Recently, I got a phone call from my dad.
“Kaiya’s not doing well,” he said. “You should probably come down and spend some time with her.”
Kaiya is my dog. For a list of reasons which I won’t get into here, she hasn’t lived with me in a few years. My dad has been an amazing caretaker to her, and loves her as much as I do. So that call…was not something I wanted to hear.
As it turns out “not doing well” translated to my dog having a quickly devastating decline, and in the space of about three weeks, she went from being able to run around just fine to barely being able to walk. Decisions were made, and it turned out my drive to spend time with her turned into a drive to say goodbye.
I loved this dog with all my heart, and seeing her so weak and knowing that I every second I was spending with her was one closer to sending her on her way was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And weirdly, what got me through it without completely losing my mind was this stupid MMO that so many of us love and are addicted to.
I sat on the ground next to her with my laptop in front of me and Kaiya’s head on my lap, feeling thoroughly depressed. And then without thinking much about it, I fired up WoW, deleted a mage I didn’t care about, and made a toon of a class I’ve never quite been able to convince myself to play, a hunter.
Sure, I’ve started them now again. They usually stall out around level 20, and I go level another melee class. I’m not much for ranged DPS, and I don’t like pet classes either. Plus I’ve just met too many idiot hunters along the way that I couldn’t stand the idea of playing the class. But looking down at my sweet dog, I decided that the only way I could make it through those next few days without totally losing it was to have something to distract me. So I gave myself a goal. Start a hunter and tame a pet that looked like my Kaiya.
Throughout her life, Kaiya got a lot of attention from people wondering just what the heck kind of dog she was. Jindos aren’t well known in this country, and I spent a lot of time saying “No she’s not a wolf. Nope, not part fox either. That’s not actually biologically possible.” Still, she did actually look both somewhat like a wolf and somewhat like a fox, so I decided that in the hours I had left, I would level that hunter as much as I could, and hopefully get her the Red Worg pet.
Things don’t always go as planned, and nearing that night, I realized what I really wanted to be able to do was play for a few hours with this new pet and my Kaiya, so I could feel like there was some kind of bond there. So instead of the worg, I went and tamed a fox instead, which would look more like Kaiya anyway, if only it had white paws. Still sitting on the ground with my dog, I found a fox in Loch Modan, and as I hit tame, I held onto my dog’s paw. I promptly named the fox Kaiya and then went on my way, spending some more time leveling with WoW Kaiya as I gave real Kaiya belly rubs.
In the days following Kaiya’s passing, I didn’t really feel like doing much of anything. But turning on WoW and running around with fox Kaiya as a blood elf that looks suspiciously like me has, oddly enough, been a huge help. We’ve had fun romping through the Barrens, witnessing the events in Stonetalon, going back to the Barrens again, and now we’re in Feralas, a place I suspect real Kaiya would have loved. And sure, it’s just pixels on a screen, but my dog was there with me when I started this character and tamed the pet that looks so much like her, and it gives me a way to feel like I’m still with her.
I feel like a lot of times, people miss some of the great things this game can do while they’re busy worrying about what Blizzard is doing to their class or arguing about progression in their guild or dealing with jerks in random groups. But I’ve heard so many stories of “WoW really helped me get through this difficult time in my life,” and often times those difficult times seem much harder than my own. So I just wanted to say thanks to Blizzard for giving me this beautiful world to run around in with my dog at my side. It really has helped.
Most of the time, for me to care about a character, they must have a really good backstory. I can’t seem to level them otherwise. Fayliana’s backstory is simple. She was lonely. She found a fox locked in a cage, and it was lonely as well. A little more research told her that poor fox had been locked up for her entire five year life. Fayliana rescued the fox, and they became the best of friends.
…Maybe not the most creative of characters I’ve come up with, but it makes me smile all the same. Thanks again, Blizz.