Monday, November 23, 2015

Signs of Simon: Remember Me?

By Cal Orey

One month ago, on October 23 a devastating challenge paid me a visit. My senior dog, Simon, a beloved 12 1/2 year-old Brittany left my life. Due to an earthshaking diagnosis of dementia, a grim prognosis and the loss of a dear canine companion was an event I didn't want to face. In retrospect, the signs to me were simply aging but then it was clear to me that Simon was slipping away; gone in mind, body, and spirit... My favorite movie as a kid was Old Yeller and its ending of a gripping boy and his dog tale took me back to my inner child. And I cried as the real-life story happened and left me with a bittersweet ending... 
Today, I have no regrets. As I'm on the road to healing my broken heart it's clear that Simon and I savored more than a decade together. We were bonded heart and soul each and every day. I am thankful for the wonderful days, months, years, and memories of this beautiful Brittany--both inside and outside. He was a dog to love. Letting go was the humane thing to do. No more suffering for my companion...

Signs of Simon
In the past weeks I've received uncanny "signs" from my canine companion whom is on the other side. Some people do not believe we can communicate with the deceased.  Not so. And the stronger the animal-human bond, the more likely you, like me, will get signals from heaven...

* First, I was awakened by the reconnect dream. True, I couldn't hold him, pet him, kiss him but I did see my boy and he was vibrant, happy, and healthy. I woke up to reality that Simon is gone but I was left in my bed (one where we slept together for 12 plus years) with a sense of calm.
* At a dermatologist's office last week a physician's assistant asked me if I had been crying when she looked at the puffy skin around my eyes; she sensed my pain from grief. When she left the room for a moment, the song Sounds of Silence filled the air in the room.  My eyes watered. After all, I named Simon after Simon and Garfunkel. Another connection.
* Last night when working the "psychic" network, I received a call while listening to more Simon and Garfunkel tunes. The caller's date of birth May 28--the same day as my Simon's birthday. It was another cue from the Hereafter.
Incidences, like these, have given me serenity. I needed to know there is life after death; to believe my canine is at peace; to sense that when I pass there is hope I will reconnect with this beautiful soul--a blessing, one of God's creatures.

Life Goes On
The truth of the matter is, two-leggers and four-leggers grieve differently. My sibling misses Simon but tells me he was prepared as he watched his dear friend age. In retrospect, my cat Zen sensed Simon's personality had morphed and it spooked him.  Nowadays, my cat almost has his zen-like balance back. 

And my young Aussie? He is still a bit clingy. I sense he believes his best canine pal will walk into the home any time. But sadly, this will not happen. The void is still here in my home and my heart. But we all are getting by, getting past going through the motions, and living for the moment--as Simon did, as dogs do.

Each day gets easier, whereas instead of intrusive thoughts of the end days are overshadowed of the positive memories we shared. The fridge is graced with some of my favorite photos of Simon at his best; in each room there is a reminder, whether it be a framed Barnes and Noble poster, stuffed animal, plaque, or dog bed. His presence is still here. Yes, I remember Simon.  His spirit lives as life goes on.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Day 24: Life Without Simon

By Cal Orey
Brothers and sisters I bid you beware Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Rudyard Kipling

May 28, 2003-Oct. 23, 2015
Today is Sunday, November 15, almost three weeks living without my beloved canine companion, Simon. I now am learning the loss of a loved one terminology. "Complicated grief" to "A new normal" are phrases I digest. I know that my life with two dogs and a cat has changed.  It's different...  

The Dark Side
A dog day afternoon
  • Last night I couldn't sleep (usually this isn't a problem). Worse, a tsunami-like wave of sadness paid me a visit again out of nowhere when I realized it was no longer a two dog night--no more dog Simon smiles that John Steinbeck wrote about in his work. I have one 55- pound young, fun-loving Australian Shepherd (whom I am grateful to Simon because he groomed him to be a wonderful canine--strong and loyal). He is part of Simon--it's our connection to a dog we adored.
    Healthy, happy a while back
  • In the morning I can no longer call out: "Come on 'boys!' because there is one boy dog who I feed, let outdoors and indoors.  It's an odd feeling; especially last night when I called my Aussie by the wrong name "Simon"... No, I'm not losing my mind as my beloved Brittany did, it's difficult to accept that he is no more. Didn't Poe's The Raven show how one went mad from grief?
  • Being owned by two canines is having the best of both worlds, especially if they are different breeds--a sporting dog and herding dog balanced me. Simon was heady (he loved any film with a dog including Simon's dog Verdell, a small dog in As Good As It Gets to Marley and Me (ironically, I always turned off the sad ending part), outgoing, and friendly to two-leggers and four-leggers (little dogs); Skye is physical, standoffish to strangers, and a cuddle boy to me. Naturally, there is void because the traits have downgraded since I am a one dog lady these days. 
  • My Rock, a Fading Memory
    but Eternal
    The healthiest dog in my life, our bond lives
  • On cold, snowy nights I no longer have Simon to keep me warm underneath the covers. Skye does sleep on the bed (but with his dense coat) he usually snoozes on top of the comforters and on the pillows next to me.

Skye acts like Simon
will walk indoors any time
The Light(er) Side
  • For a short spell, Simon did deal and morph with the cruel aging process like Marley; it was difficult to watch my once agile, brainiac pooch having sporadic difficulty jumping up into the car, and then bed (but he did it with assistance) and forgetting all commands--and recognize me or my family.  He struggled to maintain alpha dog...but when dementia set in it and Simon's mind and spirit were AWOL it was time to say goodbye. 
  • Changing his food to keep him healthy was something I did a year ago. Yes, it was pricey. Now, I only feed one dog. In fact, financially tending to a dog duo's needs can be a challenge (nail trimmings, teeth cleanings, boarding with extras, and any health needs that come up).  I never complained; I'm sure my bank enjoyed the interest I paid. 
  • For months and months, Simon (dealing with an odd wake cycle) got the Aussie, cat, and me up at 5:00 AM or earlier so I adjusted my sleep routine around him. (I confess I liked the boys roughhousing on the bed last year. It was endearing.) Nowadays, I can sleep into 8:00 AM--it's a strange new normalcy like being on a trip out of the country but never coming back home.
Simon was raised by Kerouac

  • Onto Zen, my Siamese-mix who was always zen-like. He did sense Simon was "off" and began living on top of counters, high furniture to hiding and being less social and staying clear of his cat trees and an aggressive dog that no longer was sweet Simon, the senior gentleman.  These days, kitty sleeps on the bed like he used to when Simon was well, enjoys his trees, and walks by the Aussie without issues. He's safe. He's content. He senses stable energy in our home.
Zen is calm...but knows I'm sad

No I do not have regrets that I let go and allowed Simon to go to the other side. It was his time and we made the humane decision. But yes, I so miss my 12 1/2-year-old Brittany more than life itself.  Each day I feel it's getting a little easier to adjust to the void but if I could have my healthy, happy boy back I'd do it in a heartbeat. And now I sit everywhere he did and I look around me and tally the leftovers. One Aussie who misses Simon, one cat who's got his mojo back, and me--a dog loving woman who is facing life without Simon.

Update: Last night I had a dream. A message from heaven? In the realistic saga, I was trying to reconnect to my Brittany but could not do it. Stuck in a city, desperately trying to get back home. However, today I realize I did make a "connection"--before I awoke, I saw him, he was happy, healthy and fine. I recall seeing his docked tail wagging. His spirit is with us...I feel a calmness.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Day 20: Dear Simon

By Cal Orey
For those who love dogs, it would be the worst form of a lie to call any place where dogs were banned "Paradise." Certainly no loving God would separate people from their canine friends for eternity.
Stanley Coren, dog psychologist

Dear Simon,

I've been trying to telepathically communicate with you. At times I feel we are connecting, other times not so much. With tears streaming down my cheeks I never ever thought the day would come. I thought you were immortal. Well, admit it. You were the healthiest, strongest canine companion I've ever enjoyed in my life. There are dozens of photos of you at your happiest moments, year after year, 12 years plus one half.

Quality Time Together We did have an amazing life together, though, yes? Back in the day of snow at Lake Tahoe, you loved running up and down the berms.  Remember when we'd walk to the campground during off season in autumn and spring. You'd jump over the huge pine tree logs again and again. Not to forget taking you to the Lake. I know, the water was too cold for you to go swimming...but you loved the sand, sun, and looking out at the water and Canada geese. Ah, the winter nights under the full moon, you walked with me on the fresh snow after visiting your best dog friend. It was bliss while we were in the hot tub and you and "Rat Boy" played non stop outdoors and indoors. I can still see your beautiful smile--and as I view so many photos you were happy, a happy, balanced gentleman with stable energy.

...On the Road And the book signings you escorted me to were fun, yeah? As a puppy in Carson City's Borders you were so cute (I was pleased by your perfect presence) and as an adult at Chico's Barnes and Noble--I was also so proud of you. You worked the crowd and acted like a therapy dog. Don't forget we ordered a third bed for you in the hotel...but you snuggled and slept with me (under the covers often) as you did for more than a decade. 
Not to forget you kept me company day and night, on errands, walks, writing books, photo shoots, and my true soulmate with paws. We got each other. And hey, you were famous! Yes, your photo and feats graced to The Writer and and Complete Woman magazine (right below Oprah! in the TOC) for being a seismically sensitive pooch partner in my forecasting earthquakes to simply being my best friend during the best and worst of times. 
Not to dismiss the time when a cameraman let you and Seth outdoors into the wild. Before the on-camera interview I was scared at least one of you would head near the highway or Lake and never to be found again. But I followed our normal walking path and there you were--taking care of your younger sidekick whom you bonded with ever since. You were the wise, balanced one out of your comfort zone all alone.

Dog Days, My Best Friend
Okay, I won't dismiss a few close calls: There was the time you sprained your foot in the snow--but you healed quickly! A few teeth cleanings; you ended up having 38 out of 42 pearly whites! Amazing. When we evacuated the chaos of the Angora Fire, not only did you stay centered for me in a Reno hotel--you got bit by something in the foreign grass. One nose surgery later. You healed. And when you were 10 1/2 I found the little lump on your forehead. Both our vet and I were concerned. Surgery ASAP. Benign. We were elated with joy, despite the scarring. But your beautiful fur grew in within weeks! My canine warrior lived on for two more years (about 14 in human years). And I am so grateful for the time we spent together from beginning to the end...

I know you loved your canine pals--Zorro, your sweet Rat Terrier BFF with Type-A energy; and Seth, my Brittany pup whom you raised. He loved you more than you know. You two bonded and despite being from different lines--you looked like one another. You sensed when his health took a turn for the worse just as my Aussie and Siamese noted you were not yourself.  I sense they miss you, especially Skye, whom you helped socialize with strangers and allowed you to maintain alpha dog; he played with you so gently even though he knew and I knew you were growing older, growing frail. He is trying to behave like you did when we lost Seth--strong for me (but I confess, he's a bit clingy). 

Saying Goodbye  You are in every room: Posters of us at bookstores, in my magazine articles, books, plaques, and dog bones. My pen names are connected with you Calliesimon and I cannot delete them because it's my lifeline to you. Your fave comforter is on the love seat. I want to smell your scent and will not wash it. I feel your spirit is in the air. How I long to hug you, kiss your nose, and tell you how much I love you as I did every day.
In the past months I knew you were slowing down but as we age it happens so I tried to go with the flow of Father Time.  When I returned from the out of country trip, it was evident. You weren't yourself. How it hurt me to put the pieces together: You staring at walls, getting disoriented behind chairs, unable to do your dog business, sleep cycle off, and forgetting all of your commands--worse, not knowing who we were or who you were. Lost and I feel lost without you, the way we were for years and years.
It was difficult for me to face the facts that you were slipping away. But I knew on Friday, October 23rd, when all of the classic canine dementia signs came together. You told us--all of the people who adored you--it was time to go. "I'm tired. I don't like the way my mind is not clear. I'm anxious. I'm scared. I'm confused. I want to go where it's safe and peaceful." I saw you had left me in your eyes and felt your spirit had left me when I hugged your body. Goodbye Dear Simon. No words needed.  

So, my boy, my dear bird dog, I let go. I love you Simon.  Hugs and kisses. We had a good, long life together. My thoughts are with you day and night. Till we meet again, Simon Dog. Be a good boy. I pray you are in a beautiful place with dogs (yes, small ones like you like) and envision you with Seth--my Brittanys, my two soulmates with paws. It's my dream that when I pass we reconnect... I yearn to hold you in my arms again Dear Simon.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Touched by an Angel with Paws

Guiding, guarding, warning, comforting and
teaching—are these animal angels?

By Cal Orey

My healing Aussie Skye "Protector"
Did You Know?  An estimated 69 percent of Americans believe in angels. Do you?

 Recently, Jude Balthis had a dream. Her cat Satie appeared on her bed, green eyes staring down at her owner. “It was clear that she had a message,” Balthis says. “She told me she knew I had done the best that I could to protect her.” The large calico had just died a month earlier.
            “I felt very guilty about her death,” Jude recalls. “In her later years, she wasn’t able to defend herself as well as when she was younger. I had secured the porch from other animals by installing gates, but it wasn’t enough.” One night, while Balthis and her family were away, racoons broke into the barriers and killed Satie.
Zen sensed and warned me that
my dog Simon was ill
            Upon awakening from her dream, Balthis felt instantly that Satie had absolved her from blame. “I didn’t cry, even though I was on the verge of tears, because the dream allowed me to understand that she was in a safe place.”
            Companion animals bring us comfort and love, but are they also spiritual messengers who understand more than what seems possible?
            “An angel cat would be a messenger who would help you to know that love is all around you and that miracles are possible,” explains Linda Anderson, coeditor of Angel Animals, Exploring Our Spiritual Connection with Animals. Bernard Ward says in his book Angels: They’re All Around and They’re Watching Over Us, “Angels are here to guide us, warn us, comfort us, teach us or just be a friend and companion.”


Replacement kitty rescue--rescued me after
losing 14 year old cat
            Years ago, when Stephanie Laland was in her 20s, she was distraught about her life. She remembers sitting on her bed and crying. “Suddenly, my two-year-old calico cat Yoko jumped up on my lap and put her paws on my face and licked the tears away,” she says. And while some cats are deeply affectionate, Laland confesses, “this wasn’t the sort of action that my cat would normally do. At that moment she was my little angel.”
            Since then, Laland had turned her life around. She is the author of Peaceful Kingdom: Random Acts of Kindness by Animals and Animal Angels, and teaches workshops for people wishing to boost their bond with animals. She feels she knows firsthand how it feels to be touched by an animal angel.
            Many of the stories in her work suggest that the notion of animal angels isn’t merely whimsy. Take, for example, the story of Mrs. Sweeney, an elderly woman who had always welcomed animals in need into her home. One winter evening, she became ill and wasn’t able to move from her bed. As the fire from the stove went out, the house grew deathly cold. Too feeble and ill to move, she was sure she would freeze before daybreak. In the morning, when her neighbor came to check on her she discovered the freezing temperatures and raced to the old woman’s bed, fearing the worst. But Mrs. Sweeney was safe in bed, very much alive—and not cold at all. She was quite comfortable, with seven cats and a dog draped over her warm body like a fur blanket.
            Many near-death survivors have reported feeling a sensation of leaving their bodies—or traveling through tunnels of light.  Some people report encounters with relatives or even family pets.
            During a down-and-out period, reports Anderson, Debi Reimann, a legal secretary from Lacey, Washington, felt herself floating through a gray mist. She recalled seeing light and feeling an overwhelming sense of love. She saw a vision that appeared old and wise. Even though the “being” told Reimann that it wasn’t time to die, she didn’t want to go back to her painful existence in life. The “being” turned her around, directing her toward the tunnel that would take her back to life. At the other end she saw her cat, Missey Kitten, waiting for her. “The cat was the one being on earth that could touch her heart, and Debi made a decision to come back,” recalls Anderson.

I telepathically communicate to my
Brittanys on the other side

            Eventually, Missey Kitten, the cat who’d given her owner the will to live, died. About a year after her death, Reimann was in her car and stopped at the traffic light. “Suddenly,” Anderson explains, “she heard purring next to her in the passenger seat. Turning to look, she saw Missey sitting on the seat. Mesmerized by this vision, she just stared, ignoring her green light. Seconds later, a drunk driver plowed through the red light on the other side. Reimann, who was too preoccupied to enter the intersection, never came in contact with the out-of-control car, and drove away with a memorable vision and her life. Some would say Missey Kitten used her angelic powers not once, but twice to save her owner.
            These afterlife stories, where cat angels come back from death to visit loved ones are more common than you’d imagine. Laland tells the story of Olivia, a friendly white cat with blue eyes who’d won the hearts of her owner and the other two cats in the household.
One day, Olivia was killed by a car, Laland explains. Everyone seemed depressed at her passing on. Even the other two cats in the household seemed lost, and they took to hanging out in Olivia’s old favorite spots.
            “One night after Olivia had been dead for some time, Olivia’s owner looked up from her reading to see Nell, one of her other cats, standing outside the window. Nell didn’t seem to be trying to attract her attention, so she continued to read. Suddenly she heard this great ‘woompf,’ as though the window was going to cave in. She got up and went to the window, hoping by her stern expression to convince Nell to be a bit more patient,” continues Laland. “Nell was no longer there. Instead, she saw a little white cat. She felt thrilled, hoping for an instant that somehow the little white at buried in the garden was not Olivia. But when she ran to the back door to let her in, the cat was gone.”
            The cat owner felt Olivia was admonishing her for not treating her other cats with the same lovingness that had come naturally with Olivia. “Her husband said later that the loud noise as the sound of a cat so spoiled that they threw her out of heaven,” adds Laland, “and she landed on the patio steps.” But, she writes, “I think Olivia wanted to give me one more chance to remember her as she was, instead of as I saw her when we buried her under her favorite dwarf maple.”
            So, was it Olivia or just her owner’s imagination?
            After Gandalf, my lovable 18-year-old gray-and-white cat died, I missed him and so did his cat-pal, Alex. While Gandalf had been bold, brash, and affectionate, Alex was shy, gentle, and aloof. However, just months after Gandalf’s death, Alex’s personality changed. He began to chase the dog, and nudge strangers. I like to think that Gandalf is still visiting us, although some might say that Gandalf is now a part of Alex.


            Many animal experts believe that there is a link between life and death. “Cats are so special and have a spiritual nature. And because they are so open spiritually they can be conduits for this unconditional love that comes from God or the creator or spirit,” says Anderson.
            Laura Pasten, a veterinarian from Carmel, California, adds, “A guardian angel is a companion animal. A cat that just comes into your life quickly and leaves is an angel that comes in for a purpose.” Some people believe that an angel is just supposed to point you in the right direction, or make a point and move on.


            So, what about the absurdity of it all?  Is it possible that a four-legged, furry feline could be a messenger of God? “It’s logically possible,” says Mike Meyer, PhD, professor of philosophy at the Santa Clara University in California. “Santa Claus is possible, although we have lots of good reasons to believe that he doesn’t exist.”
            But what would be a sign that a cat is a real angel? “It would have to be something pretty incredible,” he says. “If a cat parted the Red Sea and helped all the felines in Egypt escape, or lifted the Empire State Building—that would be a miracle,” says Meyer.
            Regardless of your beliefs, if you listen to the stories, each tale of animal angels led their owners to a spiritual connection that provided comfort and guidance. You, too, may experience an animal angel encounter—whether it’s a short-term sighting or a long-term gift of unconditional love. When you consider that Jill Hartman claims in All About Angels: A Biblical Look at God’s Messengers that an estimated 69 percent of Americans believe in angels, it just might be worth paying attention. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Fall Apple Pie Paired with Coffee or Tea

Holiday goodies are making the rounds in the sierra. I see it. I smell it. I feel it. I taste it. And Christmas is coming, another snow dusting has arrived. Cookies, cakes, pies, and breads—all kinds—are circulating in homes, stores, parties, and businesses. 
On the south shore, soon red, blue, green, and white Christmas lights dot houses and stores. The excitement takes me back to childhood when I was a kid (who still believed in Santa Claus) in the suburbs of San Jose, California.

When I was nine, my father brought home a flocked white tree, big. We’d decorate it with blue and silver bulbs, colored lights, and candy canes. My mother, the baker, would be busy making Chocolate Pinwheels and Bourbon Balls. Parties at our house were plentiful. Wrapped packages were piled under the Christmas tree. On Christmas Eve, we could unwrap one gift; we sipped egg nog, and left cookies and a mug of milk for Santa. Early in the morning, my two siblings and I gather around the tree and give each other presents. Then, it was off to church. And home, a magnificent dinner awaited: Ham, sweet potatoes, greens, rolls, and pecan pie.
Today, things have changed. In the sierra, I reside with my two furry kids. I may or may not do a tree (I thought about it), nor will I shop. (Well, I did buy a set of dishes, a goose down comforter, and clothes for our upcoming winter.) So, here’s a semi-homemade Christmas Apple Pie that appeases my taste buds—and warms me up.

Holiday Apple Pie
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced thin
½ cup premium fresh cranberries, chopped
2 tablespoons European style butter, cold, cubed
¼ cup granulated white sugar   
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon orange rind (optional)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)
2 store-bought premium pie crusts (or homemade; recipes in The Healing Powers of
Olive Oil book)
4 tablespoons half-and-half (1/2 for apple mixture; ½ for crust)
2 tablespoons each, raw sugar and cinnamon (for crust)

In a large bowl, combine sliced apples, cranberries, butter, sugar, spices, and citrus if preferred. Place in one pie crust. Put other pie crust on top. Flute edges with thumb to give it a homemade, imperfect rustic look. (If pieces break, use warm water to mend.) Brush top with half-and-half. Sprinkle sugar-cinnamon mixture. Cover with foil (so edges of pie crust don’t burn.) Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, then bake for another 45 minutes. Cool for one hour before cutting. Sprinkle top with chopped walnuts and serve with a small scoop of all natural vanilla ice cream or warm it up with a piece of melted cheddar cheese.  Serves approximately 10.
This charming pie is sweet and tart and doesn’t look like a cookie cutter one packaged one in the store. It’s good both warm or cold. The cranberries add a festive color combo to the green apples.. And, the raw sugar gives it a super crunch.  While you can overindulge in cookies and candies, a slice of fresh fruit pie paired with hot herbal tea or gourmet coffee, will give you a nice holiday fix and has some health perks, too. Whether you’re alone or with friends and family, this Christmas Apple Pie paired with coffee or tea and honey will feed your sweet tooth, fill you up, not out and boost your spirit.
Motto: Holiday blessings come in all ways, shapes and sizes. Sometimes, tradition is fun and other times it’s exciting to follow your heart and soul while dancing on your own path.

— Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her Healing Powers series include fall and holiday recipes (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. The Healing Powers series was featured by the Good Cook Book Club, and the series is sold at Walmart stores nationwide. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Day 8: Grieving for My Soulmate with Paws

By Cal Orey
Day eight. Today marks one week since my canine soulmate has been gone--to the other side.  I have been here, done the grieving game with many dogs and cats but it never gets easier. Here's how my hellish week went. Thinking of the heartbreaking film Still Alice but in dog...

Happy, healthy, balanced with two dogs

Day 1: No eating. No bathing. Crying, crying, crying. On Saturday the day after the event, I got out of bed, walked like a zombie to the dining room drawer; grabbed dozens of pictures from more than a decade...

Photos of me and my dog named Simon. I should scan all the images but my energy level is low on the grieving scale. One call to the Crisis Center surprised me. The counselor said I was no longer an 8--"in shock" but slid down the slippery slope to a 5 on a 1-10 scale of doing superb while dealing with loss. I am still dog is not.
The first night in bed I tossed and turned. I couldn't sleep. I called my understanding ex love of my life (who knows the real me and my real love for dogs and cats) and we talked and talked as he promised me I'd get through this challenge like the others. But then, the intense headaches like I got before the Loma Prieta earthquake and vivid nightmares followed. A telephone man/part-time cop who fixed my phone said I was suffering from PTSD as if I didn't know it while holding an icepack on my forehead when I answered the door to let him fix the phone filled with static (somewhat like putting the pieces together of diagnosing my dog's demise).

Day 2: Forced myself to eat a veggie sandwich. Drink water. Savor tea. More tears in the kitchen, dining room, living room, bedroom, and bathroom--everywhere my dog had been for 12 years...and now nowhere.  Gone. Another ring to the Center with people who have become my lifeline. Some listen. Some dish advice, others not so much.  
I work the psychic networks and read people. I get it. Strangers with woes can be angry, sad, rant and rave or even hang up on you. I now had become a caller with loss--unrequited love because my dog can no longer love me back.  Still in shock. Dementia? My brilliant Brittany's brain was fried.  Images of the mean-spirited infected dogs in I Am Legend come to mind. I am now the man played by actor Will Smith in the film who had to let his best friend go because his canine was attacked and morphed into an evil monster.
Oddly, my body felt like someone bandaged it from head to toe like a mummy. I felt so tight. Aches and pains paid me a visit. Stress, I wondered? I took my blood pressure (usually 117/72/58)--now 158/90. Fight or flight response also came to me as well as isolation. I didn't want to be around anyone with two legs. 
My sleep mate for more than a decade

Day 3: I go through the hours day and night that feel like eternity. Motions of feeding my cat Zen and dog Skye...Both sense change in the household. Minus one dog and being calm for one unbalanced alpha leader--me. Our home has been hit by an earthquake of sorts: The diagnosis of canine cognitive disorder is one shaker to process, not to ignore the death of my canine with mush for his brain. He did not know who we were. My once strong canine has been sliding back to puppyhood, bit by bit, like the big fish devoured in Hemingway's tale.  
Our bond is unbroken 

My healthy, strong boy
Hellish Days:  I see me running away or to hike somewhere, anywhere but here, like angry Cheryl, the character in the film Wild. I watch the movie (each night) and flip through the pages of my graduate school thesis novella "Blood Tie"...
Ironically, it's the same story. My mother died. I took her small brown wrapped box of cremated bones and hitched and hiked with my dog. We traveled from Northern California through the Mojave Desert. Mission: To deliver daughter to mother--my grandma. It is a story of loss and trying to find inner peace while I stumble through the stages of grief and acceptance.

Bliss to Purgatory: Images of the past days before I left to Canada in early October and after I returned haunted me. My cat Zen sensed Simon was no longer Simon. My once centered canine was hyper aggressive with food and my zen-like cat. He was staring at walls, getting stuck behind furniture, and ran 10 circles like a show dog in a ring when he had to do his business (but usually it was on my rugs), sleep cycle off for months--but we all thought it was just aging as I was awakened at 5 AM every day to let him outdoors. My dog had lost memory of day and night, most commands. He did not recognize my sibling at the vet who announced to me: "Canine Cognitive Disorder" as I looked at my paper with the words scribbled "Dementia?" and "Is Simon okay?" We were on the same page. The diagnosis was bad; prognosis worse.  The end was near.
No longer in denial. As a caring soulmate I got it. His body was atrophying, he had a difficult time climbing onto the bed (the stool I got did not help). The bones in his face protruded. My dog, my best friend was an aging 12 1/2-year-old canine who was tired. He was telling us telepathically the confusion and anxiety he felt was too much, too much to endure, hour after after. He was done. 

There was a better place. I knew this earlier in the day when he laid next to me. I knew because of our bond and communication without words. The truth was an epiphany that hit like a sharp jolt, an earthquake. Light shed on the reality now that the pieces of the puzzle completed the picture. My soulmate with paws' spirit was absent. A limp, lifeless body was all that was left for me to hold. We made the decision. It was time. It was time to let go. It was the humane and selfless thing to do. No indecision--it was the right to decision to say goodbye to my canine soulmate. And the painful departure followed as I knew it would one day but tried to tune out reality: dogs are not immortal.

One Week Later:  Eight days. I'm still alive. Simon's death did not kill me. I survived the crisis.  Yesterday I forced myself to swim in the morning. But at 4:00 PM it hit me. I forgot to bathe and brush my teeth. I go through the stuff we do in daily life but my heart and soul are in another place. I'm here physically but spiritually I feel an enormous hole. How I yearn for my soulmate with paws to touch me.  I gave my heart to a dog and despite the extreme pain of loss I have no regrets. 
During a photo shoot for Complete Woman 

Today, the last day of October it hits me. I lost my other Brittany, at six, two-and-a-half years ago to a neurological disorder--it was fall, once my favorite season. Here I sit and images of my dog Simon visit me like waves in a tsunami. As a puppy at eight weeks he was a joy to love. At six months my brother took him for walks in the snow. At two I walked with my boy in the autumn, off season at Tahoe. He'd leap over logs at a campground (no tourists, ours). At three he met his best friend forever--a Rat Terrier--they'd play in the snow and house of my neighbor. Hours and hours. His energy was boundless. 

Memories of a Canine Companion: Of course, there were the book signings he'd accompany me at, from Borders to Barnes and Noble as well as hotels. As a pup and adult--he was a gentleman. Simon was seismically sensitive and helped me sense oncoming earthquakes. So, I am a News Segment Guest on Coast to Coast AM and tagged an "intuitive"; plus this four-legger evacuated with me during the Angora Fire and other challenges in life. He was my constant. Not to forget he raised my Brittany Seth (whom thought he was a God)--and helped me grieve when we lost him; and did a repeat of surrogate alpha trainer with my "healing" Australian Shepherd pup. Enough of good and bad memories, my heart is heavy. Our bond is unbroken.
 A pup to love, a dog to cherish for 12 1/2 years

Zen is no longer hissing, walking on counter tops and hiding high up on the furniture. And the Aussie has adapted to the fact that his alpha leader (he allowed him to keep the position to the end) gets it. Simon is not coming back; his fur friend is gone. We are now moving forward to the next chapter. 

But I sense my feline, young pooch, sibling--all of us--will never forget the Brittany that was loving, intelligent, alert, balanced, good-natured for 12 years, and a strong force in the family.  A wooden plaque "A house is not a home without a Brittany" stays on the wall. Simon's spirit is still present. Our bond is eternal. We will remember Simon, my rock--my soulmate with paws.

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Tribute to My Dog in the Hereafter

By Cal Orey

“The universe, I'd learned, was never, ever kidding. It would take whatever it wanted and it would never give it back.” 
― Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Simon, a dear canine companion
A true gentleman, my muse
my best friend, my rock
May 28, 2003- October 23, 2015


Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die...