Leo, the Gentle German Shepherd

Guest Blogger: Andrea B.
April, 2023

Where do I begin – Leo is the love of my life.  He is the most gentle, lovable, caring dog in the world, really he is, just ask anyone.  He and his sister Lea turn seven on July 31, 2023.

It was not quite six weeks ago when my bff Kim came to visit and she had just made it in the door and was greeted by Leo and loving him up when not a minute later she said, ‘What’s this on Leo’s jaw?’ I immediately felt it and was shocked that I had missed this huge firm mass the size of a lemon inches below his ear.  I immediately called the vet who was closed due to the weekend.  We decided to wait until Monday to seek medical attention.

There I was at the Small Animal Clinic in Pueblo 8:00 AM sharp on Monday.  They aspirated the growth and the result knocked the wind right out of me.  ‘Cancer cells.’  Thank God they had a surgery cancellation that morning and the tumor was removed and sent to CSU Ft. Collins for pathology.  Histopathology came back and confirmed adenocarcinoma of the salivary glands which had invaded his vascular system.  There was no time to wait.  I wanted to get chemo through his blood as quickly as I could.  I was referred to and immediately called Treeline Veterinarian Cancer Center in Boulder (“Dr. Oberthaler is the best”, I was told).  She consulted with me that Thursday by phone and Leo and I headed North that following Monday.

Saturday night about 4:00 in the morning I was jolted up, ‘I cancelled his pet insurance in December to save money.’  Then the panic really set in.  Okay, who am I kidding I’ve been panicking since I first felt that stupid tumor.  After the first round of chemo, surgery, metastatic x-rays, meds, and some supplies I was right near $2,500.00.  Chemo would cost $860.00 every three weeks for eighteen weeks plus some additional metastatic x rays along the way.  I’m single, Leo and Leo don’t have a fur daddy, but I knew that money could not come in between me and my baby.  I reached out to family and it was my sweet God daughter Haley that informed me that she started a GoFundMe page for Leo.  I hated to have to ask for handouts but I thought what else am I gonna do?  Then people I didn’t even know (and some I did;) started sending Leo money.  I was overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness and generosity of strangers and family.

Later, my boss informed me that, since I work for the state of Colorado, I could receive a 20% discount from CSU Ft. Collins veterinarian hospital.  But, you see, Leo and I had already formed a relationship with Dr. Oberthaler and it took me a few days to get the nerve up to call and tell her that I had no other choice but to take Leo to CSU for a second cost opinion.  Dr. Oberthaler didn’t cease to amaze me when she informed me of KarmaSue AND that, since I was fundraising, I could also receive 20% off of her services.  We visited Dr. Oberthaler last week and Leo even dressed up in his KarmaSue bandana for her.

OMG so the best part!! I applied to KarmaSue and received generous funding which really took the edge off.  I am now not so stressed.  I can breathe and be relaxed around Leo.  Since that amazing day, I have been cancer-stress free.

As far as Leo, well he’s everyone’s dream dog, favorite dog, well-mannered dog, lovable dog – all true and actual statements.  He’s never met a ball or a body of water he didn’t like.  He knows how to spell so we have spell park, walk, ball, snack, bone, and some others all backwards.  Up until the day he was diagnosed, I used to wonder how many years I could possibly have with them – if I fed them the best food, exercise them, socialize them, take them for regular vet checks… and I did all of that.  I don’t think like that anymore.  I do not know how much time Leo will have but I do know that he will have the best time.  I know I will never take one day for granted.  I know that I have done everything I could to extend his quality of life and give him back just a fraction of the love and life that he has given me.

Having a reality scare like what cancer will do to you really makes you think differently, appreciate more, and love exponentially, just when you thought you couldn’t love them anymore.  Knowing that there are kindhearted, caring people like those at KarmaSue gave me the hope I needed when I started believing that there wasn’t any.  Britton has kept in touch with me weekly, her emails are uplifting and show her true character and emotion, she is a person who truly loves helping people and their pets and I am so grateful to have crossed her path.

Special note: Leo’s family is still raising funds to assist with his treatment. If you feel compelled to do so, please donate and/or share their GoFundMe page. Thank you so much!

Lovable Luna

Guest Blogger: Cody Y.
April, 2023

“Luna the Great Dane is my lapdog, joined to the hip, my baby; I have always worked from home since she was a pup, so she is upset even when I leave the house – which isn’t great for her, but I realize why. I feel the love and give it back to her. Pets are family to me. I never have or never would abandon or give them up. When you know the love of a dog it changes you. I feel bad for people that have never had that, or don’t treat dogs with the same love they give to them.

Luna means so much to me. I will sell my car if I must [to pay for her treatment]. These next years we can extend her life we want to do amazing things with her. I want to take her on new adventures with her brother Jabba the Bordeaux and Ruby the rescue mutt. I want to take her to lakes, and mountains and rivers and give her ice cream and bones and whatever her little heart desires. And we want to cherish the small things like when she jumps up and gives us human hugs, or she plays with her brother while laying down, or how she has this funny little moan when she’s happy and lying in bed with me. Four-years-old is too young to give up. Luna’s lymph nodes have gone from mango size back down to normal in three appointments, so I think she has a real shot at least another two years.”

Nola – World Traveler, Family Keystone

Guest Blogger: Sandy O.
October, 2022

We adopted Nola 8 1/2 years ago from New Hope Rescue of Colorado Springs. From across the room of about 50 dogs we spotted Nola and knew she was ours. Nola is considered a rescue dog but, in many ways, has rescued us. She is our number one protector, knows when you are sad, never wants to disappoint us, and unlike her two sausage dog brothers, is always up for a run or long hike outside. Nola has grown with our family from the very beginning. She (along with her brothers) has been with us through one international move, three domestic, and welcomed our two children into the world.

When we found out we were moving back to Colorado we were so excited, thinking of all the places and things we were going to get to do with Nola again in the place we became a family. Three days after we arrived, we scheduled a vet appointment to have some lumps looked at on Nola’s neck. Two days later we received the devastating news that Nola has lymphoma. I knew when we decided to adopt three dogs, we would watch them grow old and may even see them get sick, but no one can prepare you for what that day will actually feel like when it comes. To say we took it hard is an understatement. Nola is the rock of our family and such high energy, to think of her sick just didn’t seem real.

Chemotherapy was our only hope, and we knew we had to start as soon as possible. I was worried how therapy would affect her but being the trooper that Nola is she has done amazing so far! Nola started her treatments 3 weeks ago and we could not ask for a better experience. She is eating well, still loves car rides, snuggles with her brothers, and even wants to play fetch again. We know the future may look a little different now, and our envisions of long hikes and runs with Nola may consist of evening walks to check the mail for a while, but we know that Nola is happy, and that is all we want for her in this life.

Update on Nola (February, 2023):

Nola is still in the process of receiving chemo treatments. We switched to an oral at home pill a few weeks ago but unfortunately she didn’t respond well to it. Her lymph nodes started to become swollen again so we found ourselves back at the vet. That was hard for us to hear but we quickly decided to switch treatments to a different medication and after one treatment her lymph nodes have reduced in size significantly. We will continue this treatment every 4 weeks for 5 treatments. As always, Nola remains happy and healthy during her chemo. She loves our daily car rides to and from our kids school as well as stalking a rabbit that likes to taunt her by eating right outside of our fence. She plays with her brothers daily and loves all the snuggles she can get. We are so happy to still have her with us!

Happy “Uncle” Boomer

Guest Blogger: Jessica B.
February, 2023

Boomer is a 6 (almost 7) year old Lab (lap)/Bulldog mix. Before he was sick, he weighed a hefty 95 pounds and every single ounce is pure love and joy. Boomer is the kind of guy who loves with everything. He has never met a stranger, always has been gentle and will always be a buddy when you need it. He is always smiling and just loves everything and everyone.

Boomer was born at the Adams Country shelter and along with his brother was adopted out as a puppy. He spent the first year and half of his life outdoors with his brother. He and his brother were returned to the shelter and because they were such big doggos, they were separated to increase chances for adoption. 

By the time we visited the shelter, Boomer (then Ruby) had seen his brother get adopted away and spent several weeks being overlooked. It took one shared glance and we knew he was meant to be with us.

Boomer was terrified, knowing that he didn’t want to be returned again, it was clear he has made himself to be a people pleaser, nothing he did was without direction and many times, we would have to coax him to go outside or play with toys. 

Boomer made fast friends with our oldest daughter and they became inseparable, he gave his heart to her and with time, learned to trust, love and let loose.

Boomer is always happy, happy to go for a ride, walk to the mailbox, snuggle in a bed or wait patiently at your feet. He is a constant shadow and a kind soul.

This past fall we agreed to foster a momma dog and her litter of nine puppies. Even at the beginning of his illness when he started to be visibly sick, he was wholeheartedly loved and the best uncle Boomer he could be. He helped raise and socialize 9 little pups and you could see the love pouring out of him.

Cancer sucks, so much so because it effects the kindest of souls, the ones who have so much to give this world. Of course during diagnostics Boomer was such a good boy, test after test, after ultrasound he always had a wiggly tail and good spirits. 

Even when we knew for sure that it wasn’t good news, Boomer was still happy and comforting us. The most poignant offer of support came from the oncology doctor when she said, the only thing good about this is that animals have no concept of time.

As owners we focus so much on time, on how long we can have, how much extension there is because we just aren’t ready to say goodbye. It has been humbling to see Boomer keep on chugging, not knowing anything about time.

Of course, stubbornly, we continue to fight time, different foods, holistic measures, added dietary supplements, all to squeak out every last moment we can find.

Which brought us to KarmaSue. The worst feeling is to have two sheets of paper in front of us after a cancer diagnosis. One talking about palliative care, lower cost for sure, but on a truncated time table, and one offering much more time with our Family, our heart, our love, which an exponential cost. 

We knew that the only thing we could live with was to try to give him as much as we can, any way we could, in whatever capacity. The idea of “lets start treatment now, and work on finding the funding where we can” overtook us.

Many organizations have complicated processes to qualify for help, certain requirements, only certain diagnoses can be sponsored, must see certain specialists, who are booked out months, but he didn’t have that time, and frankly, sometimes life just hits you hard all at once and you just need help.

That is where we were, a rough few months just landed us in the spot that we felt stuck and underwater. The stars aligned, and out of chance we stumbled on KarmaSue, you guys made it easy, gave us space to breathe and offered a kind word, expecting nothing in return. KarmaSue sponsored the big guy, and gave him the time we so desperately needed.

Boomer responded wonderfully to the first few treatments, showing CLINICAL REMISSION already. He acts like nothing happened or is happening. He has the opportunity to squish out more months of love and gets the opportunity to love us how we need to be loved right now.

We look forward to being able to keep sharing his story with you, we relish the opportunity to show you the wonderful guy you helped, we know it isn’t  forever, we know time will eventually be stolen from us, but for right now, it is enough.

Many thanks and Much Love

From Boomer and the Gang

Boomer does have a GoFundMe campaign, we are still working towards his goal for covering his treatment and updating about his treatment. You can find that information at:

THE FAITHFUL COMPANION, MOOSE

Guest Blogger: Amanda D.
January, 2023

After graduating college, I moved home to take care of my parents who were sick at the time. I moved 1,200 miles away from my friends and boyfriend to a place that all my childhood friends had moved on from. It was during this time that I got Moose.

Moose was with me through some of the most challenging moments of my life. He was with me when I started my first “real job,” when I lost my mom to cancer, when my dad was in the hospital for months at a time due to medical errors, and through so much more. He has been a faithful companion and the best friend any person could ask for.

This past fall, at the age of 4, he was diagnosed with a fibrosarcoma in his lower jaw. After months of diagnostic procedures and multiple vet visits, we decided to move forward with a mandibulectomy to remove the cancer and give him the best chance at living a long(er) life. Unfortunately, the vet was not able to get clean margins and Moose still has cancer. The only options left were to do an aggressive course of radiation or move into palliative care treatment.

At this point, the vet bills had been piling up and the thought of adding more bills was overwhelming. Thankfully, my family found KarmaSue. With the support of KarmaSue, pursuing treatment became a reality. Not only did KarmaSue provide financial support, but emotional as well. I can’t express how much the kind words, resources, and genuine concern have meant to Moose and me as we navigate through this trying time. Moose has gotten me through some of the hardest times in my life, I am thankful KarmaSue has enabled me to do the same for him.

Tobin the Adventurer

Guest Blogger: Whitney G.
November, 2022

Tobin, our happy, smart, vocal Australian Shepherd, came to us from a farm in Winchester, Kentucky at just 8 weeks old. Our dear friend Jude Clark knew of a farmer that had a new litter of Aussie puppies and asked us if we wanted one. We were instantly in love with the fluffy tri-blacks that he sent us photos of. At the time we had a very smart Australian Cattledog, Milo, who desperately needed a companion to spend time with. We told Jude we wanted a puppy and before we knew it, Tobin was put on a plane and flown out to Colorado to join our little family.

Tobin & Milo became the best of friends. Milo at the time was seven and very patient with our new rascal. He showed him the ropes, what to chase, what not to chase, how to swim, fetch, play, herd, and be the most loyal of dogs to us. Tobin quickly adjusted to his new Colorado home and to being part of our family. He has since a very young age only wanted to please, show us love and affection.

Tobin has been the very best dog over the course of his 8 years with us. We have traveled all over the country with him, introduced him to family & friends, dogs, and cats. He has taken a ferry to British Columbia, swam in the Pacific Ocean, hiked in the tall forests of Idaho, ran the fields of Grandpa’s farm in Indiana, and boated on mountain lakes of Colorado. He loves to camp – at night nestling in between my husband and I, swallowed up by sleeping bags. He likes to fish – patiently watching my husband cast a line and real in Rainbow trout with a net. He is a dream off leash and has hiked by our side miles and miles in the beautiful National Forests of our state – taking in aspens, wildlife, and peaks of every season. He loves to herd our chickens, a small flock of seven. We started to say, ‘round em up’ and he instantly knew to herd them into the coop. He hates bees and has been stung too many times. He loves rides in the back up the truck – anxiously singing as we approach the lake or trailhead. He spends his days laying at my feet as I work from home, giving me constant company, letting me know often with a grunt or a look from his chocolate eyes, picking up a squeaky toy from the pile in a nearby basket, that it’s time for a break to play.

He is a dog with routines. Each morning he hops up into bed as my husband gets up for work in the early morning. He curls up close and sleeps until I wake. Breakfast is always a highlight of his day – a love for kibble (and now homemade chicken, rice, and veggies!) makes his whole body wiggle with joy. While waking for the day he has learned to ‘Do Yoga’ stretching his body in the downward dog position.

Whenever we leave the house, and he has to stay home, whether for 10 minutes or two hours, Tobin greets us at the door, looking up at us to smile, showing his white teeth and Aussie grin. His whole body wiggles, excited that we’re home again.

His personality is so sweet. He is playful, happy. He is loving. He is the kindest of dogs. When Milo grew old, Tobin would carefully walk around him, wait for him to enter the house first, and give him little kisses on his snout. We lost Milo in early September, at 15 ½ years old, just a week before learning of Tobin’s devasting cancer diagnosis. I can’t help but think that Tobin too was sad to lose his old friend that he’d known for his entire dog life. He still waits on the staircase landing, often looking out the window, waiting for his friend to return.

For us, our dogs are everything. They are our children. To lose Milo was incredibly hard, but we know he lived a long, adventurous life, and now reflecting on that, I know just how lucky we were to have him live such a long life with us. Tobin, just a week after Milo died, started to present a slight limp on his right front leg. I didn’t think too much of it at the time, as he plays hard – chasing squirrels up Ponderosa pines and hurdling over the yard to catch tennis balls. I thought it was just an injury – maybe early arthritis? X-rays soon after at our local veterinary clinic gave us the heart wrenching news that he did not have an injury, but instead a very aggressive bone cancer – osteosarcoma – and a very sad prognosis for our full-of-life, sweet boy. The news became worse as we could not follow through with a front leg amputation. The day before surgery, we learned that the cancer had metastasized to his lungs. We were told without treatment, he would have only months to live.

My husband and I are now on a new journey with Tobin. We will do whatever we can to prolong the quality and quantity of our pup’s life. We want to keep him as pain free as possible and hope to slow the progression and size of Tobin’s cancerous tumors. We have sought out the very best advice and treatment plans from an oncologist at Southern Colorado Veterinary Internal Medicine in Colorado Springs as well as palliative radiation therapy through CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Fort Collins.

KarmaSue stepped in to help our family when we needed it most. Britton Slagle, KarmaSue’s Founder and Executive Director right away sent us the financial need application and kept an open and honest dialogue with us during the process. We immediately were sent dozens of resources to help us on this new journey. Britton and her outstanding board were able to help us financially support some of Tobin’s pain management plan as well as send us with lots of support and education regarding cancer in dogs plus counseling for grief and compassion fatigue. KarmaSue’s support has made a huge impact to lessen the stress in our home and has provided some ease to this new financial and emotional burden.

We want to keep our beloved Tobin in our lives as long as possible. It is just devasting that cancer can disrupt so many lives, human and animal. The loss will be great when Tobin is no longer with us.

We thank KarmaSue, Britton, and the amazing board members for helping us along the way.

Bubba the Gentle Giant

Guest Blogger: Danelle Bobrick
July, 2020

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May 28th is a date I will never forget. My vivacious, playful, and sweet boy was extremely sick. Throwing up, not eating, and diarrhea. Prior to the 28th, I had taken Bubba to the lake in which he swam, drank lake water, and played his heart out. I thought, of course, he had Giardia. After running many tests including blood work, x-rays, ultrasounds, and sedation, the vet concluded Bubba not only had Giardia, he had a baseball-sized tumor in his small intestine and was needed for emergency surgery. After an agonizing evening, not sleeping, and shedding many tears, I received a call the next morning at 8:00 AM that the surgery was over and that they had removed over a foot of the small intestine, along with the tumor and sent it off to the lab for further testing. The vet stated the testing could take up to 14 days to receive results.

In the meantime, on May 31st, I was able to bring Bubba home. Although he was fragile, had an eight-inch scar on his abdomen, and a long road of recovery ahead, he was thriving. He was, what seemed to be, back to his normal self. I brought him to work with me for the following three weeks. He was precious. He would play with his “babies,” throw them up in the air, squeak his squeaky toys, pick up his leash and take himself on walks. He would go home from a full day and still have energy to play with his sissy, Pennie, and run back and forth with the neighbor dogs through the fence. I started to feel a little more at ease.

After 14 days of waiting, I finally got the test results back regarding the mass. It turned out that my sweet, four-year-old boy has cancer. They determined this is a type of cancer called round cell neoplasm or large granular lymphoma. Along with the test results, it has been noted that although the mass tumor was removed, the cancer has spread through his blood to his lymph nodes and they are concerned that the cancer has metastasized, meaning the cancer has spread throughout his body. To find out if this has spread, they referred me to Dr. Oberthaler, an Oncologist in Boulder, specializing in this type of high-grade cancer.

I try not to let my feelings get in the way of too much because I truly am so lost. I am heartbroken. I am devastated. I have spent all of my time and energy focused on my sweet Bubbie and I am now at the point where I am sincerely asking for a helping hand. After taking many days off of work, exhausting all of my credit cards, as well as receiving financial help from my mom and dad, I have no other way to afford Bubba’s treatment. Currently, I have spent over $6,000 just on surgery and trying to figure out what is going on; I will need further financial assistance moving forward to provide the much-needed post-surgical care. I am hopeful that with the ability to bring Bubba to the oncologist, they will provide treatments to keep Bubba comfortable with medications as well as further testing to provide more answers. I have not completely ruled out chemotherapy if he has a significant chance of beating cancer and thriving.

Fast forward to mid-June, Bubba has not been eating. Even after cooking his favorite meals, steak, chicken, ground turkey, and fish. He has continuous bouts of diarrhea and has zero energy. I took Bubba back to the vet this morning for further blood work and x-rays to make sure his insides have healed well but they insist that I take him to the oncologist ASAP. They noticed his lymph nodes, liver, and intestines were extremely enlarged and the only way he could survive is to move forward with the oncologist as they have run out of options since they are an emergency hospital.

After leaving the emergency vet hospital, I called Dr. Oberthaler immediately. We both shed some tears and she went over a long diagnosis, possible chemotherapy treatments, as well as further blood tests and care. She stated that the chemotherapy is an oral pill and more than 85% of dogs have no side effects other than being a little fatigued. I felt at ease knowing there is a way that my sweet, gentle giant would have a chance at life. After drawing up an estimate, he will need about eight rounds of chemotherapy and each session is around $600. I knew at that moment, I had to reach out for financial assistance.

I applied for funding through KarmaSue and after an easy application, I had Bubba’s oncologist send over the estimates, diagnosis, treatments, etc. I spoke to Britton with KarmaSue and immediately felt relieved after hearing about all of the resources they have available for me and my boy. After less than a week, I was approved for funding which will cover almost two treatments. To say that I am grateful would be an understatement. The staff at KarmaSue truly knows how awful it is to go through this and they are willing to fund Bubba’s treatment. My heart is so full. This would not have been made possible without the help and support of these incredible people.

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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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