History-Making Service Dog Honored By Southwest On Final Flight

"Sadly, Kaya was recently diagnosed with an untreatable cancer, so we have the solemn honor of taking her on what will be her last flight.”

The military service dog who inspired a federal law was honored by Southwest Airlines during her final flight earlier this month. 

Kaya, an eight-year-old German shepherd, flew on Southwest more than 250 times while lobbying for the PAWS Act alongside her owner, Marine Corps veteran Cole Lyle. Short for "Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers Act," the PAWS Act, which was enacted in 2021, expands coverage of service dogs for the treatment of PTSD through Veterans Affairs. 

On February 2, a few weeks after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis from veterinarians, Lyle flew with Kaya from Washington, D.C., to Dallas, Texas, to say goodbye to his best friend.

Kaya Last Flight


After boarding, the captain of Southwest Air Flight #1154 got on the intercom to introduce the rest of their passengers to the esteemed canine. A video of the moment quickly went viral on social media. 

“Kaya has flown on Southwest over 250 times out of her 320 flights she's been on," he said. "Sadly, Kaya was recently diagnosed with an untreatable cancer, so we have the solemn honor of taking her on what will be her last flight, as she goes home to rest where she was born and where she first met Cole." 

The captain encouraged people to look up Kaya's story and, if so inclined, "pay her a visit when we arrive in Dallas to show her some love."

"On behalf of Southwest Airlines, your two veterans upfront — we thank both Kaya and Cole, a Marine Corps veteran, for their service," the captain concluded. 

Cheers erupted from the aircraft and Kaya can be seen lifting her head up from her bed to acknowledge it.

“Our Team was on the ground to welcome her home and we are so grateful to honor and be part of her legacy,” Southwest said in a statement to Southern Living. “Throughout her career, Kaya flew with us over 250 times to help establish the PAWS Act which united Veterans with service dogs. We thank her and owner, Cole, for their many years of service.”

Kaya died two days later, on February 4, in College Station, Texas. 

Speaking with Fox News, Lyle said that "Kaya's life was characterized by service." 

"From helping me overcome my own service-related issues during difficult times to being a catalyst for nationwide service dog legislation—and serving as a de facto ambassador for all veteran service dogs in America—she was truly one of a kind," he said.

"Of course, her greatest legacy is—and always will be—the other veterans who were inspired to get their own service dogs and confessed they would’ve taken their lives had they not done so," he added.

Rest in peace, Kaya.

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