Callie Wise
12/11/2006 - 12/10/2019With the loss of Callie, the counselor in me, is over-thinking as usual.

Today at 9:15 a.m., a benevolent angel veterinarian from Lap of Love came to our house. Ernie and I were in the yard with our thirteen-year-old rescue Labrador named Callie. I was positioned on the blanket with my chocolate lab and Ernie was in the swing under the gracious and somehow knowing grandfather oak tree as we watched Dr. Nil Wilkins drive up in her SUV.
Callie is not the first chocolate labrador who has enriched, complicated, and just simply impacted our life with unconditional love. We adored our rescued Cookie for many years. Cookie had come to us from a family with three young girls and was perfectly behaved and adapted to family life. Although overweight from the constant cookies and treats given to her by her little girls, she lost a bit of weight and became our lab for many years. After she passed at a grand old age, we sought out another lab rescue.
Enter Callie, age five in 2011. Callie had been a breeder lab and abused. Treated for heart worms by the Florida Lab Rescue folks, she had recovered and passed their protocol for adoption, and was ready for a home. My younger daughter, Rachel and I made the trek to meet her and could not resist bringing her from her foster home in Spring Hill to the home she has lived in for eight years. Although we instantly fell for her unconditional kindness and affection, we recognized she was a needy girl, always fearfully sensitive to any kind of correction. On the drive home, she insisted on sitting in the driver’s seat, and this was the first of behaviors to be modified with love.
When we arrived home from the challenging hour-long journey, Callie (who we named subsequently as her original name, if she had one, was unknown), wanted to pounce upon the resident cockatiel named Wrinkles. Mortified, Wrinkles dramatically squawked and emotionally uttered one of his only human words which was his name…
"WRINKLES…WRINKLES” as if to warn us to protect him. Wrinkles had been a special gift from Grandmother Juanita to her granddaughter and had lived with us for about eighteen years as our pseudo-guard bird, so seniority was his!
What to do? We didn’t dare leave Callie alone with Wrinkles and already bonding with her, we were in a quandary. We consulted the lab rescue folks and then the local veterinarian. We were informed, “Well, labs are bird dogs, after all!” Later with some urging, they suggested successive approximations for desensitization. Being trained as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, I had already employed a few behavior modification techniques and had not realized much success in that technique for excitable, impulsive, and large Callie.
We could return Callie to the foster home, but we already loved the fluffy chocolate lab who had obviously been chosen as a breeder because of her sheer beauty as a gorgeous lab specimen, but it was her kind heart and intuitive, emotional support that had instantly won us over. For sure Wrinkles was not going.
Exhausting some innovative brainstorming, we went to craigslist to find a fortified home for Wrinkles to safeguard him. We settled on a parrot cage crafted from heavy iron. For sure, Wrinkles looked ridiculous perched in the large cage, but came to enjoy the intricacy of the castle-like cage over time. With some behavior mod, the chocolate lab and the colorful, proud cockatiel co-existed for many years.
Through retirements, the weddings of two of our adult children, losses, and changes, Callie was a constant pal. Rarely in course in eight years was I to sip a morning cup of coffee without her sitting beside me in the kitchen. We frolicked many an adventure and experienced every nature of emotion.
Journeying to our cabin in North Carolina many times, we walked the mountain trails. As I rode my horse, she secretly jumped on the forbidden chair to watch me from the window to watch us. On one occasion in the mountain, she spotted an unexpected intruder and surprised us with her eager nature to protect her family. With not a mean bone in her body, she was just a crazy pal and non-judgmental friend with heaps of unconditional love and a perpetual wagging tail.
Now at age 13 with none of the characteristic hip displacement issues that frequent large dog breeds possess, she loved the grandkids and savored any time she could swim with or play ball. We were aware that she was quite aged however. In early November, she was in some distress, and I hauled her to another extraordinary veterinarian, Dr. Kren in Wesley Chapel. I was determined I was not going to put her through a bunch of arduous tests and operations. It was obvious something was very wrong. Dr. Kren and his lovely young tech, Melanie showed me the obnoxious tumor growing in her mouth that extended to her lung. “Probably a secondary pneumonia,” as well. Unmistakable cancer that was aggressive!
We talked about her quality of life, as Callie characteristically wagged her tail and had already won their hearts of the vet and his assistant as well as the two receptionists. Dr. Kren shared the ritual of the loss of his two dogs the previous summer and suggested a prescription of prednisone and a referral to Lap of Love. It was decided we would just have some fun days together and monitor her. “Now is the time to cook her a steak,” said Dr. Kren as Melanie wiped away tears. "Just enjoy and love her.”
Well, that prednisone is great stuff as Callie was in super form. We played ball, and took some walks and she stayed beside me every minute. I wanted her to feel well enough to swim with me one more time but she was never quite able for that level of activity. On Thanksgiving Day, perhaps she had an inkling of the hour glass running out, because for the first time in eight years, she was able to sit by my chair at the Thanksgiving table. She savored her turkey dinner and being with her family. She ate eggs and sausage for breakfast, enjoyed several helpings of steak, and endless milk, one of her favorites.
Well as of two days ago, the sand was nearly exhausted in that metaphoric hour glass! Today, sweet Dr. Wilkins came and helped us through the good bye. Under the grandfather oak, Callie ceased the struggle of the rasping breath, and I stoked her velvet ears as she went into an eternal sleep. Ernie and I cried and Dr. Kren wiped back a few tears but said, “Oh she has had such a great life with you,” of which we concurred. Ernie and I dug her grave and packed up her expensive dog food and treats for donation.
Already the house is too quiet without her wagging tail that always made so much noise.
We are so thankful for this slightly obnoxious and warmly, kind soul who touched our lives. God Speed, Callie! Thank you, Dr. Wilkins, Dr. Kren, and Melanie!
The poignant quote on the Lap of Love website ( says it all…
“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
A. Milne / Winnie the Pooh
posted on my blog page as well...
Madonna WiseZephyrhills, FloridaDecember 11, 2019
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