HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Rory Stoykoff says his late wife, Zayna, was a beautiful person. Three years ago, the Maui middle school teacher was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It was triple negative breast cancer. If you have breast cancer, it’s the one you do not want to have,” Stoykoff said.
During her treatment, there was a glimmer of hope when the couple thought she would get better.
“In celebration, she got a dog without telling me,” Stoykoff said.
That dog was a mixed-breed rescue animal from the Maui Humane Society. The Stoykoffs named her Kaia.
She would become their saving grace when Zayna’s cancer got worse.
“We honestly thought we had two or three years of fighting, but it ended up being less than three weeks when she got her new diagnosis,” Stoykoff said.
Zayna passed away on an Easter Sunday. Rory and his daughter, Holly, would have been crushed if not for the dog.
“That dog has been a blessing in more ways than you could possibly know. I would have loved to crawl into bed and gone to sleep for six or seven months. But from then on, everyday I had a task to do,” Stoykoff said.
Caring for the canine was the distraction both father and daughter needed.
“She had a built-in best friend. She had somebody she could cry to. I could hear her in her room talking to her dog,” Rory said.
“She makes my life a little bit more fun by playing with me,” Holly said.
Rory made a video of his story for the Petco Foundation’s Holiday Wishes campaign. The national pet supply chain selected it for a $50,000 grant that goes to the Maui Humane Society.
“Because of COVID, they’re not getting the donations they used to get. They can’t do the fundraising they used to do. So this really helped them out a lot,” Stoykoff said.
And Kaia would bring another blessing. Her foster caregiver, Jamie-Sue West, met the Stoykoffs when she helped with the Petco video.
“Because of that, the foster mom and I are now in an amazing relationship with Holly and Kaia,” Rory said.
He said Kaia saved him and his daughter when they were shattered by Zayna’s death. Now she has saved them again.