You may have noticed there was a long period this fall when I didn’t post anything at all. I started my new blog, made a few posts, and then suddenly stopped posting. For some dumb reason I thought I should make posts in chronological order, so I was consciously stalling. I told myself we did some traveling and really I needed to get organized and post our trips in order. But something happened first, and I lost all my motivation. The truth is, I knew making this particular post while my hurt was so fresh would be difficult at the very least. But now, after four full months, I suppose it time to move forward. But this is still very hard.
On September 2, 2018, I had to say good-bye to my beloved friend Kali. Though she had been diagnosed with cancer of the urethra about a year and a half ago, her disease progressed slowly and one would never have known because she was still very happy, active (for her age), playful, and all other systems she displayed were still “go!”
When our son Ryan went away to college in Arizona in 2005, our son Aaron was going to be a freshman at Aloha High School that fall. Over the summer, Aaron and I decided it was a good time to get a dog. We had gone a number of years without a family pet after losing our purebred red Dobermann Foxhaven Orange Blossom Special (or just “Special” to us), and so we started looking online to see if we could find a suitable young dog who was already potty trained. Neither of us felt we wanted to go through that training.
It didn’t take long before we visited a PetCo “adoption event” on a Saturday afternoon in Beaverton and found her. We were told she was four months old and that she was a Rottweiler-Shepherd mix who was picked up wandering loose in Yamhill County. Of course, the shelter who took her in had given her a medical check up and ensured that she had all her shots so she was ready to find a family. We watched her interact with another pup about the same age and noted how she was friendly, goofy, and a very beautiful young dog with gorgeous markings and amber dots above her expressive eyes. I noticed that when I spoke to her she would hold my gaze with a very expectant expression. Aaron and I told them we thought we wanted her, and the shelter set up a “home visit” the very next day.
When the volunteer from the shelter came to our house, she interviewed us and met the whole family (minus Ryan). She sized us up, took a look at our house and yard, and was pleased to see that our backyard was already fully fenced with room for a dog to run and play. When we “passed” our inspection, I thought the volunteer would get back to me in a few days with their decision about us. But instead, she said that our new dog was waiting in her car!
In she came with the big puppy on a leash. Aaron and I talked about how we selected this pup because she made eye contact with us, and the volunteer told us that this trait was a very good sign in a dog. She said if we were smart we would take advantage of the way she looked to us for information. She said a dog like that is looking to please humans so we should work with her a lot and train her to be the kind of dog we wanted.
The woman stayed only briefly after that and we were instant dog owners. But our dear puppy had been living with this woman and her shelter family for a few weeks or months, and she wanted nothing of this new house and family! She cried loudly as the woman closed the door behind her. Then she went to the door and whined. She didn’t like being separated from the volunteer one bit. But of course, she had three people who were interested in her and were now giving her lots of love and attention.
That love and attention was plentiful, and our new puppy became acclimated pretty quickly in her new environment. She made herself at home, but absolutely did NOT like being left alone when we went to work, school, or when she was left inside a car for a few minutes. She was a people’s dog, and she thought she was people too! Aaron now had a special friend to look for him after school. She never left his side in the afternoons. When Ryan visited us at home, he and Aaron took her to Hagg Lake, taught her to swim, and she bonded with him too. And whenever Ryan (or any of us) would return home, she would jump and whine with joy before doing a summersault and then rolling onto her back for a tummy rub.
She quickly decided I was the replacement for the volunteer woman she had lived with, and she became my dog. She looked to me for everything, and so I gladly accepted the role of her “pack leader” and took her through basic obedience as well as some agility training. Both of these experiences gave her confidence in different situations with people and various environments. Wanting to please, I was amazed at how willing she was to learn whatever it was I wanted to teach her. We knew she would be a fairly big dog so we all wanted her to obey commands so she could behave well around others. And learn she did. Even my late mother, who didn’t really like dogs and especially not big dogs, complimented us on her good manners. Later, when family members would give her a command, she would look to me to see if she really had to comply before she did what she was being asked (much to the disgust of the family member giving her the command!).
I could go on and on with infinite stories of the pleasure she gave us all over the years. I have tons of photos and movies of her, both from here and at home and in Sunriver where she loved to run in the woods and play fetch with her flying “Chuckee” on (and in) the river or the snow. She was always waiting for me to get home, and watching my every single move when I was with her. When I wasn’t with her, she was looking for me. I shall truly treasure these memories forever and ever, for I had never known a dog as intelligent, responsive, compliant, and loving as our Kali. She was my treasure and companion, and kept me from empty nest loneliness when both kids had moved out and when Dan was traveling for work. We were inseparable by choice, and I loved her more than any pet I’ve ever had.
In the last year, she began slowing down because she was not only fighting the cancer but she was now 12 1/2 years old. In June she began to moan now and then from discomfort. One night she moaned enough to keep Dan and me awake, and so at 4:30 in the morning I emailed her vet and begged her to put her down that day to ease her misery. I was to leave on a golf trip in a couple of days, and I didn’t want her suffering nor for Dan to have to care for an ailing dog. The vet emailed back about 7:30am and said she was about to get on a plane to Canada, but she had already notified the vet hospital and they would be able to take her after 5pm and help me say goodbye.
Though I was a wreck all day (and my golfing girlfriends can attest to that), at 5:05pm I called the hospital before leaving the house with Kali to confirm they were ready for us. I was told that they had already finished their last appointment for the day, and they had decided to close the office early! Now I was both angry and terribly upset that my dog would have to suffer longer. They made an appointment for us for a full week later.
In the meantime, Kali had an appointment with her cancer doctor and so I went ahead with that appointment. The doctor gave her some pain medication and with it Kali stopped moaning. She started acting just fine again, so I decided to cancel the appointment to put her down that next week.
We enjoyed a full three more months together thanks to the pain medication. But during that time Kali began having to wear a diaper in the house because her advancing cancer caused her to drip urine now and then. Since it was summer she and I spent a lot of time outdoors anyway. She still loved to follow me around or bask in the sunshine at my feet in the backyard, and since she seemed comfortable again I was reluctant to say good-bye. She was still “with it” in every usual way, and her appetite continued. But she had to take a ton of medicine multiple times a day, and in the back of my mind I knew I would have to do something about her situation before we went to my dear friend’s wedding on Maui in early September. Kali was at a point that no one but us could care for her properly, and so putting her in a kennel at this stage of her illness was completely out of the question.
In late August I told the boys that the time was near for Kali to leave us. Both Aaron and Ryan came home to visit our beloved girl and I took photos of them both together for the last time. On September 2, after a breakfast of scrambled eggs and cheese (which she enjoyed immensely) Aaron and Dan and I loaded her up in the Tahoe and she happily rode along. At her vet’s office, they had a nice and comfy pillow waiting for her in a private room at the far side of the hospital. With final treats, hugs, and licks we all said goodbye as we held her close. Both the vet and I lost our composure completely because we had been though so much together with her over the years. We had become friends. Our compassionate vet said this was the hardest thing about her job, and I truly believe her. The vet finally did what we so reluctantly asked her to do, and Kali lowered her beautiful head on the pillow. Then with the vet’s help, our friend passed on.
Everywhere I go I think of her. I often think I hear her usual “umpf” as she would lie down on her bed. I see something black on the carpet and do a double-take, thinking for a split second it is my girl. The neighbor dog barks and I listen for her bark to follow. I walk on a Sunriver pathway and can see her running ahead with abandon, tongue hanging down, tail erect and ears flopping wildly. Of course she is long gone, but I know she is still here with me in so many ways. She’s in my heart, and she will forever be my once loyal companion, protector, and dearest little friend.