Cara Mia passed on Wednesday September 17, 2014 at 12:20 Pacific Coast time, in her bed, at home, and blessedly very peacefully. We held her closely and whispered loving encouragement as she ascended. As horrifying as that moment was, the room filled with a deeply palpable sense of natural beauty and tranquility; it was soul inspiring.
Cara Mia simply had enough of the physical challenges that plagued her life for the past Three years. She reached a seniority of Thirteen years and Four months, which is roughly Ninety Five years in human equivalence. She confounded science by living for a full Three years after being diagnosed with cancer of a particularly violent strain.
About a year and a half ago she suffered a mild stroke that left her hind legs wobbly. She endured a year of water rehabilitation and spent every day in the pool for Twenty minutes, knowing full well the purpose was to strengthen her muscles; atrophy was a danger. She was placed on specific diet of supplements whose nutritional purpose was to enhance the growth of myelin, in hopes that new neural pathways would develop and she would regain the control of her legs. In addition she had about Nine months of acupuncture and while her legs continued to wobble, she nevertheless could walk.
By her Thirteenth birthday, she could not lift her back legs and required help getting into a standing position. Within months she required a harness which allowed one to easily lift a 100 pound dog, and provide the lift they needed as they walked. She was measured for a cart with wheels in July 2014, allowing her to use her front paws, while her back legs hung in a stirrup and the wheels provided rear stability and motion. She did reject this undignified contraption.
Cara Mia was raised on a Five acre mountain top home in Washington State, surrounded by hundreds of acres of state forests. Cara Mia chased bears, mountain lion, deer, bobcat, basically anything that moved on her domain, was fair game. She never caught a single animal and we were by no means sure if that was by design, after all she could outrun a bear.
At Six months old she was trained by the late Mark Stover, on a private island in the San Juan Channel. Mark stated that Cara, whom he called “Queenie,” had the greatest deductive reasoning power he ever met in a dog. We saw so many examples of that through her life. Cara was simply a very smart being and that logical mind of hers served her very well, as evidenced by a long life.
Pet stores sell dog puzzles. Generally some food is placed in a hidden container within a container and the dog has to move covers or slides to expose the food. It was meant to be a challenge. Not for Cara Mia, each puzzle was solved within seconds, the food eaten and then came the “Now what?” look. While she was at a pet hotel, she constantly opened complicated locks on doors and released the other guests from their rooms. The operators told us they finally used padlocks and hid the key from her.
For the first Two years of her life, she always decided if she should “come here” or ignore the request – very Shepherd. However what always brought her, was the sound of kissing. If there was love being dispensed, there was Cara Mia. She was a sucker for lots of body hugs and kisses. Despite being a Shepherd, Cara was a very touchy feely type of dog and while she enjoyed having her space, throughout her life she reveled in sessions of family group hugs and kisses/licks. She visibly swelled at admiration expressed in her direction. She was a bit of a ham and she knew full well she was beautiful, although not in a narcissistic way, but rather in delighting that her breath- catching beauty gave us such pride.
Dogs have a purpose and some dogs have a higher purpose with regard to their effect on humans. K-9’s are a good example. as are seeing-eye dogs. Cara Mia’s purpose was to be a light to the world by expressing joy in the now.
She valiantly endured months of invasive medical treatments and being prodded by a host of physicians from around the country (you can read about them in this blog). Her stoic acceptance of an organic foods diet most dogs would reject, such as ginger, apples, garlic, zucchini, and curries, which extended her life for Three years, was achieved because she was in the now. She was cognizant of her failing legs and as much as she detested it, she swam knowing it helps. What got her through it all was her propensity of being grateful in the now. Dogs rarely look back with regret and most likely do not consider the future as humans are apt to do. The “now” is all they have; at a basic level the same holds true for us humans.
Her actual appreciation of life’s moments always manifested itself so clearly at food time (numies). When foods were placed before her, she never lunged, but rather she looked down at the food, looked up at you and within seconds her mouth opened into a happy panting smile; you could recognize her anticipation and gladness at the prospect of eating. One could easily contrive the notion that it was her “grace,” before a meal.
The now was where Cara Mia felt that constant love from us and where she was creating love for us. Nothing else mattered for her, or for us. Not the medical tests, the constant drips, swallowing prodigious amounts of supplements each day, even not having the control to stand up; all of that was minimized and trivialized by the love she felt in her life at all times – it was always present in the now. Because she adopted that pragmatic mind set, Cara Mia became a Hero; certainly for us, but also to countless of dogs who have been saved by the ravages of cancer.
Perhaps the greatest virtues of this perfect being were her kindness and although it may seem anthropomorphic to say, it was also her courtliness. Cara Mia welcomed each person to the house with a wag of a tail, a bark, or bringing some toy to the visitor. When the person left the house, Cara Mia always escorted them to their car and waited outside until the car was out of sight, before turning to come back inside. Any visiting animal was always welcomed to indulge in her food and water bowels, and she shared her treasure trove of toys with great abandon and joy.
Because of her kindred spirit and her innate ability to project an aura of immediate smiling acceptance of all, Cara Mia spent years accompanying us to restaurants, supermarkets, shopping malls, friend’s homes, hotels; wherever we went, Cara Mia was in the pack.
She was always a source of joy and admiration to the thousands of people who met her. Children were always nervously bristling with eagerness to pet and hug her, adults shared stories of their dogs, or remembrances of Rin Tin Tin and Cara Mia found babies irresistible; worth many sniffs and licks – we presume she was attracted to the purity found only in a fresh human being.
For Eleven years Cara Mia was physically a gorgeous beast. She was strong, powerful and used to pounce on balls thrown with such force, it was like she was hunting in the Serengeti and that tennis ball was her prey. People weighing less than 150 pounds would always lose at a game of tug-of-war. She enjoyed the “monkey- in-the-middle” game and her deductive mind allowed her to win more often than you wanted. That was always followed by a smile and that little strut of victory and dominance, was plain for all to see.
Dog’s comprehend and are capable of dispensing a great amount of compassion and Cara Mia was no different. At times of stress, illness, drama or sadness, Cara Mia’s enviable talent at just being there, quietly supporting and always emanating visibly intelligent concern, will be greatly missed. She was always our child, yet at times, we were her children.
Recently life became difficult. For her, an animal that chased bear and deer, the indignity of asking for help each time she needed to rise, was heartache. Most likely, she would feel a sense of failure as a dog’s DNA make running and moving an inherent action. Although we made light of the circumstances, Cara Mia was no fool. She rejected her wheels, although true to who she was, she gave it a try a couple of times.
Toward the end of her all too brief stay with us, the now component kicked into her intelligent mind and she took stock. She wisely used our love and her love of us, as the platform of comfort and security, to move on to a painless and wholly loving dimension.
We miss her deeply and in our sorrow, there is tremendous relief, pride and celebration, that Cara Mia is now again running and scampering in her domain, infused with God’s beneficence and love.
We love you Cara Mia.
Through Cara Mia’s life, many humans played a vital and essential role in her health, development and love of life. On her behalf, we wish to thank the following people (and canine pals), and assure them that their efforts, caring and love, was always appreciated by Cara Mia and ourselves. Thank you.
Dr. Kevin Fenton
Dr. Gurdeep Deol
Dr. Larry Koenig
Dr. Gail Cutler
Dr. Leah Feldman
Edward and Jonathan as friends who walked with her for years.
Gideon with whom she shared much love and cookies.
Betty McDonald her Acupuncturist.
Christina from You Dirty Dog who kept her looking resplendent.
Barry, Nancy and Abbey who shared their home.
Mark Stover who trained “Queenie”.
Henry and Anne who smothered her with love.
Zeevik and Lea were her extended family.
Daniel who taught her gardening and engineering for years.
Michael who spent months finding us the perfect home for Cara Mia.
Sasha the neighbor Chow who roamed forests with Cara and swam in ponds.
Precious, her last puppy friend whom she loved dearly.
The thousands of children and folks who stopped to meet her wherever she was and the over 170,000 visitors to her web site.
May God Bless you all.
We wish to share a few sentiments sent from her admirers, after her passing.
“Thank you for letting us know about the passing of the most heroic and precious animal I have ever known.
Such passages are, to me, the most difficult experiences one can be subjected to, and Cara Mia surely has been the bravest of them all. You have been blessed to have had her in your life for the years she shared with you.”
–Ted and Sandi
Just this side of heaven there is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to the Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our special ones are warm and comfortable.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. Her bright eyes are intent. Her eager body quivers. Suddenly she begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, her legs carrying her faster and faster.
You have been spotted and when you and Cara Mia finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face, your hands again caress the beloved head and you look once more into her trusting eyes, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together.
May God bring you peace and serenity on your journey. And may he bring peace on these people who love you so deeply and help their hearts heal.
I know that you Cara thank them both for everything they have ever given you and they likewise thank you for all you have brought to them.
May God look down on you both.
How blessed we all were to have been touched by one of God’s beautiful creatures, Cara Mia. To Jacques and Alexa – thank you for your unconditional love and support for Cara. I felt the love you had for her and how you showed it every second of every day. More importantly Cara felt it and knew that through divine intervention you both found each other to share the love you both had. How truly Blessed you both were!
My Mom, Kathleen Spitzer, sent this to me to read as I have a deep passion, love and kinship with our German Shepherd, Nala. Although I never met Cara Mia, I am truly touched to have read about her- I am in tears at the end of reading about her effect on so many lives, as well as her love and courteousness. I hope her soul passes effortlessly to a peaceful place, and I hope she watches over your family forever. I’m very sorry for your loss.