Kaya the Service Dog Is Honored on Her Last Plane Ride Ever After Being on 250+ Flights

Many people wish their dogs could live forever; but, since this is an impossible dream, it makes it all the more important to honor the trusty canines in our lives. This is exactly what Marine Corps veteran Cole Lyle has done with his beloved Kaya, a German Shepherd service dog. He gave Kaya a moving tribute aboard her final flight home.

Having flown over 250 times with her human, Kaya sadly found herself on her last trip. After being diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer, Lyle took her to Texas—the place where she was born and where they met—for her to spend her final days. For Lyle and many others, Kaya was much more than a service dog—she was an ambassador of veteran service dogs, having been the driving force behind the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act. Signed into law in 2021, the act provides funds for veterans to be united with service dogs. Kaya had flown several times as she and her handler traveled often to lobby for this initiative, which has saved the lives of many veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Lyle and Kaya had been together since 2014. After six years in the Marine Corps with a tour in Afghanistan, the vet developed PTSD. Despite trying to overcome his PTSD with medication and therapy, it seemed like nothing was helping and he almost became a “veteran suicide statistic.” Luckily, Lyle met a fellow veteran with a service dog and decided to give it a go. After adopting Kaya as a puppy, he invested thousands of dollars of his own money in her training. “She was specifically trained to help wake me up from nightmares and stop anxiety attacks and things like that,” he said to WFAA, adding that Kaya saved his life. “A dog can be a powerful thing to keep you around.”

After being asked by curious neighbors about the benefits of service dogs, he saw how many could benefit from adopting one. With time, Lyle and Kaya moved to D.C. and advocated before Congress about a program that provided access to service dogs to veterans struggling with mental health issues. To him, not only can the dogs perform specialized tasks, but they can also provide a sense of purpose.

After hundreds of plane rides together, spreading the word of the life-saving powers of service dogs, Kaya took her final flight to Texas. Aboard the plane, the pilots honored her with a message on the intercom. After the pilots told her story on the plane and encouraged travelers to “give her some love,” she was welcomed by a round of applause from many people as she was deplaned and went through the airport on a cart, due to her mobility issues. “Hundreds of people were cheering and clapping for her and telling her ‘welcome home’ and ‘thank you for your service,’” Lyle told CNN. “It was really an extraordinary moment.”

Kaya sadly passed away a few days after the final trip. She was honored and got to do some of her favorite things. Ultimately, the spirit of Kaya will persevere in every service dog and every life saved. “I can’t tell you how many veterans have messaged me and reached out to me in years past,” Lyle shared, “and even now and said, ‘You know, Kaya inspired me to get my own dog, because I saw you talk about how powerful she was for you, and if I had not done that, I would have killed myself.’ And I think that is Kaya’s most profound and powerful legacy.”

After six years in the Marine Corps with a tour in Afghanistan, veteran Cole Lyle developed PTSD. But…


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Cole Lyle (@ctlyle)

…he found a way to cope with his mental health thanks to a German Shepherd service dog named Kaya.

Because of his newfound hope and a new lease on life, Lyle knew he needed to help other service members find their own Kaya

Kaya became the driving force behind the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act, an initiative to help veterans get service dogs to cope with PTSD and to avoid suicide.

Lyle and Kaya took many flights together across the country, spreading word of the proposed PAWS Act.

This year, Kaya took her final flight home to Texas and was honored by the plane's pilots and passengers.

While Kaya sadly passed away a few days after the final trip, the spirit of Kaya will persevere in every service dog and every life saved.

Kaya Lyle: Instagram
Cole T. Lyle: Instagram | Twitter
h/t: [WBAY]

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Regina Sienra

Regina Sienra is a Staff Writer at My Modern Met. Based in Mexico City, Mexico, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications with specialization in Journalism from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She has 10+ years’ experience in Digital Media, writing for outlets in both English and Spanish. Her love for the creative arts—especially music and film—drives her forward every day.
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