when they meet someone who did.
On Tuesday evening, as we drove home from my boyfriend’s parents’ house – a place in the southern Indiana countryside – I continued to think of Sunny and Kelsey. My heart ached for Kelsey, imagining the untouchable grief of losing her Sun Bear. It was my hope that Sunny would somehow tell her mom that she was okay.
The drive home is about 45 minutes long and I wanted to be able to clearly see the night sky, to take in the fresh air. I rolled down my window and looked at the stars. There she was, distinct and commanding my attention. A bright, golden-hued star – one that to my recollection I’ve never seen before.
I found out about Sunny’s passing on social media. In a post by Kelsey, Sunny’s mom, she wrote, “My best friend + soulmate left the physical world today to dance with her namesake.” The photo paired with this post is a beaming Sunny, taken not even a week earlier, where she is resting in the grass in front of an enormous sun painted on a wall.
Google told me that the star was named Arcturus and, incredibly, it is about 115 times brighter than the Sun. Sunny may be dancing with the Sun but at night, when we think it’s the darkest, she shines even more to show us that she’s still here.
Featured image via Jess Amburgey