You May Call it Fate, I Called Her Karma

On June 30, 2006 at around 9pm, I died for approximately 3-6 minutes. I had been in a motorcycle accident earlier that day, and the ER doctors were resetting my left shoulder that had been severely dislocated in the accident. They had administered the drug to knock me out too quickly, and, as a result, I died. It's a bit unnerving to wake up and have a nurse tell you that, "we lost you there for a few minutes, but you came right back." This event would be the catalyst that would change my life forever.

I walked out of the ER with my left arm in a sling, my right arm in a cast, and too many cuts and bruises to count. I was unable to fully take care of myself, so I moved in with my girlfriend (now my wife), Jessica. I certainly beat the odds when it comes to being in a motorcycle accident. Even though I didn't die in the accident, I did later; and that changed my perspective of the world.

After a few months of recuperation time, Jess & I decided to get another dog. I was still off work, and in physical therapy, so I had ample time to house break, clean up messes when the house breaking wasn't working so hot, and train a dog. Jess had her muttly dog, Jack, and I had my Rottweiler, Billie. We went to the local animal shelter to see who needed a home. The first kennel we came upon had puppies. Lots and lots of puppies. There were a total of seven spread between two kennels. They were labeled as pit bulls. If you read my previous post, you'll know that I had experienced some less than model pit bulls in my life. Time, and a near death experience changes things. I couldn't imagine how these adorable little pups could be the monsters the media made them out to be. I had also started doing some research on pit bulls, and what I was finding wasn't living up to the mass hysteria. We picked out one of the girls to check her temperament. I flipped her over onto her back. Nothing. I squeezed her paws. Nothing. I tickled her. All I got were pit bull snorts. We were in love. This beautiful blue brindle pup was about to find herself a forever home.

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Karma, shortly after she came home

The staff member that was helping us told the story of how they happened to have these seven pups. These pudgy little balls of adorableness were found in a crate, in a shed with no ventilation from a less than desirable area of town. They were abandoned, left for dead, and riddled with fleas, ticks, and other various health concerns. The shelter estimated them to only be a few weeks old, and for the next six weeks they bottle fed them and weened them over to dry food. The staff member told us that they had expected all of the pups would die, but like all good pit bulls, they proved everyone wrong. All seven pups pulled through, and had just gone onto the adoption floor that morning. With hearing that story, there was no way I could let these dogs just stay at the shelter. A couple phone calls later, and we had adopters for all seven dogs.

Jess and I then set out on the second half of this journey that would alter the course of our lives forever. We gave careful consideration to the name for our new family member. We needed something appropriate for her. Something that exemplified the circumstances surrounding her situation. I came up with Karma. It seemed fitting that these dogs were all discarded one day, and then went to loving, responsible homes in just one day. We looked down at this tiny little pup and asked her if she liked the name, Karma. She immediately began wagging her tiny little tail, and that, as they say, was that.

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Karma and Billie

What you don't realize when you adopt your first pit bull are all of the things that come as part of that package deal. Sure, you've got your normal puppy things, i.e. house breaking, training, the occasional potty accident to clean, etc. You also get a fair amount of ignorance, and hate. Things go a few different ways when you have a pit bull out in public. You have the oh-my-god-I-love-pit-bulls-can-I-please-pet-your-dog-and-tell-you-how-much-I-love-pit-bulls people, but you also have the pit-bulls-are-the-spawn-of-satan-get-that-monster-away-from-me people. We found that Karma created a third group. These were the I-never-knew-pit-bulls-could-be-this-awesome group. Karma had a way of cutting through all the B.S. and changed so many people's perception of what pit bulls are actually like that we lost count.

I could go on and on for days about how amazing of a dog Karma was. I'm sure most of us can do that about our pit bulls. I'll try and keep things brief. She was simply the best, smartest, most mischievous dog I have ever had in my life. Don't get me wrong, I love all my dogs, but Karma was different.

Her mischievous side came out one Christmas season. I was in my office, doing something or other on the computer, and my Rottweiler, Billie started whining and making all sorts of noise. I went out into the living room to find that Karma had not only pulled several ornaments off the tree and promptly removed all of the extremities of every ornament, but she grabbed ahold of the garland that was on the tree, and drug said tree half way across the living room. There was no doubt that Billie had just "told on" her sister, and there was also no doubt that it was Karma that had done it. When I got into the living room, the garland was still in her mouth, and she was actively pulling the tree.

Her intelligence was never in question for us. Jess had gone downstairs to do a load of laundry, and when she came back upstairs, she was missing a dog. Her mutt, Jack, was sleeping in his chair, but Karma was nowhere to be seen. She called for her, and could hear Karma's tags jingling on her collar, but couldn't see her. Then Jess looked out her picture window to see Karma in the front yard, staring up at the tree she had just chased a squirrel into. That's right, Karma figured out how to open the front door, and went outside to tree a squirrel.

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Karma before she figured out how to open the door

As the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end. It's a fact of life with having any dog. You know that you'll eventually have to say goodbye. We just didn't realize that we would have to say goodbye so quickly. We adopted Karma in September of 2006. She started to get sick in March of 2008. It began with her not eating quite a much as she normally did, and quickly devolved to her not keeping any food down at all. We took her to our vet, and they kept her overnight. They gave her some fluids and some anti-nausea medication and sent her home. We tried to get her to eat, but she just wasn't interested in food. We finally decided to boil a chicken breast to see if that might entice her to eat. Karma gladly ate that, and was keeping it down. We were ecstatic. She managed to keep it down for a few hours, but it eventually came back up rather violently. We rushed Karma back out to the vet. They kept her there for five days, and ran a battery of tests on her. The vet's office loved Karma so much, she had free reign of the office. The whole time she was there, the only time she was in a kennel was at night so they could keep giving her fluids. She was the first, and only dog to date, that was allowed to have free reign of the office. Had circumstances been different, I would have been extremely proud. I'm proud now, but at the time, I was too worried to care.

We got a call that said they had done several tests, and taken several x-rays. They were hoping to find a blockage of some sort, but what they found was a "spot" on her lung. We went out that night to talk to the vet and see Karma. We weren't prepared for anything that happened that night. Karma was skin and bones. She had lost fifteen pounds in five days at the vet's office. That's not the kind of thing you expect when you show up. I must pause here, and say that I do not blame the vet for anything about this. They did everything they could, and a whole lot more for Karma. We love our vet and continue to take all of our animals there. Once we were over the shock of seeing Karma, we went to look at the x-ray that showed the "spot". I keep putting "spot" in quotes because that was term the vet used. I disagree with that term. What we saw on the x-ray was a mass in Karma's lung that took up over half of the lung. She was diagnosed with a rare form a Juvenile Lymphoma.

We were then given a choice. Karma was too sick for any kind of radiation therapy, so we either let her starve to death, or ease her suffering and say goodbye. The vet then offered, free of charge, to do an exploratory surgery just to make sure they didn't miss something in the x-ray that might be blocking her intestines. They said that they couldn't, in good conscience, put Karma down without trying one last thing. Then I had to do the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life. I had to sign that piece of paper consenting to have Karma put to sleep. The vet asked if I wanted a phone call to let me know if they found anything or not. I told them to only call if it was good news.

Jess and I started to walk out, and then I had to do the second hardest thing I've ever had to do. Karma started walking with us. She wanted to go back home. It's been seven and a half years, and I can barely see the screen through my tears as I type this. We said our goodbyes to Karma and left her standing in the vet's office, tail wagging, wanting to come back home. The next day came and went, and I never got a phone call with good news.

I've never forgiven myself for not being there with Karma when she passed. I know that it was impossible for me to be there because of the exploratory surgery, but it has haunted me from that day. I've been searching since that day to find a way to make that up to her. If I couldn't be there for Karma, if I couldn't help fix her situation, maybe, just maybe, I'd be able to figure out a way to help other pit bulls.

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Karma in her favorite chair

I began researching. I found that the biggest hurdle for pit bulls, and their families, aside from unabashed ignorance, was Breed Specific Legislation. I live in Illinois, and we have a prohibition on BSL, so the whole concept of banning dogs was new, and terrifying to me. I have logged thousands of hours educating myself on BSL, pit bulls, dog behavior, and constitutional law. That was all well and good, but what to do with this vast amount of knowledge I had stuffed into my brain? How does this help other dogs? How does this pay tribute to Karma? How does this make up for the fact that I couldn't be there to help her cross over the Rainbow Bridge?

I found a solution. My best friend, who adopted one of Karma's siblings, and I started talking one day. We both love to ride, and we love us some pit bulls, too. Why not create a group that incorporated both things? On that day, Bikers Against BSL was born. While we're still new to the world of advocacy, and we're still trying to get our feet under us, but we are determined to make a difference in the world of Breed Specific Legislation. We do this not for money, fame, or glory. We do this because of one dog that not only changed my mind about pit bulls, but all the many lives she touched during her short time here on this planet. There's a saying that I read somewhere that said "Souls that leave this earth too soon are called teaching souls. They impart lessons to us during their short time, and shape our attitudes in the future." I'm confident that Karma was a teaching soul. She taught me so many things. Her lessons have forever altered my life, and I'm eternally grateful. Like the title says, you may call it fate, but I called her Karma.

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