~Written by Britton Slagle
Thank you for checking out our page! The reason for this website and the entire organization is to provide education, counseling, and financial support to Coloradan families that have companion animals living with cancer in an effort to honor the human-animal connection. I’d like to share with you the story of why I started KarmaSue and why it means so much to me. It is a little long, a lot personal, but very real. I hope this speaks to you.
I adopted Suetra and Karma in September of 2001. Karma picked me out as I walked through the Denver Dumb Friends League – those eyes… My mom made sure I visited with Suetra, too (they were in the same, “cell”). I fell in love instantly. After that, it was just my girls and me. We went for many walks, cuddled a bunch, and learned to overcome some pretty significant things in life. Suetra was quite timid and had physical ailments weighing her down, but she found safety, comfort, and confidence in me. She slept on my bed with her head on the pillow and snuggled up close each night. She protected me. She was the world’s worst pooper (she would take forever to go poo), but it just meant we’d spend more time together outside. I lost Suetra (pictured above) to Hemangiosarcoma at age 13 in March of 2012. The tumor attached to her spleen had burst. The moment it was confirmed that she had cancer was the moment I had to decide to let her go. The vet that was helping us was off duty hours before we had to say goodbye to SueSue. She waited until I was ready, until Sue’s family could join us to say goodbye and her favorite blanket had covered her. I laid on the floor with my friend. I whispered that I loved her and that it’s okay. It’s okay. My heart still aches writing about it. I see her in my mind; I feel her in my heart. When I lost her, I felt like I lost a best friend. I was lonely. Since then, it has been my mission to help families that are affected by companion animal cancer. This is for you, SueSue.
After losing Suetra, Karma and I bonded in a way we hadn’t before. It was just her and me for the first time since I adopted them in September of 2001. We did everything together, including raise money for animal cancer research and other important projects. As she aged, we both learned the pleasure of scent tours – walking a little slower, stopping to smell the grass, the flowers, the air; it was quite nice. She sat close to me as I worked and watched TV with me when I was sick. We’d get in the car on Sundays to get coffee (sometimes a bagel for her and her people) and stop by the gas station on our way. All of these little things filled my heart. I had a friend – always. The love I shared with both of my girls was…indescribable, only felt deep within my heart and soul. I could tell Karma missed her sister almost immediately after Sue passed, so we adopted a sweet little Guinea Pig also from the Denver Dumb Friends League, Oscar (aka Boogie) in July of 2013 and they bonded immediately. In June of 2014 at the age of 14, I lost Karma to kidney disease and other ailments – cancer could have been an underlying culprit. Karma and Boogie were best friends until she passed. Her passing shattered the already broken pieces of my heart. I laid on the hospital floor with her at the end – just as I did with Suetra. I can still feel the cold floor. She rested on her favorite blanket and her family that loved her surrounded her. Karma knew it was okay to go; I needed convincing, but told her it was okay and that I loved her. The girls were such a big part of my life. All of the sudden, the world became silent. Then, it was just Boogie and me.
Boogie quickly became the ambassador to all things related to companion animal cancer. He let me dress him up (although some harnesses and outfits were vetoed by friends and family) and post photos of him all in the name of fundraising and kicking cancer’s butt! He brought a smile to people’s faces that he never even met. Friends and acquaintances would ask about him and for photos of him constantly. Boogie On Day was created in honor of him and continues today. People pledge to do a random act of kindness in his name. After each busy day, I’d sit with Boogie. He would cuddle on my chest/neck, and just rest with me. Some of my most calming moments happened with him in my arms. He felt safe and so did I. That’s one of the things I miss most about him – well, that and his popcorning; it was the cutest thing in the world! We constantly let him roam around the house and he would even hike his big bum up the stairs! In September of 2015, I lost Oscar, my buddy with so much personality. The veterinarian thought he might have had lung cancer, but could not be sure without many tests that would have only prolonged the inevitable, so we treated his symptoms. Boogie passed away while sleeping in his castle one night – the night before he was due back to the veterinarian for a check-up; he was going weekly and I barely told anyone about all the visits and him falling ill. His passing brought me to my knees – literally. I yelled, “No” so loudly and cried instantly. As I calmed myself, I sat with him. I know it was just his shell, but I could still feel him around. I told him I loved him and I was so grateful for the bond we shared – I was, I am. I was left in this world, what I would think of as completely and totally alone even though that was not the case. I have never felt more lost in my entire life as I found myself without a companion animal. Not only was the world silent, it was eerie and filled with despair. I actually left my home for a few days after that – I’ve never done that before, but I had to get some distance, I had to gain some kind of clarity.
Enter Nalani Koa.
I adopted Nala in October of 2015. If fact, she is a product of Boogie On Day. A friend of mine gave Nala, her sister, and her mother their freedom ride to PawsCo and posted a photo of the transport on our Boogie On event page. They caught my eye. Their foster mom brought the pups over to meet me and, long story short, Nalani picked me. She climbed in my lap and stayed there. She was so calm and sweet…nothing at all like she is now – what happened?! Ha! Our adventures began with puppy play and fun classes with our friend at Wagging Pawsibilities. This is where she gained confidence and friends. From there, we began taking longer walks and even went hiking a lot throughout the summer months. She drives friends and family crazy, but she is so, so loved. I am unbelievably grateful for Nalani Koa (her name means heavenly/the heavens and brave/fearless in Hawaiian). She gets me out of my comfort zone on a daily basis, challenges me to think outside of the box, and makes me laugh constantly. I feel love again – it’s like she came with tape to put together all the pieces of my broken heart. She is nothing like Suetra, Karma, or even Boogie. She is simply Nalani Koa, and that is exactly who I need right now. To more adventures, Nala. Let’s live.