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