Guest Blogger: Karen H.
Cali was born on August 24, 2007 in Wheat Ridge Colorado. Her parents were Harry the handsome Queensland Heeler and Suzie the gorgeous Australian Shepard. I first met Cali eight weeks after her birth. My son played Ultimate Frisbee; the school he attended allowed students to bring their dogs. My son was wanting a fetching dog to be the team’s mascot. One of my clients had posted a, “Puppies needing homes” sign in my shop and my son went to look at the puppies. I was at work when my son called me and said, “Mom, I think you should come look at this puppy.” I put an, “out to lunch sign” on my shop front doors and I drove a couple of blocks down the street. There she was with her other siblings, her eyes twinkling like a bright star. Her belly was full of goat’s milk and she was a soft, adorable butterball. I picked her up and cuddled her in my arms and tears of adoration began to trickle down my face, it was love at first sight. “She is so beautiful” I said. The connection was strong and I instantly knew that she would come live with us.
There is a move in Ultimate Frisbee called “Callahan” for when a defensive player intercepts the disc in the opponent’s end zone. My son named our puppy Cali, short for Callahan. Well, Cali never did get into fetching. Actually I don’t remember a time she fetched anything at all and instead of following my son from classroom to classroom or laying under his desk during studies, she ran through school halls. My son ran the halls also, relentlessly chasing after her and soon Cali began spending more and more time with me at home and at work. Our bond grew because we went everywhere together.
Cali was diagnosed with mast cell carcinoma the early part of this year. Her vet said no surgery because too much of the cancer is in her muscle. The vet also said that surgery can anger the cancer and make it worse. Chemo/radiation is done in Fort Collins costing tens of thousands of dollars and I would have to take her every day. The vet said the treatment may extend her life only a few months more. No more vaccines, no more anesthesia, no stress, because those are all sources that trigger an auto immune response that can aggravate the cancer and release more histamine.
I have been feeling cheated, Cali and I made a deal a long time ago that she would be in our lives until she was at-least 15 years old. Cali will be 12 this August. I quit feeding Cali commercial dog food. Maybe food is the reason for this killer alien inside her? I don’t know, but I have to blame something. I always think there is a cure or an answer, so I keep striving for one. Now, I cook for her instead and she eats a ketogenic diet. She takes a low dose of steroids, antihistamine, and Pepcid for her stomach and receives lots of love. Cali and I recently made another pact. She told me if I walk her every day that she would do her best in fighting this cancer battle. Keeping this walking commitment is challenging due to the fact that Cali injured both her knees in her back legs from slipping on ice during a couple of Colorado heavy snow storms. Heeler’s are prone to torn ACL ligaments and perhaps that added to her injury. I confine her movements to help her heal and we take it easy on our walks. I use a support strap to hold her up and give her breaks along the way. My family takes turns carrying her up and down stairs.
Intellectually, I know all things die someday. On the other side of my head lies the monkey brain which makes me emotionally inept when thinking about losing Cali. It becomes too much for me to bare. I know she is in sync with my emotions and for her benefit I need at the very least try to keep my poker face on. I should know to live in the moment with my dog with appreciation and happiness. My last dog that had cancer taught me that I was wasting our precious time together being sad of the inevitable. Once I quit feeling sorry for the certainty that her death was in the near future, I lived completely in each moment with my dog and it was amazing! She taught me a lot about the circle of life. In essence what she shared with me is this: isn’t it better to live for a moment in the beauty of what you have than to mourn what you haven’t lost yet? It’s almost like losing all because you’re not living now.
It was by happenstance I found KarmaSue. I don’t even remember the name of the person who I briefly connected with that suggested I contact KarmaSue. This person and I spoke of our animals, cancer, and the grief I was experiencing. This person told me KarmaSue had grief counseling for pet owners. I am privileged and honored to be able to have this relationship with Cali. I know I can’t get my emotions in check because I will miss her to pieces. Not all people feel this special bond between pet and human and sometimes it’s hard to talk about the human and animal relationship to just anyone. KarmaSue understands the pain of loss and that humans do grieve their animals when they die. Britt has become my backbone and it helps me to know that she understands.
I contacted KarmaSue for emotional and informational support. I found out later that when their budget allows they also offer financial help. I work and find it hard to make ends meet. I myself have no insurance with medical issues. I am making payments on Cali’s vet bills. In essence, my bills are more than I make.
Cali has a zest for life, her eyes are as bright as the first day we met. Maybe the 15 year deal is still on or maybe not. KarmaSue is not passing any judgment on a life span for Cali. What Britt did was see a need in the moment to bring Cali quality of life…now. Britt is with me 100 percent and not only did she help me financially, she also connected me and worked out the details to get Cali a knee brace to support our walking efforts. The collaboration between Britt and Ben Blecha at Hero seemed effortless. With hearts wide open and a love for pets, Ben and Britt are giving Cali back her mobility. Real heroes are people that are noble in character and give of themselves to give to others and Britt and Ben are my heroes.
I cannot thank Britt, the Founder of KarmaSue, enough. She encouraged me to fill out a simple application and she stays connected with me so I know what’s going on.
Thank you Britt for being me and Cali’s support system.
Thank you Ben for helping a complete stranger, thank you for loving animals, caring about them and giving mobility to many animals including my Cali.