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When It’s Time

Guest Blogger: Karen H.
January, 2020

Cali was my beloved cattle dog of 12 years and this is the story of her last gift and wisdom she shared as she departed from this world.

4 days before Cali’s passing, unanticipated I was introduced to a Quaker Parrot. My co-workers and I talk this way and therefore when they said, “You should adopt her.” I initially didn’t give it much thought because that’s what we always say. In my quick introduction to the bird it was apparent she was a sweet girl and I instantly fell in love. I felt that she was extremely stressed and needed a home sooner than later and that feeling prompted me to start the adoption process. By Saturday evening, my family had set up a habitat for her while I anxiously counted the minutes to leave work and take Peach home.

After the human family said hello, I took Peach to meet Cali. Cali had been diagnosed with cancer 18 months ago. She was coherent and was laying on her bed when I took the bird to her. Cali did not react when seeing the bird, she lay there quietly. I would have thought she would have at least looked at the bird but instead, she had an unexcited demeanor about her. In my head I heard a whisper from Cali saying, “Okay; the bird is here, everything is fine now.” I shrugged it off as my kooky mind playing tricks on me, not recognizing the thought as intuition.

Come Sunday Cali had signs of physical stress hinting to the advancement of her cancer, these indicators told me she was experiencing her end of life stages. As much as I would love to have ignored the inevitable, I knew conscientiously that my gift to Cali would be not to let her suffer. My thoughts were now on organizing and planning the best and most loving ways to help her leave this physical world.

Monday morning, by happenstance an acquaintance had stopped by our home. Knowing her loving heart for the animals and her naturalistic background with humans, I asked her if she would take a look at Cali. She asked if I wanted to ask Cali yes and no questions. I enthusiastically replied with a, “Yes!” She asked me to place one of my hands upon Cali, which I did on top of her head. My other arm was extended towards Kim and the yes or no answer would come to her by how much pressure I could or could not resist when she was pushing down on my arm. Kim was on her knees with eyes closed as she began to pray for the higher good, she tapped into her information source, “God.” She prayed that God would connect us with Cali. The first thing that Kim said was that Cali was carrying my burdens energetically. The next thing Kim said was that Cali was holding on for me because she didn’t want me to fall into the darkness. Cali must have known I would be a mess when she would depart. I asked if Cali was in pain. Kim said that Cali said she wasn’t and added that pain is not the same thing as suffering. Cali also said that she didn’t want to be a burden on me. “Cali you’re not a burden!” I impeded. Cali told Kim that she wanted me to give her my “darkness” when she transitioned so she could take it with her and she would release it in a neutral place and that I should do a ritual to let it go. I did not realize at first that what Cali referred to as my “darkness” was about my life-long struggle with depression. I pondered Cali’s word choice “darkness” for depression and could not argue how accurate of a description it was. I tried to reassure Cali and spoke out loud that I would not go into the dark place. My mind instantly jumped into the future when I would be holding her tight not wanting to let her go. I have been bracing myself for that dreadful moment for a while now knowing the grief I would experience would be deeply agonizing. I told Cali that I would be okay and for her not to worry about me. As these words came out of my mouth, I thought how ridiculous it was of me to think I could fool her, especially when my face was drenched with tears.

Tuesday morning Cali began declining rapidly, she could not hold anything down, she did not want food, she was thirsty and at this point, I was bringing water to her because she had difficulty standing up, especially by herself. She drank the water and instantly regurgitated it and, because she was lying down, what didn’t run down her chest landed right back into her water dish. This water was not clear like what I had given her, it was a dark green color and all I knew was that this couldn’t be good.

I was distraught. My head felt like it was going to explode. I had been crying to the point of losing my breath and exhaustion. I wanted to vomit. I needed someone to talk to, someone who understands the heartache of saying goodbye to a pet. I reached out to the warm and caring people at KarmaSue. My blessings started there. I was greeted with love, empathy, and compassion. Since I had prior communication with the Founder about Cali’s cancer, I confidently knew I was safe expressing my heartbreak with her. I was reassured with grace to allow myself to express my grief in the manner that was natural for me. The hardships of the day and making arrangements were carefully taken off my shoulders on this sorrowful day because a living angel at KarmaSue took the time to care and to be with me during this painful experience. I don’t know how she knew how to ease my grief, but she did and I was now able to be exactly where I wanted to be, and that was spending the last hours of my dog’s life with her.

I would move Cali to wherever I thought she would be most comfortable. I cleaned her with warm washcloths and towels because I knew she didn’t want to have her fur saturated in her bile from earlier. We sat outside for a couple of hours soaking up the sun and listening to the birds. I tried to meditate but to no avail, because I couldn’t breathe. I cannot put into measure how many tears I shed as I stayed by Cali’s side. I began talking out loud to her through my tears. “Cali, I am trying so hard not to be sad. I can’t help it. I want to honor what you ask of me and release my ‘darkness.’ I’m crying because I love you and I will miss you. I will miss our walks in the park. Remember the mystical dewy warm summer rain walks when no one wanted to be outside? I will miss seeing your tail wagging as you welcome me home and the cuddles as we watch movies together. There has never been a moment of regret adopting you. I remember how beautiful you were when I first met you with your goat milk potbelly, soft fur, and puppy breath. Today you are just as beautiful. Having you by my side brings me comfort. You are the best dog ever!” A million times I thanked her for being in our lives.

I began to feel a moment of calm. I quit crying and began breathing without stress. I have been a practicing Buddhist for over 30 years. Because I regained my breath, I began to chant. Cali’s head was on my lap. One of my sons had walked by a couple of times and told me Cali looked content lying there with me. When I started chanting Cali took her paw and laid it on my arm, she lifted her head towards my face and then she gave me two soft kisses. That is when it occurred to me the “ritual” Cali wanted was for me to chant and pray. I granted her wish and continued chanting for the darkness to go away.

It was nearing the time when the vet was scheduled to be at our house. My friend of many years and a Buddhist arrived at my house before the vet. I shared with my friend the things that Kim had told me that Cali had said. My friend instantly knew the ritual that Cali wanted was for us to chant and therefore, she without hesitation, began to chant. She knelt on the floor to be close to Cali. As my friend began to chant Cali took a paw and placed it on her arm raised her head toward my friend and gave her two soft kisses. That was exactly what Cali had done with me outside; that gave me validation that we were on the right track.

At the beginning of the day, the family’s schedule was hectic making it difficult to coordinate a time for the in-home euthanasia. I randomly picked a time out of the three that the vet had open on her schedule and I prayed inside that all of Cali’s family would be with her to say farewell. One by one at 6 pm, everyone came through the door. The last son rushed through the door so quickly that he looked like he had skates on for shoes. The veterinarian is now at the door and this should be the time that those turbulent tears should be gushing out of my eyes; yet, I remained calm. There were now seven humans and Cali’s best dog friend surrounding her with love. It is now our last moments of life with her.

Cali was laying on her big fluffy bed and I was laying right beside her with my head on her chest and my mouth by her ear enabling my words to disclose to her softly how much I love her. Her family was there surrounding her respectfully with devotion saying their last goodbyes. My right ear was directly over her heart. Her heartbeats were so beautiful, they were strong and mesmerizing. My body felt removed from the tangible presence of matter as I bathed in the rhythm of the beats. Words cannot describe the pure ethereal essence that was penetrating in and through all of me because I was at this moment entangled with her. I knew that Cali had unlocked the dimension to the pure essence of love and the transcendent connection I was experiencing was the portal opening to the pathway back to our source.

The veterinarian administered the sedation. I was holding, loving, petting, whispering my gratitude for having her and honoring her wish by ritual as I continued to chant for the darkness to go away. Her heart was beating strong, yet I was feeling her soul leave her body. The phenobarbital was injected soon after and yet her heart continued to be steady, not skipping a beat or slowing down, instead it remained strong only sounding like it was echoing off into the distance becoming quieter until I could not hear it anymore. While each beat was distancing itself from me, my sadness was being replaced with a feeling of peace and I did not cry. While I was in the moment of my dog’s departure, I could feel her take my darkness with her and then Cali was gone.

I walked my friend to her truck. It was a pleasant clear-skied evening with a little chill to your bone temperature without a sweater. My friend gave me a comforting hug as we said goodnight and as she drove off, I looked down the street to Cali’s and my park, the park I cursed at just two days ago swearing to never return because somehow, I blamed it responsible for my pain and loss. I looked awkwardly up towards the sky or maybe heaven and in the nothingness of space that now contained my dog I said out loud as if Cali was right there, “Let’s go for a walk!”

Entwined in sadness, so many miracles had presented themselves in its place that day and the following days to come. Things in my heart that burdened me for two years instantly changed into positive physical manifestation. The supernatural world was evident to me and the power that it holds. I cannot fool myself. I know my “normal” behavior would be to sink into that darkness of depression. The biggest miracle was that I did not. My normal says to me that I should be in bed, hugging an empty pillow and crying for days on end to something I cannot change. It is not to say I wish nothing more than to have Cali here by my side now and forever. We hung out as if she was attached to my hip. I know she would get upset when I was sad because she would come to me instantly to give comfort and it does make sense that she had been soaking in my depression.

To say we are all connected is one thing and then to experience it the way I did is a whole awakening to how dynamic our connection is. Before Cali’s death, I may have logically tried to penetrate my mind with manipulating thoughts of being positive. Through Cali, I felt the connection we have to everything, and as cancer grew, I was able to understand through this experience how detrimental the state of negativity is. I no longer want to be a part of sharing that with the ones I love. It is not only important how we treat each other, but it is our lifeline back to ourselves. We are only being a disservice to all that is if we perpetuate the negative forces. With each thought, action creates itself and when I find myself in that place of darkness, I quickly remind myself of the rippling effect that I can have to everything. I am making a conscious effort to redirect the dark programming I have within and to reconstruct my thoughts to joy and love. This paradigm shift is truly a blessing from my dog.

I believe Peach is not a coincidence and that Cali wanted Peach to be in my life to fill a void in my heart somehow knowing I would at least not now adopt a dog. Peach is sweet, playful, and cuddly. Peach has made my resident parakeet very happy because she has a new friend. She gets very excited to see me when I get home and runs to me like any loyal dog would while squawking at me to “step-up” so she can perch on my hand. Not in my wildest imagination did I picture me taking walks in the park, the same park that I damned two weeks ago, with a bird. Peach snuggles in my hoodie with her body resting up against my shoulder and chin while peeking out from underneath and purrs in contentment, a Quaker’s purr. As we walk our walk in nature, we send our profound love and gratitude to Cali for gifting us the wisdom that we are all connected as one.

With Gratitude and Cali’s love,
Karen

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Karen and Cali: Let’s Make a Deal…

Guest Blogger: Karen H.
June, 2019

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.

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KarmaSue’s Year in Review (2018)

Written by Founder/Executive Director, Britton Slagle
KarmaSue truly had a banner year thanks to you – our supporters, donors, community partners, families (those that utilize our programs) and crew (our awesome volunteers).  I’ve personally seen this organization and everyone involved with it grow; it’s amazing to watch.  All of the successes and growing pains of the year are earned, valued, and completely worth it.  I’d like to dedicate this year end letter to all of you.  I hope you enjoy reading about our development and walk away from it with a sense of pride because YOU helped Coloradan families enduring companion animal cancer.  If you like what we do and can help us as we grow, please make a contribution to KarmaSue via our Crowdrise fundraiserwebsite, or directly through PayPal or Venmo, just search Britton Slagle. Lots of love to you.

Education Program

KarmaSue hosted four education workshops in 2018.  We were able to dive into various types of cancer in a series facilitated by our own Board member, Dr. Katie Braddock of Plum Creek Veterinary Services in Castle Rock.  We also provided a series that focused specifically on exotic animals.  Thanks to Devin Jaffe and her team at Nature’s Educators, participants learned about forms of cancer found in birds and reptiles and how to care for exotics, which many of us have as companion animals as well.  Thanks to our facilitators, Coloradan families have a better understanding of many cancers that impact a variety of species with which we share our lives and homes.  Education workshops will continue to be offered quarterly in 2019!

Counseling Program

We also offered four unique counseling workshops this year.  Participants were able to paint portraits of their pets and create handmade journals in which they can keep special memories of their companion animals.  We ventured out into nature as a group to enjoy the outdoors and reflect on the connections we have with our companion animals (both past and present) and we hosted a very special grief workshop earlier this month that allowed all of us to bond over the lives we share(d) with our pets and how losing our friends has changed our lives.  All of these workshops gave families the opportunity to feel their feelings in settings void of judgment with others that truly understand and appreciate the connections they share with their pets.  We look forward to creating more unique experiences for families to honor the human-animal connection next year.

Financial Support Program

KarmaSue rolled-out the financial support program in January, 2018.  This program supports families with expenses associated with a cancer diagnosis.  Thanks to our generous donors, we were able to offer financial assistance to two families enduring companion animal cancer.  The first companion animal is ten-year-old Kashus (featured in this video and pictured above-left).  He had his leg amputated as a result of osteosarcoma, but is now free of extreme pain!  Ally (his mom) did an amazing job raising funds and finding resources to pay for treatment, she just needed a little more help.  With the assistance of KarmaSue’s financial support program, Ally can spend more quality time with Kashus and less time worrying about how to pay much of the veterinary bill balance.  Ally recently announced that she and Kashus are celebrating eight months post amputation and diagnosis!  We are so grateful for the opportunity to meet and assist this family in 2018.  We are rooting for you, Ally and Kashus!

We are also grateful to have met Crystal and Harley-Grey (pictured above-right).  Harley-Grey was a one and a half year old Rottweiler diagnosed with osteosarcoma.  Unfortunately, Harley-Grey lost her fight with cancer on November 2nd.  The KarmaSue Crew was with the family as Harley-Grey passed at home and helped coordinate services for her.  We have not left Crystal’s side since she came to us for help in September, and we would not have it any other way.  In fact, Crystal joined our grief workshop from Michigan via FaceTime.  Harley-Grey took a piece of all of our hearts when she left.  We learned so much from this family that we are adding an important project to the financial support program next year.  Stay tuned for an announcement in January to see how this special, emotional experience will positively impact KarmaSue families in the future.

Boogie On!

The Second Annual Boogie On event – The Amazing Race Edition held in July was a huge success!  Five teams of four encountered road blocks, detours, and checkpoints that challenged them mentally and physically. People and pups joined us for the race and a fun after party with a silent auction, snacks, and prizes!  Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we beat our fundraising goal and raised over $1,400!  Our Fundraising Committee is already hard at work planning the next Boogie On event!

Community Partners
KarmaSue expanded its group of community partnerships from eight to seventeen!  Community partners support our mission by offering assistance, discounts, education, and more to KarmaSue families in order to honor the human-animal connection.  Most recently, KarmaSue has added the following nonprofits and businesses as valued community partners: Morris Animal FoundationThe Brodie FundVRCCColorado Home EuthanasiaSpay Today, Neuter Now!Thriving Pets International, and Colorado Pet Pantry.  Starting in January, KarmaSue and The Brodie Fund will begin collaborating to help families obtaining oncology services through VRCC.  This partnership allows both organizations to increase impact and support families more completely.  We appreciate these important partnerships and are invested in their missions and scopes of work.  Thank you, community partners!

KarmaSue Crew

Last, but certainly not least, we have expanded the KarmaSue Crew and it continues to grow!  We’ve had new members join our team to enhance outreach efforts and expand our capacity to support the community.  Thanks to our volunteers, we were able to participate in our first cat convention, make headway in our marketing plan, and increase our ability to raise funds with the goal of supporting Coloradan families enduring companion animal cancer in mind.  I cannot express enough gratitude to this team.  They work tirelessly and never complain; I am forever indebted to them.  To each KarmaSue Crew member – thank you.  Please take a moment to enjoy what you have helped create this year.

A Note to our Donors
You have been loyal, compassionate, and so generous.  We thank you for your commitment to KarmaSue’s mission and faith in our ability to provide needed programs to families enduring companion animal cancer.  Because of you, we were able to provide thoughtful workshops each quarter and help two families fighting companion animal cancer with costs associated with a cancer diagnosis.  You allow us to continue this work.  We look forward to sharing more stories with you in 2019 about families just like Ally and Kashus and Crystal and Harley-Grey.  Although some may be emotional and heartbreaking, all will be inspiring and full of hope.  The stories will continue highlighting the human-animal connection in all its beauty.  After all, that is why KarmaSue exists, to support Coloradan families enduring companion animal cancer in an effort to honor the human-animal connection.

We hope that you have enjoyed learning about what the KarmaSue Crew has been up to this year and that you are just as excited for 2019 as we are; it’s going to be another great year!  Being an all-volunteer organization allows us to allocate 100 percent of contributions to programs.  To help us continue our work, please consider making a contribution to KarmaSue via several easy options: our Crowdrise fundraiserwebsite, or directly through PayPal or Venmo, just search Britton Slagle. Thank you again! We are so grateful for ALL OF YOU!

Follow KarmaSue on Social Media
Are you on FacebookInstagram, and/or Twitter?  So are we!  Head over to our social media pages and connect with us today!  Now, thanks to Erica Jaffe and Staccato Productions, we even have our own YouTube channel!  Head over to our social media pages and connect with us today!

GET INVOLVED!
KarmaSue offers several ways for you to get involved and support our organization.  For details regarding volunteer opportunities, please visit our website or send us an email today!

As always, thank you for your continued support of KarmaSue.  This is OUR organization; it is just as much yours as it is ours.  Thank you for your part in our journey.

With Gratitude and Love,
Britton J. Slagle
Founder/Executive Director
KarmaSue

Unexpected Snow

Guest Blogger: Joyce E. Cain
November, 2018

On a cold February day, my husband and I were taking our two dogs for a walk. As we strolled along, a kitten appeared. He was adorable! Black and white with a tiny black mustache on his white face. He meowed at us and Luke picked him up. He was filthy and had gum stuck in his tail. And he was terribly skinny, every rib and his tiny hip bones sticking out. We petted him for a few minutes and contemplated what to do. Since he had run out from under a porch, we decided to give it another day. We had never seen him before, so maybe he was a recent adoption and his humans hadn’t had time to clean him up.

The next morning we were anxious to return and check on the kitten. This time, he appeared from a field next to the house. He was still filthy, still had gum in his tail, and seemed desperate for attention. When I picked him up, he snuggled in and started purring. With two dogs and three cats already in our family, we weren’t sure we wanted another kitten. But we decided it was our responsibility to at least ensure he got fed and cleaned up. We could keep a lookout for “missing kitten” posters or maybe take him to the local cat rescue.

Back home, we gave him a gentle sponge bath and cut most of the gum out of his tail. We soaked cat food in water and he gobbled it up. But the sweet little guy wouldn’t sleep. He would lean against me while sitting up but as soon as he nodded off, he would startle awake and look around terrified. That’s when we knew he hadn’t had a safe place to live! So we would pet him until he fell asleep, although he would only sleep sitting up, leaning against one of us.

A couple days went by and we continued to feed him small amounts. He kept passing and throwing up grass, which we assumed meant he had had nothing real to eat in a while. Within a week, he was keeping all his food down. He curled up to sleep. We thought he was the sweetest kitten we had ever met.

Another week passed and suddenly our kitten wasn’t so sweet. He was ornery, too! Turns out he had been so lethargic from being hungry and sick, we had been fooled into thinking he was the calmest kitten who had ever been. But now he was back to good health and he was like every other kitten. He climbed to the top shelves. He dug in plants. He tormented his cat “sisters.” He attacked us from around corners. And every day we fell more in love with him!

No signs appeared. And we realized there was no way we could take him to the rescue, as great as they were. And so we had our fourth cat! A visit to the vet determined he was healthy and would just need the standard care for a new pet (neutering and vaccinations).

And then the big decision… What to name him! It has never taken us so long to name a pet. We tried so many names over the course of the next month and nothing stuck. Finally, we tried Snow, after a TV character we were enjoying. It seemed such a blah name for such a fancy cat, but it stuck, and Snow he was!

That was five and a half years ago. Based on how old he was when we found him and because he looks like he’s wearing a mask, we decided Halloween should be his birthday.

Over the past three years, four of our animal family members have passed away from old age or cancer. And we re-homed two to my mother-in-law (long story… but we found ourselves in a living situation where we couldn’t keep all of our pets and so we asked Mom if she could temporarily take two cats while we figured it out. It’s been two years now because the three of them have become so attached to each other and Mom asked if she could just keep them!).

So now we are down to just Snow! It’s been almost 11 years since we had only one pet. In some ways, it’s nice to just have him to focus on. He gets more attention than he ever has and he is thriving on it! He loves to chat and tells us about everything he has done while we’re away from home. He still has a kitten meow and purrs louder than any cat we have ever known. He has his own space in the RV (we live and travel full-time in an RV) and one of his favorite things is to gaze out the window and watch wildlife or people walking by. He is an incredibly handsome cat and his mustache makes him even more unusual. He likes to lie on Luke’s chest and get his chest rubbed and the ecstatic look on his face makes me giggle. He enjoys sitting on our laps while we travel and his reactions to what he sees and smells outside the truck are highly entertaining. He also makes us laugh with his crazy antics around the trailer, chasing crinkle balls or attacking his stuffed mice. He sleeps under the covers and his almost non-stop purring soothes my anxiety. When I was lost in grief earlier this year, after our Henri dog passed away, Snow gave me someone to focus on and caring for him reminded me I still had an animal friend to enjoy.

But beyond all that, I love him just for who he is. He is a gentle, caring soul. He showed this through the way he cared for Henri. Snow would follow him around the house and gently touch him to let him know he wasn’t alone. If Henri ran into a wall or fell down, Snow was right there to check on him. He frequently laid right next to Henri while he was sleeping. Since Henri’s passing, Snow has become more and more of a companion. He is a great friend and a happy, silly little cat and we are grateful he chose us all those years ago!

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Tori and Winchester: A Match Made in Heaven

Guest Blogger: Tori Wegener
October, 2018

It all started when I decided to impulsively adopt my companion animal. When I picked him up, just to hold him, I knew that he was coming home with me. So I told the lady that I wanted him and needed to get everything that he would need. Let me just tell you that all of his supplies cost me an arm and a leg, but I didn’t care because he was going to be my best friend; his name is Winchester.

Winchester and I instantly bonded and continued to connect as we played and trained. Some say training this species is easier than training a dog, which I thought was neat. I made him a little box house in my room so that he could run around the room and get up on it. I was able to train him to know that, when I shook the treat bag, he knew to run across the room and hop up on his house ledge. One thing that I knew I would definitely train him to learn was that his cage would be known as his, “room;” I never liked the word, “cage.”

He is a happy and very energetic little guy. After I adopted him, I saw Facebook posts about how this species becomes really attached to their people companions and love to just relax. Relaxing is not in him at all – he could run for hours! Shortly after I adopted him, I realized that my boyfriend was allergic to him. This made it hard for my boyfriend to come over and spend time with me and my new companion animal. We made it work for the last year and a half. About two months ago, my boyfriend and I decided to take the next step and move in together. This was going to be a big step in my life and my companion animal’s life because I had to make the hard sacrifice of leaving Winchester with my family. I did not want to leave him behind, but I could not let my boyfriend suffer being allergic to him, either.

I struggled with the decision about what I was going to do for a few months. I didn’t want to seem like a terrible companion animal mommy for leaving Winchester. I knew that my family would take good care of him. I remember the day I moved in with my boyfriend; it was so hard to give my little guy the biggest hug and say I would see him soon. I cried for about a week straight every night. Having that connection with him is so great; my little guy makes me super happy.

My mom knew I was feeling sad about leaving Winchester behind, so every week I FaceTime with my mom to see my little guy. She sends me pictures and updates about him every week. I try to make it across town to my parent’s house to see Winchester often. FaceTiming with him is fun because I can see how excited he gets when he hears my voice! Winchester will be two years old this January, and I am already trying to figure out what to get him. On his first birthday he got special treats and a pineapple house. I have to think of something he will love just as much for this birthday!

The bond that Winchester and I have is very special to me because he always knows how to cheer me up when I am upset. Now, this might shock you…Winchester is a medium black/white rat. That’s right, Winchester the rat is my best friend.

Winchester had to go to the veterinarian recently because his nose was slightly bleeding, which is a sign of a respiratory infection. My mom was nice enough to take him in to see the vet. He was prescribed some medicine and was told he needed to lose a little bit of weight. Winchester is a very happy chunky rat, but could possibly need to lose a few pounds to be more on the healthy side. He is doing better now and apparently likes when grandma (my mom) gives him his medicine instead of when I do it, his own mom!

I love my baby Winchester and will do anything to make sure he is taken care of. Companion animals aren’t just dogs and cats, they’re horses, pigs, birds, and rabbits, too (among others)! My companion animal just happens to be in a happy, slightly chunky, rat form, and I wouldn’t have him any other way.

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The Bond Between Ally and Kashus

Kashus for Blog

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The amazing story of the stoic American bulldog Mastiff named Kashus Woodside started 10 years ago. I saw his picture online with his littermates needing a furever home; however he was, tragically, already spoken for – he was going to be a service dog. The other pups that were still left had already been claimed and were awaiting pick up. As fate would have it, later that same day they called back and said that he was not a good fit as he was afraid of the wheelchair. So, I rushed back and took my baby home! During the next few weeks, that turned into months, and then years, I never fathomed he would save me as much as I saved him, and couldn’t imagine a better protector and friend through good times and bad.

The day we got the diagnoses of Osteosarcoma was the day the clock on our time together truly started. Kashus was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma (OS) when he was 10, on top of other ailments. OS is a fast and very aggressive form of bone cancer. By the time you notice any symptoms it has usually metastasized to the lungs or other organs giving most animals a very poor prognosis even with aggressive treatment. I wrestled the idea of treating holistically and heavy pain management versus amputation. Amputation is not a cure, but a better option for pain control. There is no right or wrong decision with this disease, but one thing is certain, time is not on your side.

During this time of contemplating amputation and whether or not I could afford it, a mutual friend ran into KarmaSue volunteer in her store. KarmaSue specializes in education, counseling, and financial support of Coloradan families enduring companion animal cancer. Desperately, I reached out to KarmaSue the day I got the referral. They have been amazing! They were so easy to work with, their communication is outstanding, and if you ever find yourself needing someone who won’t leave you hanging during your time of need, you can count on KarmaSue.

We ended up going the amputation route. Our decision to amputate was due to uncontrollable pain. He would wake up and scream, he could hardly walk, his appetite had decreased, and his energy was as if he was already dead. Kashus, being such a large dog, came into a few postoperative problems, which resulted in blood loss as well as three different types of infection that required multiple hospital visits and additional surgeries.

As of today (7/19/2018), Kashus is three months post amputation and is still free from metastasis in his lungs! Thank you KarmaSue for helping during this rocky part of our life. You will always be considered family to us!

Written by Ally Woodside

Welcome to KarmaSue

~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.

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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.

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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.

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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.