Monday, January 7, 2013

In Loving Memory of Our Dog Cali

Our beloved dog Cali passed away in the early morning of New Year's Eve. She died at home, in my arms. She was 10 years, 8 months old. She lived two months after her emergency surgery to remove tumors, her spleen and a part of her liver. Though the cancer had already spread, in the hope of extending her time with us and keeping her more comfortable, I gave her an herbal mushroom extract that showed good results when given to dogs with the type of cancer she had in a recent study. After taking her daily doses she seemed to feel better. She started out having more good days than bad but then after a few weeks she started having less good days and her appetite got less and less to the point we could no longer give her the mushroom extract because she needed to take it after meals. She was kept comfortable and had the best 24-hour hospice care any dog could ask for. She knew she was deeply loved and was never alone. 
Ellie & Cali

Although most of our other animals gave her plenty of space while this was going on including her litter mate Duke; Ellie, our 14-year-old Australian Shepherd, stayed in the dog bed that was right beside Cali all night and the morning she passed. Interesting, since Ellie was the one to chase her off when she and Duke first appeared on our ranch that cold January day in 2003.  Now, Ellie was the one who stayed by her side during her last hours. Our sweet Ellie.

Cali was an amazing dog. Aren't they all? She was incredibly smart. We didn't realize just how smart at first. When we found her and her brother at about nine months old, they had never been inside a house or had any kind of training. They were country dogs. She was the hardest to train but ended up being the one who listened and behaved the best. We will never forget: Not long after we brought them home, we went out to eat dinner one night. With them not being totally house trained yet, we left them outside in the backyard and left our other two dogs in the house. They were about 9 -10 months old, each weighing around 30 - 35 pounds. We were totally surprised to find both of them in the house when we returned. How in the world could they have gotten inside the house? (This was before we installed a dog door.) We couldn't believe they could possibly fit, but they did -- they squeezed through the cat door! One of them (probably Duke) must have gotten stuck because the frame of the cat door had been chewed on. I have no doubt Cali decided they weren't staying outside by themselves while we were gone and had seen the cats going through the cat door. Cali was the leader. The brave one. She quickly became alpha female of the pack. Ellie, being the passive girl she is, didn't mind.

Cali became quite the little helper over the years. She was the one who tattled on the other dogs if they did something they weren't supposed to. When ever there was something she wanted us to have or know about, she would put it in the middle of our bed. Once, I found a butter knife there. Earlier I had left the house for a short time and there was a paper plate with a cracker and a butter knife on it that I had left on the kitchen counter. I had completely forgot about it until I found the butter knife in the middle of the bed. One of the other dogs had done some counter surfing and took the plate, knife and all to the backyard. That's where I found the paper plate. Cali returned the knife to me and let me know what happened.

Another time I found some small animal internal organs (perhaps belonging to a bird?) in the middle of our bed. I'm sure it was the remnants of a meal our male cat had caught. Thanks for the info, Cali....

When she dug up a buried (muddy) chew bone that she had been saving, she liked to show us her new found treasure by placing it in the middle of our bed. Needless to say, we always check the bed before turning in for the night! 
Duke & Cali

One time when we had all four dogs with us at our ranch, we were all sitting around taking a break when Cali disappeared on the other side of the barbed-wire fence. A few minutes later she returned with a deer leg bone, laid it down in front of the dogs. She did this three more times, bringing each dog one deer bone to chew on, including one for herself. She knew how to take care of her pack.

What was most impressive though, was that after she had observed Clifton (my husband) picking the pecans up in our backyard, she began bringing him a pecan every day. And only one pecan per day. As long as there was good, edible pecans on the ground, he would get a pecan in the center of our bed every day. Until there were no more. Then the next year, the same thing. One pecan per day. They would always be good ones too. (I have witnessed more than one dog sniffing out the good ones from the bad.) Every year, if there were pecans, we would get one per day in our bed. Sometimes we would crack them and give them to her, thanking her. She liked them too. We always thanked her for our gifts.
Cali's Toy Collection

One of the cutest things she started doing as she got older was collecting all the soft, plush dog toys and keeping them in a pile next to her bed in our bedroom. She didn't care so much about the hard rubber toys or chew bones or the ropes. The cute, soft stuffed toys were special and she was going to take good care of them. That meant hoarding them all and keeping them together by her bed. They were not to be placed in the toy basket in the living room with the other toys. No. These special toys were not to be played with by anyone but her. I finally put a toy basket next to her bed to neatly hold all of her prized possessions. It became a ritual every day after the dogs ate dinner for her to get one of her stuffed toys and bring it out in the living room for everyone to see, all the while crying and whining while she walked around, carrying it in her mouth. (Whenever she carried her toys around she whined. I always wondered what she was thinking as she did this.) We started calling them her "babies" and would make a fuss about each baby she would bring out to show us. I called it Cali's Show and Tell Time. She would show us one of her cherished stuffed toys each day, after dinner. Then she would put it back in her private toy basket. Even when she occasionally took them outside with her, she never left them outside. She always brought them back in with her and eventually put them back in their place. She cherished those toys and none of the other dogs would dare take them or play with them. They knew all the stuffed toys were claimed and protected by Cali. Even if I bought four new stuffed toys so each dog could have one, after they were through playing with them, they would all end up in Cali's basket. She had quite a collection. There must be 15 - 20 of them. Her favorite was the biggest one -- a dog with floppy ears.
Her Inside-Out Toy

She did this funny thing with one of the stuffed toys. She would always have just one toy that she would work on with her teeth, gently tearing a small hole in it, and then she would pull the entire toy inside-out, through the hole. That's how she liked it -- inside out. She liked the seams in the material. She would gently chew on the seams, never tearing it apart....just chewing. As if she was knitting or sewing with her teeth. Or like she was trying to take out each stitch, one by one, but in a fast, constant biting motion. She would do this for long periods of time. Content just to lay there, chewing gently on her inside-out toy. She would carry it around everywhere, putting it down to chew on it. If I picked it up and put it in the toy basket, out it would come! Once it got all dirty and I threw it away, she would pick another stuffed toy to chew a small hole in and turn it inside-out. It was like her security blanket. Only one of the toys she would do this too. All the others stayed in tact.

When Cali and her litter mate Duke were turning ten years old, we decided to have their DNA tested for curiosity's sake. (Read more about that here.) Once we found out they were chow-chow and blue-tick coonhound mixes, we started telling them them they were chow-hounds, chow-chows, hound dogs, etc. Shortly thereafter, Cali, whose ears had always been folded over (unlike her brother's ears which stood erect once he turned a year old), suddenly were standing erect and they never went down again. I thought it was the oddest thing that for the first ten years of her life, her ears were folded down. Then all of a sudden her ears were standing straight up and stayed up! I asked her veterinarian if he had ever heard of or seen such a thing and he hadn't. He thought that was weird too. We laugh, saying her ears stood up once she learned she was a chow-chow.

She was the alpha dog of our pack. She ran a "tight ship" and she enforced the rules. She was bossy. She was the brave one. The main watch dog. She protected everyone, including the cats. She would give the neighbor's dogs a piece of her mind if they should bark at our cats! 

She was a great singer/howler. The emergency vehicle sirens would really get her going and she would howl, head pointed straight up into the sky, until her heart's content. She could really hold a note for a long time too. Usually Ellie would join along with her. On a rare occasional, Duke would join the singing duo. 

She was a digger. She could dig a hole to lay in that was so big she would rest her chin at ground level and all you saw was her head above ground. 

She was a lot of things, but most of all she was incredibly special to us and we miss her so much! Rest in peace my little furry angel.