No more escapes for Cali the cow dog

To the Editor:

"What about a Great Dane?" I asked Kevin. We had just found out I was pregnant, and wanted a puppy to complete our family. Little, did I know, this was the beginning of a journey with the notorious Cali the cow dog.

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She started getting into trouble early in her life. She went through a chewing phase that seemingly never ended. It started with the carpets, which we replaced with harder flooring. No shoe, slipper or leather couch was safe with her around. We had a sectional, which she chewed a hole in. Brilliant me decided to throw out the section that had been chewed (it was a single seat in the middle) and keep the undamaged part. The next day, there was a hole in the same spot. Fabric couches only. 
The shoes only seemed to be in phases. And only my shoe. Only the left. And only when I yelled at her dad. She was definitely a daddy's girl, and made it clear that if we were going to argue, my shoes needed to be put up and away.

Then there's the roast, bread and cakes. Her favourites. By this time, her height made it nearly impossible for her not to reach anywhere she wanted. She waited patiently for everyone to grab their dinner, and as soon as her roast was unattended, it was gone in a matter of seconds. She'd slyly make her way back to the living room, generally unnoticed until someone went back for seconds. One Good Friday I baked a cake for my daughter's birthday party, just to have half of one go missing while I let it cool on the counter. Nothing was open, and I had to track down another box via social media. Three loaves of homemade bread would disappear at a time. Nothing was safe on the counter.

Then the running. What she ultimately became notorious for. Where to start? Maybe the sliding doors she figured out how to open? One night before bed, we locked them, and put a board down on the rail to keep the door from sliding open. I discovered at 5 a.m. on a brisk -30 degree morning that the doors needed to be replaced, as anything without a door knob was no match. Even when we put up French doors, she found if she threw her body weight against it, it would pop open. That door was permanently locked with a screw. The gate ended up with three different locks all working together for the same reason. We were blaming the kids for leaving the gate open when one afternoon I decided to weed my front flower bed. Suddenly, I hear a dozen of solid bangs against the new gate. The last one was just enough to flip the lock on the top, sending the door flying open. She came sauntering out slowly with some serious sass until we made eye contact. Turned around without me saying a word and off I ran to Canadian Tire to buy a couple of dead bolts. The winters were no match for us, even with the new fence built as high as the city allowed. I tried digging the snow out to keep her from jumping over, but as soon as we had a windy night, she'd just walk over the snow bank and off to see her fans. This is why the spring became the worst for escapes. Some people depend on a groundhog, others just waited for the cow dog. We went through heavy chains that snapped, braided cords that would fray, just about everything but a shock collar to keep her in. Ever been shocked by one of those things? We didn't have it in us to use one since it felt so unethical. But boy, did we pay for her misdeeds. At first, the Facebook posts started slowly. She was described as “an underfed Dalmatian,” “a cow,” and “a horse.” Her size made her intimidating, but her gentle giant nature helped her make some friends. While people were posing with her, sharing her photo like she was a Facebook superstar, I would spend some days in tears of frustration wishing she could just be a normal dog. While I wasn't her primary owner or caregiver, I took the brunt of the five per cent of posts that were mean, insulting, and demeaning. Kevin, on the other hand, couldn't be phased by negativity online. "Take her out and run the hell out of her so she stops running away! I can't deal with this anymore! You can run the damn dog, or you can find somewhere else for her with someone who can!"

This became one of her favourite things to do, a short ride to the gravel pits for an afternoon of fetch and running, a nice ride home, and a treat on the way. Just to come home and lay in the backyard, sneaking out again a mere 10 minutes later. Nothing would stop her when she wanted to check on her people, no matter how exhausted she was. At some point, I just became jaded to the negativity, as it wasn't worth the energy. Where there was a will, there was a way, and I made a promise to never be one of those who rehome their dogs because of bad behaviour. When she wasn't running, she was so loving. Her cuddly nature, and concern for our kids made it hard to stay mad at her. Our youngest would frequently curl up with her on the couch and take naps when she was small. She was so gentle with her, always watching where she put her massive paws, and licking her little head. She never moved before until her nap was done, she almost seemed scared to wake her up.

My night shifts were her quiet victory over the bed too. Even though we resorted to buying futon mattresses and she had her own room, or the couch, my side of the bed was never empty. When I'd come home early in the morning, I was the one who ended up on the couch. It was much easier than disturbing her snoring, happy slumber.
One evening when I was pregnant, she randomly crawled on the couch with me, and would not leave. No matter where I went in the house, she followed me. Keep in mind although she was our dog, I wasn't the favourite, I just dealt with the all the shenanigans when she escaped. Annoyed, I went to bed early and miscarried overnight. She stayed with me for days afterwards, cuddling in bed.

Cali was a “bad dog celebrity” who walked in the Nickel Days parade, a notorious escape artist, a gentle giant who loved her people. She loved the attention and the friends she made. Some people gave her treats when she went to visit, waiting patiently in their back yards for me to pick her up. She's been in every corner of the city, from Eastwood to Riverside to Burntwood. One time I was so angry, I thought about leaving her at Paint Lake. "Imagine the Facebook posts about that," Kevin said. "Hey guys, look how far she made it this time." Even her last week alive, she had to escape one last time. This was when we found out just how sick she was. Cancer had spread through her body at an alarming rate and by time that we knew, it was just a matter of days. On July 16, at the age of six, Cali the cow dog was put to rest. She was loved by many, especially her family and fans. Thank you to the people of Thompson for every phone call, Facebook post and message helping us throughout her life. She finally made it home for the last time.

Robyn Shlachetka



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