Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Ancient One

Reading the two most recent posts on Sandy Lagno’s blog Animals from Their Point of View and has given me the nudge to get on with the telling of Star’s story.  Star, whom one of our neighbors while ambling on the gravel road in front of our house dubbed “The Ancient One”, died on August 17, 2008.  After her death, that pushed my spiritual envelope big time, I promised her I would share her story.  Both Dwight and I have told it orally over the past two and three quarters years.  Now I want to share Star's story on this
new medium to me, who is out of date according to some who are into Twitter and Facebook.
So here goes . . . Mid 1993 someone found just the right Siberian Husky puppy for me.  Having had not a stellar experience with a previous Siberian Husky, Nashoba, after having two wonderful ones, Sasha and Tatiana, in my life for 15 plus years, I decided we needed another type of dog that would ground this new puppy.  Off to the local shelter I went.  Of course, I had in my mind an image/idea of what I would find and bring home.  Alas, no such dog presented herself to me.  One dog did present herself in extremely low fashion.  Skinny with a poor coat of hair, having given birth to eleven puppies and raised them at the local Humane Society after being dumped over the fence at night pregnant without any identification, Star sat at the fence.  She neither made eye contact nor tried to coerce me in any way to take her home with me.  Still I was drawn to her.  She was unfamiliar, looking not like a Siberian Husky in any way, nor like any of my childhood dogs.
Having had such a trying experience with Nashoba through which however I became connected with a wonderful puppy trainer, I had her come with me to the shelter to give me her take on this dog to whom I was so drawn.  Her only hesitation was that this animal was more connected to other dogs than humans.  All of this I shared with Dwight who was still working in the San Francisco Financial District.  He was willing to go along with whatever I decided.  He did however remind me that we had a full Summer planned with trips here and there.  Plus we were expecting to bring our Siberian Husky puppy home in late August after all of our various trips.
On August 7, 1993, off to the Santa Rosa Humane Society we both went to adopt this dog.  We completed all of the paper work and collected her from her kennel.  It was a gloriously sunny day so we decided since she had been all cooped up for so many months that we would reward her with a walk.  Well, her muscles were so atrophied from not being used much that she did not last long on the Joe Rodota although she clearly wanted to walk farther than her body was willing to carry her.  Home we drove, not to MuRefuge of which at this time we had not an inkling.
Since this dog, who we were told was a Doberman mix and three or four years old, did not seem very healthy to me, a visit to the vet came next.  We had a crate for her which she initially willingly used.  Our next outing was to Salmon Creek Beach which at the time allowed dogs.
Star and I after our first walk together on Salmon Creek Beach 
Before we knew what was happening it was time to visit the soon to be our puppy in Reno, Nevada.  And Star was spayed and I unthinkingly had promised her “no more puppies” when I meant she would not have her own puppies.  In retrospect, “WHAT WAS I THINKING?!?” when all along we were planning on bringing a puppy into our household.
And then several weeks before the originally appointed time, we picked up our puppy in Napa where a woman had brought with her three of the puppies from the Reno kennel.
Dwight holding Star's leash.
Sun on Star's far right
 with Sun's brother Abu between.
Both the adopted dog and the puppy we gave names from Flower Essences.  The former was called Star from the Flower Essence Star of Bethlehem and the latter Sun from the Flower Essence Sunflower.  For those of you so inclined you can read about these essences.  In retrospect, Star loved her name, Sun was none too fond of hers.
Needless to say, Star got right into BEing with Sun allowing her to BE a puppy.  Star was an Alpha dog in the truest sense AND was never aggressive, but was very protective not in only protecting Sun but in preventing any dogs from bullying other dogs.  Point in fact, while visiting a friend who had a female West Highland Terrier and whose sister’s Spitz mix breed keep picking on the Westie, Star grabbed the latter by the scuff while standing over the top of her.  Amazingly, this dog did not repeat this behavior which the owner said was a frequent one with other dogs.
Star and Sun were a pair to watch: this very petite, beautiful black and white Siberian Husky and our much larger Black and Tan Hound mix who was identified on a beach in Santa Barbara by a man who had raised Black and Tan Hounds for coon hunting.  Sun mimicked some of Star’s behaviors.  One that was very striking was lifting a front paw and pointing as hunting dogs, especially hounds, do, though other Huskies never do. 
Camping at McCloud.
Dwight, Sun and Star watching a squirrel in a tree.
The first Spring and Summer we lived at MuRefuge, Star and Sun formed a team to trap gophers in their tunnels.  One dog on each end and the gopher trapped in the middle.  They managed to catch well over 50 gophers with this ingenious method.  Star was not interested in the gopher after the chase.  Sun however thought gophers were a delicious addition to her diet.
Sun was a stay at home dog.  Star on the other hand was “Go for a truck ride”!  We had a 4Runner at the time.
Life settled into a routine for all of us here at MuRefuge with our ups and downs.  Then in the Fall of 2004 Sun developed what I now know was a malignancy in her right sinus.  How tenaciously she held on to BEing in her body!  And how I reverted to “a critical care nurse,” taking care of her body, cherishing each and every minute.
Last picture we have of Star and Sun together.

After a month of sleep deprivation since most nights I sat holding Sun so she could breathe, our vet came and euthanized her on April 6, 2005.  To make a very long story short, Sun’s spirit remained with us.  She DID NOT want to leave.  During this time is when I tapped into Sandy Lagno’s incredible gift.  She communicated with Sun as well as Star.
Star was almost catatonic.  She was listless and went through each day without really BEing present.  This first time Sandy tried to communicate with Star much time passed before she could form a connection with her.  During this initial communication Star was very clear she did not want to be euthanized.  Star gave Sandy a very clear picture of how she was going to leave her body:  she would be running, her physical form would drop and her spirit would soar.  At the time I thought what a lovely image.

Star really enjoyed BEing the only dog in our family
once she grieved the loss of her sister, Sun.

Star standing in Lee Vining Creek
after a hot walk.
After Sun was no longer with us, Star did not have the stamina to walk 5 miles as she had previously. In the Fall, 2007, Star was 16 and slowing down.  We took shorter walks and the pace became slower but she was adamant that she walk every morning as we had always done.  We added afternoon slow walks as well limiting both morning and afternoon walks to a mile or so.

One Sunday afternoon we noticed Star outside in the back yard running at full speed, jumping over obstacles like buckets and patio chairs.  Could this be our 16 year old, OLD dog?  This running continued for the afternoon and Star showed no sign of tiring.  By early evening I became concerned and my nursing self kicked in.  I called Sandy who did not answer her phone.  It was Sunday after all and she takes time off, too.  We loaded up Star, which was no easy task, to take her to the 24 hour emergency hospital.  I had to hold on to her to keep her in one place in the car.  Boy, was she strong!  
We had to wait for the vet to see us.  It was beginning to be dusk and we have ducks to put in so we called a neighbor who agreed to put them in for us.  More waiting for the vet with a very agitated Star who was not happy to be confined or in this strange place.  A vet tech came and took Star away.  More waiting.  Finally a vet appeared who recommended sedation and tests.  At this point I left Dwight with Star and the vet for these procedures, saying I would return soon.  Home I sped.  Luckily the ducks were safe in their house (boy!  all this sure did kick in my Self preservation issues! for those of you reading this who are familiar with the Enneagram and the Basic Instincts) AND Sandy had left me a message, “Star showed me a blood vessel in her brain burst.”  

Immediate calm returned to me and what would happen next seemed to me to be the only choice.  Back to the Emergency Hospital to pick up Star and bring her home.  She was sedated. I told the vet my wish was to bring her home.  No tests because I knew what had happened.  The IV was removed and a bandage applied.  Dwight and I picked Star up and carried her to our car.
When we got home we settled her on her bed by my side of our bed.  She barely stirred during all of this.  In the early morning she woke up from the sedation surprised she was still in her body but resettled for a more natural sleep until morning light.
I called Sandy again.  We both wondered what would have happened if we had just let her run?

And she would have missed saying good bye to her favorite place, Mono Lake.

Star had more difficulty getting up and down.  A few months later she had another stroke while laying in the grass one morning.  She could not get up.  I sat with her all day thinking her spirit would be departing her physical form, but by nightfall she willed herself up and into the garage; we lifted her up the step and into the house she came.

Her slow ambles became even slower, sometimes taking an hour to go just a block or two.  She developed pressure sores on her hind legs.  

Sometimes she was incontinent, which I know she did not like since she had always made a point to urinate outside even when she was many hours in the kennel at the Humane Society. So I would bathe her and dry her and reapply the bandages to her pressure sores.  

Peaceful Star 
She was restless at night so we moved our Subaru Outback out of the garage so she could move about as she wanted.
Of course, I had Sandy check in with her.  Star assured me that how it looked was NOT how it was for her.  She seemed serene, at peace with her “dying rhythm movement”.  Then on a Friday morning in midAugust, 2008, when I went into the garage Star was attempting to get up from the garage cement floor.  She could not make her body get up.  She kept trying and frustration was evident on her face.  She made sounds of frustration while continuing to try to get her body off the floor.  She would rest a bit then try again.  This she repeated and repeated.  But she clearly refused any help.  By late afternoon she discovered that while she could not get up off the floor, she could move all of her legs in a running movement.  With this discovery her whole demeanor shifted.  Her sounds were no longer of frustration, rather more of pleasure.  We went to bed on that Friday night with Star still resting then running.  By Saturday afternoon after cleaning her up several times, laying about medicinal herbs to support her process, she began to howl, reminiscent of wolves calling their pack. 
A wolf picture that reminds me of Star howling
on our garage floor.

And I imagine this is to whom Star is calling.

Through Sunday this continued.  When asked how I could stand this, my response is “I am allowing Star her process.”
Early Monday morning, Dwight woke me up to tell me Star had died.  Sandy says that Star’s spirit came and awakened him.  He also said she looked like a wolf.  “Right!”  I thought.  Out to the garage I went to see our old and decrepit Star.  NOT what I saw.  Rather laying in the middle of the garage floor was a very large wolf looking very peacefully asleep, ears standing up straight, tail standing straight out on a very large body.

How could this be?  I sat down stroking this amazing animal's body.  Dwight went back to bed to get some more sleep.  I was awake for the day.
Later I called Sandy to share Star’s process.  Sandy said,  “That body contained a 100 plus pound alpha male wolf”.  Allowing Star her process gave rise to merging with her past lives?  Star certainly was a STAR!
Animals seem to come into our lives to teach us what we are open to learning.  This physical transformation of Star’s body has opened me to another realm of physicality, of spirit, of the organization and alteration of cells/mass and alteration.
As we buried Star in Sun’s Spot, her spirit had already entered the spiritual realm.  Sun watched Star’s process and made a decision to return to do her work.  AND now we have Rose whose focus seems to be on coming to grips with the wild and the domesticated sides of her nature.  Perhaps a story for
another time.
Remember to 

while sharing your favorite animal stories in the comment section below.


  1. Star was a wonderful dog and a steadfast companion. Her dying process was an amazing transformation and truly a great lesson about how to approach the end of one's life. And, yes, she made me laugh, especially when she was in hunting heaven, running from one burrow to the next in the middle of a ground squirrel colony!

  2. I love both those beautiful animals, thanks for reminding me about them.

  3. From my niece, Callie: "What an amazing post! I have tears in my eyes thinking about both Sun and Star and how they were such amazing animals. My birthday present to you should arrive later this week and fits right in with this post!"

  4. wow. thanks for sharing this beautiful story. we should all be so fortunate to be respectfully allowed to transition in our own time in our own way.... what a gift.