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This story starts with a dog, and ends with another. It’s long, and touches on sensitive subjects, with raw, open, honesty. The last 10 months have been quite a journey, full of sorrow, shock, a moment of extreme clarity, a lot of contemplation, reflection, unexpected dreams, and then resolution, when the dream became reality.

It started with watching the slow decline of our elderly dog, Kasha, who had a number of health issues. The most difficult was degenerative disc disease, and as last summer turned to fall, she was having increasing difficulties controlling her rear legs.

Then came a shocking phone call, when I found out my spinal x-rays didn’t show the herniated disc I expected, but instead showed that I, too, have, “severe multilevel degenerative disc disease,” on top of everything else.

I was caught way off guard. I had been working on the premise that I am going to get the ME/CFS under control, using all my supplements, and that one day, once I figure out these migraines or get thru perimenopause, I was going to be back to some semblance of myself – I know there’s damage that will always be there, but I think there’s a lot that can be fixed, too, slowly, over time.

But, it’s basically going to be with me the rest of my life. There are a few things I can do, some supplements and maybe some physical therapy, and I’ve gotten a TENS unit that helps. But my spine is very unstable – I’ve been going through periods for two years, where I “throw my back out,” and I can feel the discs moving out of place, and pain and sciatica flares like a bonfire.

After absorbing this news, I walked out into the living room to find that Kasha had lost control of her bowels, and there was a trail of poop leading through the living room and onto the porch. She was lying there looking so very ashamed.

It triggered a moment of extreme clarity, a frozen moment in time, where I knew two things for certain:

Kasha was at her “red line,” the place where dogs with degenerative disc disease are no longer recoverable – it was not going to go away with rest and time, and was going to be the end of her, and soon.

And just as clearly, I felt that I, too, now have a red line, though I’m not to it yet. My mind played it out for me… me with a walker, or in a wheelchair, although I don’t know how I could even use either because of a torn up shoulder, and the weakness and utter exhaustion of ME, CFS, fibromyalgia, etc.

There was the feeling of a door slamming shut in my mind, those images simply shut out. I won’t, I simply can’t, live in a condition where I’m bed bound and need a wheelchair just to get around. And I won’t be that kind of burden on Rhiannon and Ben, either.

I wasn’t afraid.
I wasn’t sad.
I felt acceptance.
And, much to my dismay, I felt relieved.
Relieved, because the long fight would be over. I didn’t realise how very tired of the constant struggle I was.

I didn’t so much as make a decision as have one thrust on me from deep in my soul. Just as Kasha would find her peaceful end, in a beautiful, sacred, manner, when the pain became too much and when she couldn’t rise, I too, would find that place.

I have many friends, fellow patients, who have to use wheelchairs or walkers or scooters, and I have the utmost respect for them.

But that’s simply not something I can accept.
I have been sick for more than 17 years, and almost entirely housebound for 10 years.
I cannot accept any further limitations on my ability to move around.

I am meant to roam mountains and walk through my beloved woods.
I am meant to be a wild thing, and I can barely take the captivity I have already been in for much longer.
I am the wolf, tightly caged, pacing back and forth, going slowly crazy from my longing to be free.

But here was this realization that I wasn’t ever going to go running barefoot again, through the golden autumn woods calling to my Heart that day, because my spine is simply too unstable. That’s a huge and terrible loss, and the shattering of all the dreams and plans I’ve been holding on to… I wanted to get well enough to be able to help some of my dearest friends, my soul sisters with ME, CFS, fibromyalgia, etc, maybe share a house with them, all of us working to heal each other.

I watched each day as Kasha had a few ups and lots of downs, and it was like watching a train wreck in slow motion, knowing it was heading my way…

In the months since that moment of clarity, and through Kasha’s gentle passing, the sacredness of her death, a gentle release with mercy, I’ve spent many sleepless nights, thinking about just what I wanted to do, and how much fight was left in me for this new, seemingly insurmountable, challenge to my health and my life. There are things I want to do, and things I need to do.

And then along came some dreams, and some info about dogs, that had me reevaluating how long I am willing to fight to go on.

Twenty years ago, living in fear from a relationship gone terribly bad, I lay awake in bed at night, too stressed and worried to sleep. I found solace in meditation and visualization (shamanic journeying). Usually, I would “go” to a beautiful forest at night, and run as a wolf until I finally curled up, safe, in my den. I’d fade off to sleep that way.

But one night, instead of being in my forest, I found myself high on a rocky outcropping, in a sea of rippling sand. I could see in every direction around me, see that I was safe. I laid down in the sand, pulled my cloak around me, and felt desert winds deposit a soft blanket of sand on me. For years, every night, I went to the desert to sleep.

I studied the desert as it is today, and as it was. I drove my family crazy with my sudden obsession with the desert. I didn’t explain that the desert had come to me, unexpectedly, but it was saving my sanity.

The decades passed, and I eventually went back to my forest – until my moment of clarity. Ever since then, every night, I retreat to incredible vistas of desert dunes, open caves and hidden chambers. This time, though, there is something else there with me: a lean desert dog, colored the same as the sand, and with electric eyes that look right through me. I know the feel of her soft ears, and my fingers remember the shape of her head under my hand.

Salukis, a beautiful desert Sighthound, have fascinated me since the desert came to me. They are perhaps the oldest of all dog breeds, and the only type of dog who was not seen as “unclean.” Desert nomads have cherished the Saluki for thousands of years. I’ve wanted to have a Saluki or Saluki mix for 20 years.

But now, through chance, I learned that most people in the middle east treat dogs in horrible, horrifying, ways. They do not value them as we do. Many Salukis and other dogs are simply dumped in the desert when the owner tires of them, or if a racing Saluki doesn’t run fast enough. Some racing Salukis have their ears cropped off “to make them run faster.”  The Salukis have bred with the many other dumped dogs, and now “desert dogs” are pretty much a breed of their own – small Sighthounds, usually with short fur and tails that spiral into a curl.

The pictures are terrible to see. Dogs so emaciated you can’t believe they are alive, or who’ve been viciously beaten, or thrown out of a moving car, leaving them with broken legs. Dogs who have been shot by the police, in front of children, when an area has too many strays. Dogs beaten with stones by children, who know no better. Need I go on?

It broke my heart.

The question changed from “when” to give up the fight, to a very simple, “do I want to die without first rescuing a desert dog? Or do I want to hold on long enough to rescue my dream dog, a true desert dog, and experience her life with me?”

Adopting a dog from the middle east can be somewhat complicated, but there are many groups and individuals there, mostly westerners, who are involved in rescuing the ones they can, fostering them a time, then finding them new homes in the U.S. and Europe. Some send the dogs to the U.S. first, and then put them up for adoption, and others work directly with those wishing to adopt.

I began watching the various groups on Facebook in late winter, and the number of dogs needing new homes is overwhelming. But if I was to rescue one, it had to be the one from my dreams…

And then, there she was. A desert dog with electric, topaz blue eyes, just as I’d been dreaming of. I really didn’t think she could exist. But she does.

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Ellie is about one year old, and was found dumped to starve or fend for herself. Despite that, I hear she’s an incredibly loving and gentle dog. She’s not too big, and not too small, either, weighing in at 40 pounds.

After weeks of working on arrangements, my Ellie will be flying from Dubai, in the UAE, home to me on Monday, June 27. What a birthday present!

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For me, Ellie is Hope – hope that I will have improvements in my health, and she is incentive to keep on fighting, keep on going, no matter how hard it sometimes is. By fulfilling my dream of having a desert dog, my motivation and inspiration to keep moving forward to experience her whole life with her is immensely boosted. That’s just how much I love dogs.

I’ve also become close friends with Ellie’s amazing rescuer, Charlotte, and with Marci, who is practically a one woman whirlwind of dog rescuing in Al Ain, UAE. I am completely in awe of what they are doing, and will be forever grateful for all the hours of work, time and money, that went into getting Ellie cleared to fly and come home to me.

I’ve set up a fledgling Facebook page for them, in the hope of helping other dogs find homes. It gives me inspiration, to know that I can still do something with my life, even if all that it takes is monitoring a Facebook page. I’m not completely useless, after all.

I believe everything happens for a reason. It was not coincidence that I learned about the desperate conditions for dogs in the middle east, and it was not coincidence that Ellie showed up in need of a home, the dog from my dreams, one I didn’t think could possibly exist.

Ellie of the Topaz Eyes is the fulfillment of a 20 year long dream. If she can happen, what else might be waiting around the corner? All I know is that I have Hope again.

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Kasha

“Veterinarians deal with death the most out of any medical profession.”

“Does it ever really get any easier, euthanization?” asked the first year student.

“Every euthanization is difficult, but some hit harder than others…”
– from “Vet School” (TV show, NatGeo Wild)

Is there any such thing as a good death? A beautiful, peaceful, passing?

Is there a right way and a wrong way for the owners, scratch that, the human family of a beloved companion animal to act, when they have to free a well loved furry family member from life, because of illness or injury? When the vet is there, administering the fatal meds, is there a proper or expected or normal way to act? Or do they see a whole range of responses?

Strange questions to ask, I know, but you ought to be used to strange questions from me by now.

Our vet cried, along with Rhiannon and I, when we put dear Kasha to sleep, on Nov 2. I’m pretty sure it was my actions that caused that.

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In her prime...

Let me back up, and set the scene… Kasha was 12 or 13 years old, quite old for a giant of a dog, weighing over 100#. She was a shelter dog, rescued from the ASPCA when less than a year old. She had been a member of the family a long, long, time.

Kasha had developed multiple issues, including deafness, a heart condition, gallbladder problems, and then, canine degenerative disc disease began taking a huge toll on her, worsening dramatically in August. She had muscle spasms in her rear thighs and legs, and stiffness, then finally started having a hard time getting her rear legs up, standing or walking. She just couldn’t coordinate her back legs properly.

I watched her those last two weeks with her spinal issues weighing heavily on my mind. I had just been told that my own back pain wasn’t just scoliosis or a slipped disc.

No, nothing is ever that simple with me. Instead, I have “severe multilevel degenerative disc disease” of pretty much my whole spine. And Kasha had the canine equivalent.

So the question on my mind that last few weeks was, “is she in as much pain as I am?” Because I was in a lot of pain, with sharp pains in my spine, feeling discs moving around, sciatica in my hips making it hard to get comfortable, no matter what position I tried.

Did she feel that way? I don’t think so, at least not until the last few days, and I dosed her with pain meds then, while we waited for it to be Monday, and the vet able to come…

Books on grieving pet loss all say when you have to be the one to make the call, that so-dreaded and very final decision, that everyone feels guilty to some extent.

I didn’t. It couldn’t have been any clearer, watching this beautiful, still so-very-loving, old friend, drag herself around with her front legs, unable to stand her rear up without assistance. How affectionate she was those last few weeks, relishing all the extra attention she was getting…

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A young Kasha, right after her adoption...

We were lucky, and a local vet has just started doing house calls. She had known we were almost there, and was waiting to get the call… and then it was clearly, so clearly, time.

The vet was running late that day, but it turned out to be for the best, I think. We had moved Kasha out into the yard, and as the sun fell and the light began to die, we brought candles, many candles, outside.

For an hour or so, Rhiannon and I sat beside Kasha, lavishing her with Love, expensive treats, and cheese. We told her how much she meant to us, swapped stories about what a good dog she’d been, shared the funny stories, and commemorated her life.

We were ready, when the vet arrived. She quietly asked questions, to understand the situation better. We managed to stop crying long enough to answer them. I suspect our tear-streaked faces told her more than enough.

The vet was gentle and patient, and Kasha was soon sedated, nearly asleep, her head in my lap… the vet waited until we were ready, to give that final injection.

My forehead rested on Kasha’s, one hand cradling her head, the other in Rhiannon’s tight grip, as tears streamed like a river over Kasha’s head. I whispered to her that it was okay, that she should fly free, my beautiful girl, away from the pain, and that we’d be okay.

Kasha’s nose against my leg told me when her breathing slowed, and stopped.

I don’t know how it is for other people in the same situation.

But as deaths go, this one was peaceful, reverential, sacred. An act of mercy, a setting free, done with so very much Love. I can only hope my own passing, when it comes, is such a gentle one.

And maybe that’s why the vet cried. I don’t suppose it’s every day she sees a sacred passing, a silently sobbing owner, forehead to forehead, eye to eye, with her beloved companion, as their soul takes flight.
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You’re in the arms of the angels, now, Kasha.
We Love you.
Now, forever, and always.


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Yesterday started with barking.

It ended with a bear on our front porch.

I rather think the two are related.

At 7am, my peaceful sleep was interrupted by Kasha-dog barking like a mad thing, along with, apparently, every other dog on this side of the Mountain. Kodi, curled up in bed next to me, let out a growl that would have made a tiger proud – low and deep and very menacing.

There was some yelling, I must admit, from Rhiannon and I both, telling the dogs to stop barking. It worked for a few minutes, and then the frantic barking started again. This went on for perhaps 15 minutes, and then, finally, we all got back to sleep.

There was a lot of barking from the neighborhood dogs all day long, with Kasha & Kodi joining in, which was quite unusual – it’s usually pretty quiet up here, and there was a strange tone to their barking.

Last night, I went to bed early, and was sound asleep when the barking started again, as it approached midnight. This time, it was Kodi and Kasha together, standing in our living room and barking at our front door. They were definitely barking the “intruder alert” bark this time. Many other neighboring dogs could be heard joining in.

Rhiannon was on the phone to Ben, and I heard her say how scared she was, as I emerged from my room, pulling on clothes along the way.

“There was something on the porch!” she told me, continuing with, “There was a lot of noise!”

I looked to Kasha, the wise old girl of our house, who had finally stopped barking. The motion-activated light on the porch was not on.

I tiptoed to the door and looked out, shining a flashlight through the glass, half expecting a raccoon or something to look back, but instead saw that a full trashcan was knocked over.

I thought it had moved on, whatever it was that was large enough to knock a trashcan over. I started to open the door, telling Rhiannon to hold Kodi, who does not recall yet.

Kasha I trusted to come back, and to protect me if whatever-it-was was still there. She was going out first!

I straightened the trashcan as Kasha ran into the yard, and began barking again, although, oddly, not as urgently as before.

Shining my light on her, I saw that what I first took for simple darkness was not darkness at all – it seems black bears are hard to see in the dark! Kasha was close to it, and I ordered her back and into the house.

A bag of trash was spilled onto the grass a good 20 feet from our cabin.

The bear was moving off, and I called Rhiannon out to see it, and we watched it stroll into the bright outside lights of our neighbor’s house. The golden and brown leaves crunched under it’s feet as it moved away.

It was a quiet night after that, and today has been quiet, too.

We’ve been here over 10 years, and this was the first time I’ve seen a bear at our house. I count it a blessing, this which I know terrifies others.

It has been a lean year for mast – the acorns, hazelnuts and other forest products that the deer and the bear need to fatten up on. From what I’ve heard, bears have been living on our mountain for years, and I even saw one a couple years ago, when it crossed the road in front of my car on the way up the mountain. So I have known they were around.

But I think seeing one is a blessing, just as seeing the elusive fox is, and just as watching the fawns grow up is. There is something very special about seeing animals in the wild, rather than locked up in zoos.

We are all neighbors here on one mountain, one planet, one Earth. We are all related… mitakuye oyasin.

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Note: This is why I’ve been so quiet this week, my friends – I owe everybody long messages. Sorry!

I teach people not to see a bad moment as a failure. A bad moment is actually a time for you to rehabilitate yourself, and you rehabilitate your dog, so it’s actually the most important moment in rehabilitation when the dog misbehaves.   – Cesar Milan

I’m watching episodes of Dog Whisperer off the DVR to get new inspiration, insights, and encouragement, in my work with Kodi. This quote struck me. If it’s the most important moment, we’ve had a lot of them this week! Rhiannon has been gone for 8 days, since she went to go camping last weekend and has been staying with friends since. She comes back today. It’s not a moment too soon – it’s been a long 8 days.

It’s been raining. Every single day.Sometimes pouring, sometimes dribbling, but always… raining.

Kodi hates to go potty in the rain. And we’re still working on that house-training – if the backyard is dry, he’ll mostly go out the dog door and go there. But if it’s not, he’d just as soon go in the basement, where a legion of dogs have gone before him for one reason or the other.

It’s been 8 long days of constant downpours, constantly being wet from taking him out back or out front on leash, mud (and other less savory things) stuck between my toes (why wear shoes when you’ll just have to wash them? Easier to go barefoot and stick my feet in the tub when I come back in).  Dog prints all over the floor, though those lessened when we gave up on going out into the mud pit (the dog yard) and started going out front.

It’s a little easier to understand, now that we know his background, as to why house-training is such a hurdle – he was locked up on a porch the first year of his life, so presumably got used to going there as he had no other option, and has had only a couple weeks with limited inside time before he made his way to the shelter. He’s never had to learn that outside is the place you go, whether it’s raining, snowing, or whatever. And he doesn’t like muddy feet, but time to be a dog and stop being so prissy footed – we live in a forest!

And the playing… I have thrown his toys down the stairs for him to retrieve over and over, every day, several times a day. Played tug of war endlessly. Given doggie-massages & brushed and brushed. “Claimed” Kasha several times daily as she nursed an injured wrist from a canine collision – she didn’t feel like playing, to which Kodi reacts with constant barking at her.

Did I mention it’s been a long 8 days?

Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention what else rain brings to my life…

Migraines. Every day. Sometimes bad ones, sometimes not quite as bad, but is there any such thing as a good migraine?

Here are a few choice quotes from messages I’ve sent Rhiannon this week – someday, I’ll look back on this post, and laugh:

“He woke up with me at noon totally full of shit. There was biting which he thinks is wrestling but didn’t feel too good, then fed him, then he stole a little scrap of sheepskin out of my room and we played keep away for a long while. Finally extracted it. Got his toy & threw that a couple times. He lost his grip on it & lunged for it & about broke my wrist in his zeal to get it back. I was not amused. He seemed subdued or apologetic for making that sound come out of me – the hurtmommy sound.”

“…he snatched a book off the dining table down there & tore back up the stairs with it. A long, long game of keep away later, I retrieved the soggy, filthy book from him & deposited it in the trash.”

“Yes, there are times when even I wonder if I love the boy, but the fact is I do, and I’ve been thru very similar things with pups before. Wolf-dog pups are the absolute worst pups on the planet – there was a time when every book I owned & every piece of furniture had teeth marks on it. At the rate we’re going here, it won’t be long before I’m back to that place! He’s just really hard to discipline – he’s eating a basket at the moment. He thinks I don’t know & he stops every time I look at him. But mama hears all. That’s what I get for having a basket on the floor of my room.”

“It is like living with a piranha! or a shark! or a crazed beast! He has to go pee at 4:30am. Okay, sure, I don’t care that’s its raining Kodi. Outside we go. Then he comes back in full of shit. I’m trying to get under the covers while he’s biting my arms & then he takes a chunk out of my shoulder blade!
He jjust finished vigorously digging a hole in my bed beside me! Twice! Raking up the covers & making a nest to sleep in!
This dog is nuts & my back hurts! He snagged all the skin over my shoulder blade in his teeth.
Gggrrrrrrrrrr!
(done venting)”

“I am watching dog whisperer for inspiration. I have decided already that I talk to him too much. But cesar’s tsst & touch doesn’t do jack shit on him – in fact it makes matters worse, as he gets the snarly face that says don’t mess with me. He also gets ramped up when you point a finger at him. I’ve been seeing a lot less of the snarly face, mostly when he’s barking at Kasha & I’m blocking him & claiming her.”

“He jumped up on the futon & I had to drag him off, but instead of going for the collar first I instead touched him real gentle & gave doggie massages. He barely bit me at all, very lightly putting up a protest.
“He barely bit me at all…” That’s a great statement about doggie-rehab, isn’t it? Well, I guess we’ve actually come a long way, it just seems like there’s a long way to go. I’m covered in bruises, btw. I keep trying to wash them off my legs but they won’t come off.”

So, we are making progress. It’s just slow, and I’m trying multiple approaches to getting this boy straightened out. I think the biggest issue we really have now is the biting-which-he-thinks-is-wrestling. I’ve gotten the aggressive-crazy-eyed-dog-biting down to near zero and can actually lead him with my hand on his collar.

But he wakes up raring to go, while I’m not so raring to go. He grabs my arm or wrist or whatever body part is handy as a way to ask for playtime, and while he is play-biting less hard, it would be really nice if he’d stop doing that altogether. Usually I respond with a chest scratch and that will settle him down, but not always.

He needs more exercise. Needs to be worn out – so tired he doesn’t want or need to play-bite me.

We need a treadmill. Seriously. Wonder if there are any used ones we could afford on our budget of zero dollars?

Did we bite off more than we can chew with Kodi? No.

Did we get more than we expected? Yes. Most definitely.

Will we get it sorted out eventually? Yes.

I do think he’s finally learning what the word “No!” means.

Now that’s progress!

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There is a lovely little book called “A Little Dog Like You,” by Rosemary Sutcliff, that sits always on a shelf above my bed. As one customer-reviewer writes:

If you’ve ever loved a dog, this book is for you. This slim volume is written and illustrated so that even a very young child could appreciate hearing it read, but any adult who considers himself or herself a dog lover will be enchanted with it. The book follows a dog through its life and, sadly, to its end, but the story doesn’t stop there. There is so much love between the author and her dog that the author is certain she hasn’t seen the last of her pup — and she’s right. You may need some Kleenex tissue for the final pages of the story, even though the book ends on a decidedly high note.

I believe we are all – animal and human animal as well – the combination of not only our environment, and experiences, and genes, in this life, but that even more, that an eternal soul lives in all of us, animates us, and gives us life, and contributes heavily to who we are.

It’s pretty easy for me to believe, to know, without a shadow of a doubt, in reincarnation, because I have always, my entire life, had past life memories. My earliest memories are not of this life – they are of a very horrible death in a previous life. That shaped my childhood in many ways, as I tried to sort out who I was, what had happened, and why no one else seemed to remember anything. (Had I been born in Tibet or India this would have gotten figured out much quicker, as no one doubts a child when they talk of past lives there. But I wasn’t, was I?)

Through my life – this life – I’ve been blessed with some wonderful experiences, often coming out of the blue, of connecting and re-connecting with soul-family, spirit-family. I think we are often reunited with those we have spent previous lives with.

When it comes to animals, that means that, given their short lifetimes, and humans’ long ones, we sometimes have the chance to re-connect in this life with those we’ve loved and lost.

Which, having been said, leads me to Kasha & Kyla, and our new pup, Kodi, and Shunka.

Longtime readers will know of the connection I had with my beloved black German Shepherd, Shunka, who passed away two years ago. I always knew he would come back into my life, or rather, his soul in another form – it would be him, but not him, because while the soul would be the same, he would have had experiences in this life that would lead him to be his own unique individual self.

Kasha is a very good example of that. When we found Kasha, in the Richmond ASPCA, I wasn’t looking for a dog – my eldest daughter, Terra, was. But there she was. I felt what I described as “the soul tug” when I told the story of finding Kodi.

Kasha seemed to know me, desperately wanted to see me and be with me, just as Kodi did, and I felt, looking at her, that she was the reincarnation of one of my wolf-dogs, Kyla. In the first days of having her, she exhibited some of Kyla’s unique canine characteristics, like sleeping in a particular position with her head hanging off of the bed – one of Kyla’s preferred sleeping positions.

There was also the matter of her “telling” me her name was Kasha – we had adopted her, and since she had been picked up as a stray, were trying to figure out her original name – trying out a slew of female dog names on her to see if she would come. But she didn’t. Until I sat down with her and stopped thinking about it, and she looked at me, and I heard the name “Kasha” in my head. I tried it. She came. And has come reliably to that name ever since!

But Kasha is, and isn’t, Kyla. As the days passed, she stopped sleeping with her head hanging off the bed. Some of the other traits unique to Kyla also faded away, as I accepted that she was, and wasn’t, Kyla.

Enter Kodi. Who seems to be, and not be, Shunka.

I really didn’t think he’d come back to me that fast. I thought he’d find someone else who needed his help. I knew, in a way I cannot really explain, when he was born into another body – Shunka’s spirit still came when I called, but it was slower, more distracted, and I could “see” that he was linked into a body.

When I felt the soul-tug with Kodi, I tried hard to not compare him with Shunka. Not to look for Shunka in him. To just accept that he was Kodi.

But then yesterday happened, and what an interesting day it was.

First, Kodi became convinced there was something under a pile of plastic tubs and a stuffed duffel bag in a corner of my room. He was going to excavate it himself, so I helped avoid general destruction, and then when I’d moved enough things, he stuck his head into the mess and pulled out a plastic squeaky ball that had been Shunka’s, a present to him on his last Yule (and which had likely been in the same place ever since he passed). Kodi carried it around the house and played soccer with it and generally enjoyed it for hours… this dog who didn’t even know what a toy was when we brought him home just over a week ago.

Then a couple hours later, Rhiannon came into my room, literally speechless. Kodi had been playing with his ball, but when it landed by a large rough quartz stone in her room, he chose to pick up and chew on the rock instead. Shunka was renowned for his love of rocks, and we still find rocks he dug up outside and brought in scattered in dusty corners.

Rhiannon and I had a talk, then, on the “forbidden subject:” about things Kodi had done that were so uniquely Shunka-like. The way a dog who didn’t seem to have had much time with humans reliably knows the command to sit the particular way we do it – with a hand signal instead of saying it. Wrapping himself around my head on my pillow. Seeming to know where everything was in the house. Seeming to know Kasha, and Kasha seeming to know him (she who really couldn’t stand my grand-dogs when they came to visit). Even the way he treated me as a canine, wrestling me, and the time he bashed his head into my lip, causing my teeth to cut the inside of my lip. Shunka did that many times.

There was only one way to really tell. And I hesitated to do it. I didn’t want to be disappointed. I didn’t want to expect too much.

But as Rhiannon and I sat talking about the two boys, who look so different, Kodi started barking & pawing at the door, because he likes to lay in the doorway (any doorway). I called him. I shooshed him, Cesar Milan style. Told him “no,” a word he doesn’t seem to respect a lot. Told him “stop it,” words he does seem to respect. And still he stubbornly continued.

So I did it. I said it. “Shunka.” One time. Not loud.

His response was instantaneous. He stopped his pawing, whipped around, a slightly quizzical expression on his face. He came, looked into my soul with his big brown eyes, and sat, looking up at me.

Tears ran silently down Rhiannon’s face, and swam in my eyes.

He is.
And he isn’t.

I feel very blessed. Twice blessed.

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24 Hours Later…

Maverick: His Petfinder Photo

Maverick Kodi’s Saga, continued…

24 hours later we know:

  • His name is not Maverick (his shelter name), nor Woody (which was his original name). His name is Kodi ! (although I have been informed there is dissent in the ranks… ie. Rhiannon thinks Kodi is too All-American & he needs an exotic & unique name.)
  • He has a serious need for leash training. We have a Halti, otherwise called a Gentle Leader. He hates it. Too bad.
  • Sadly for him, Kodi’s previous life did not include things like stairs, mirrors, tv, toys, or even bones.
  • Happily for him, Kodi’s new life includes all of those, and much more – a loving home.
  • He really loves Kasha. Really, really loves Kasha – in the way only unaltered boy-dogs can love a female dog.
  • Kasha really loves Kodi. Even though she was spayed, and then re-spayed when she continued to go into heat, she may be releasing bitch-in-heat pheromones. Sometimes, females will re-grow some ovarian tissue after a spay. The “second spay” was to look for it, but they were unsuccessful in finding it.
  • Kasha is tremendously tempting to Kodi, driving him slightly insane with the innate drive to breed. But Kasha will not allow that. She’s had to tell him there will be no puppies for him. Many times. Glad he’s set to be neutered next week!
  • Kodi seemed like such a huge dog at the shelter, but it’s really that his head shape is just very different from what we are used to – long muzzled German Shepherds or GSD-mixes. Next to Kasha, who is over 100#, he is not so big after all.
  • I never thought I’d sort-of provoke dog on dog assertiveness, but when Kodi’s overly excited, hyper-stimulated brain had him whining and barking just about constantly over his desire for Kasha, I needed her to gain his utmost respect. So I gave her back her “babies,” the soft toys she keeps on the porch, and is very protective of. She’s even snapped (without contact) at the cat over her babies. Kodi got a much-needed lesson, with no harm done – I knew there would be no harm, or I wouldn’t have allowed it. Now she just has to curl her lip.
  • Kodi loves to be brushed, and we quickly relieved him of a pillowcase worth of golden fluff. I suspect this was his baby winter-coat. He’s much blacker through the body now. He’s supposed to be about a year old. His teeth are very young-dog white.
  • Underneath all that golden-fluff is really a pretty skinny dog. With a big head. I think he has quite a bit of filling in to do, and won’t be surprised if he grows another inch or two taller. He’s at least two inches shorter than Kasha, and much shorter through the body.
  • I love the way he wiggles his non-existant tail. His fur grows into a slight point at the end of his back, giving the illusion of a stump. He tries to wag his tail, and the fur wiggles in the most adorable way!
  • He’s very cat-respectful. Interested, would like to sniff, but not prey-drive interested. Thank the gods!
  • Hyper-stimulated, overly excited, learning about so many new things and new people, and just released from the shelter, dogs can be very hard to get to sleep. He was awake until 3AM. I was ready to go to sleep at midnight. He was up again at 7AM, briefly, but then finally gave in to his exhaustion and slept soundly until 1:30PM. So did I!
  • He gives most excellent good morning (or, good afternoon) greetings! Flopping down in my lap, big kisses, cuddles and snuggles galore!
  • Kodi is very smart. It doesn’t take him long to learn what’s expected of him. Or to learn that it’s much cooler in the house than it is outside, and therefore inside is the place to be.
  • I thought Kasha had a big-dog bark. At 100#, she ought to! But wow, Kodi’s bark is much, much more intimidating. So far his barking has been confined to complaining that Kasha’s rejecting his advances. Once he learns that this is home, I suspect he will greet visitors, or intruders, with that bark, and they will high-tail it the other way as fast as they can. He was a big sweetheart in the shelter, gentle with kids walking through, interested in greeting everybody without any aggression.

All in all, while it has not been an easy 24 hours, the dog that’s laying contentedly in the hallway now is a far cry from the wound up, confused, anxious dog we brought home yesterday. I think all will be well, once he’s become acclimated to how things work around here, our schedules, the pack dynamics… and gets neutered.

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My brain has been running in endless circles.

Dog. Dog. Shoulder. Dog. Dog. Ouch that shoulder really hurts! Dog. Dog. I have GOT to see a doctor. What doctor? Dog. Dog… you get the idea.

Our new family member is still up in the air. There have been hours of discussion. Both dogs have been debated, behavior analyzed, debated again, over and over. There really is no debate anymore.

If Loki is available, he is the dog we wish to add to our family.

On one hand, we have Loki, who Rhiannon & I both fell in love with. But Maggie is a bit uncertain about giving him up. As well she should be – when someone offers to take your dog from you at a Petco, I would be awfully suspicious, too – especially when you really love that dog.

On the other hand, we have Keegan, who I liked, based on his picture, but who was not interested in us. Rhiannon felt no interest in Keegan at all. She’s willing to give him a second look, a second chance, because she loves me a lot.

We were supposed to be seeing Keegan again today, but we’re not. I spoke with our adoption counselor & explained our situation, and she was very understanding & supportive of our desire to help another dog if possible. I need to talk to Maggie, see if she is willing to bring Loki up, let him meet Dusty-Cat, see where we live, see how Loki responds. If it goes well, I hope she’ll let us give Loki a try, see if he likes it here. She can always come visit him to check up on him, and if it doesn’t go well for some reason, she’s local, and we can just give her a call.

We haven’t passed Keegan up entirely, though – he does need a home, and if things don’t work out with Loki, we would give him a home.

Loki

Loki’s pros/cons: We both adore him. He allowed us to touch him & pet him & scratch his chest & offer him love, although he is usually very shy. His body language said he was nervous about being in the store, and he didn’t care for the vaccine the vets put up his nose. He’s amazingly gorgeous. He triggers us to want to care for him:  he’s very thin; his lack of confidence makes me feel like I should help him; and knowing that he’s had a tough life so far does, too.

Kasha also loves Loki – she even kissed him! (And she was very entertaining at Petco when she was put in a “down” and then tried to crawl towards Loki – she really showed a lot of interest in him.)

There is not a lack of love & care in Loki’s life right now: Margaret is clearly deeply in love with Loki, very attached, and wants the best for him. But right now, he has to be crated when she’s gone sometimes, is in very tight living quarters, and she’s not really at a place in her life where she can provide the best surroundings for him, no matter how much she loves him. That’s hard – I’ve been there. I know how hard it is.

Oddly enough, even though Loki is a German Shepherd, he never once reminded me too much of Shunka. We saw another dog previously who was a black GSD-mix, and that dog was too much a reminder – his face was too similar, and made my heart hurt for missing Shunka. But Loki is very differently proportioned, and has beautiful silver highlights, whereas Shunka was all black.

Keegan

Keegan Pros/Cons: Most importantly, Rhia didn’t feel any connection to him at all – in fact, she makes faces when I mention him. There have been arguments, stress, and tears shed as a result of that – and we hardly ever argue about anything. I liked him from his picture – there’s a look in his eyes that makes me feel for him. But when he came in to meet us, he wasn’t interested in us at all. The adoption counselor said he was nervous about being up front in the “showing” room, especially as there was a lot of noise coming from the room next door. She gave us a pretty steady supply of treats, and he took them, very politely, but never looked at us. I was only able to touch his back briefly by holding his lead. The counselor says everyone there loves him, and he is affectionate with people he knows. That’s about all we know about him.

Every dog deserves a home, a yard, a bed to sleep on, people to love them. Keegan has been transferred at least twice, and is in a no-kill shelter – and a very nice place at that! Kind of like a dog & cat country club! If we don’t take him, they will keep him until he finds his fur-ever home.

Then there’s my shoulder. Which is driving me out of my friggin’ mind. It hurts. A lot. Still. After 10 weeks. And it’s become very weather-reactive; if there’s rain within 100 miles, I know it. There’s been a lot of rain. It seems to be getting worse, instead of better.

I decided yesterday I can’t wait any longer – I’ve lost patience with the “see if it heals on it’s own” business. I’m going to my PCP tomorrow, and requesting an MRI. If there’s a full-thickness tear of the ligament, it will need surgery. Not at all thrilled with that idea. But if it stops the constant pain that the pain meds aren’t covering, I’m all for getting it figured out & moving forward with it. It’s making me very irritable.

Part of the problem could be the meds I’m on, and especially the Valcyte which is helping so much, but may be causing slow healing from my low platelets. They aren’t that bad, 135,000 two weeks ago, which is below the normal range of 150,000 to 450,000. It’s up to my PCP to decide.

That’s what’s up in my neck of the woods. More than you wanted to know, probably, but part of the purpose of this blog is to keep my family updated, and they tend to want all the “gory details.”

What’s up in your neck of the woods?

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