Two dogs and a woman walking on the island of St. Kitts

Starting the week, our little family is feeling blessed and refreshed. The progress this sweet senior has shown is the reason for our reset. Let me explain a little about Kalina…

Kalina was born on the island of St. Kitts in the Caribbean and lived as an outdoor bar island dog. At about a year old, she was hit by a car, and her owner viewed her as property. Investing in her emotionally or financially wasn’t feasible due to the different culture around animal care on the island. After an entire year, she was finally relinquished to vet students who saved her life by raising funds to get her medical attention, which included amputating her leg.

She was terrified of all these changes happening in her world. Despite these nice people, most of whom looked different from her, she was so aggressive the next morning after surgery that only I could safely retrieve her from her recovery kennel at the vet hospital. The struggles didn’t stop there, unfortunately.

Next, she had a painful initial recovery experience due to… well, island life, honestly. The vet clinic was out of gabapentin, so she only had tramadol for pain control. I witnessed one of the most horrifying, panicked self-attacks that I have ever seen an animal do to themselves when we got home. I frantically had to try to hold her in a way that would keep her safe from herself, keep me safe, and call the vet clinic to coordinate getting her the gabapentin she needed from an island pharmacy. Another vet student even came to help me (Rossies have an incredibly supportive vet student community) keep her safe while I retrieved the medication.

That is just one small example of all the things this now sweet senior has been through. I wish I could say that Kalina and I had this amazing connection right away, where she saw me as her hero foster mom, and we lived happily ever after, but that is far from true. Kalina was having to shift cultures herself on top of recovering from surgery. I had fostered many dogs before. My heart dog, who is now across the rainbow bridge, Orca, was amazing as a foster brother and was a great helper to me in transitioning dogs from timid to comfortable with his calming presence. Kalina and Orca bonded right away, stronger than I had ever seen while fostering. Even through the trauma, Kalina has been the bringer of joy in our home. She got Orca into playing with her and was my inspiration to be thankful when times were hard.

So, here was the real start of our relationship… I’m one of the different-looking people who took her from where she was neglected but more comfortable (wide-open island, no collar, no fences, just chicken scraps, and freedom) to a confined space, and… well, when they say animals don’t notice a missing limb, that’s not completely true. But her one constant comfort was the bond she formed with her new brother.

Our relationship went from her not really wanting me to touch her, to me being able to touch some areas, pet or scratch certain places, and it felt good to connect. But with every healing process, there are often steps forward and backward. We still have the day-to-day issues… she had a lot of changes and challenges on her journey. With her feeling more comfortable with me, it led to the next phase of her integration into her new environment – comfortable enough to be herself.

It is great when our adopted companions shift to feeling more comfortable with us. It comes in varying intensities. Maybe they had been living mostly under a table for a few days, or now they choose to lay closer to the family area and feel peaceful instead of hypervigilant. Kalina started letting me touch her about the same time that the intense nipping started when she was overstimulated. Mornings leaving, when I came home from vet school, and so on were really intense for her. It became very intense for me as she painfully nipped my legs.

It was easy for me to get frustrated and even feel angry occasionally, but I knew yelling or startling her would only keep increasing her intensity over time. You see, she needed to see me as stable. If I yelled at the cat (yes, I also had an adopted island cat, Katniss, who even Orca helped me correct at times because she was good at getting herself into dangerous situations when she was young), Kalina reacted very strongly and aversely. It seemed that any increased sounds put her on edge, and that led to more painful nipping. I’ll be sharing more about how we turned this behavior around in a positive way in the Cooperative Care Support Group soon, so check it out!

I could go on and on about different obstacles we faced together. But one thing that I want to be upfront and honest about is that it wasn’t easy, but it has been worth it in ways that I could have never expected when I added her into our lives. She pushed me to see my needs too and be open to new things that I would have never been able to open my heart and mind to if it wasn’t for desperately looking for ways to improve our connection and life together. That is what I want to share with any pet parent who feels the same about their canine companion.

As Kalina and I are transitioning to a new chapter in both of our lives, we have had new challenges that I wasn’t emotionally ready for, but yet again, I keep growing to be the best parent I can be… like I know you are trying to do too. Watching my bouncy tripod senior slow down and struggle yet again in similar but different ways is beyond hard to describe. Even typing this is hard, as I have to take breaks to remember to breathe through the loving tears. Grief is a hard topic, and I won’t dwell there, but it is important to address that whether it be grief of the loss of a friend or even the loss of opportunities WITH that friend, it is real and valid… and it is okay.

All of that feels really raw and hard for me to share, but here is why I want, no NEED to -> I know the pain, but I also have known the joys that come from working through any obstacle to connect better with our family members with paws.

I want others to know that they aren’t alone, should not feel judged, and that there is hope and support for you. You are the only one who can be the support your dog needs. Yes, professionals are a helpful piece of the puzzle often, but YOU are the curator of your companion’s life. When I was overwhelmed with Kalina’s integration when first adopted, I was blessed to have an unusual network of supportive professionals and pre-professionals who understood my feelings, fears, and failures. I am realizing now how special that island family truly was and necessary for the success we created as a team. But that wasn’t the “real world,” and we are usually surrounded by a wider variety of people… some who just can’t see animals the way we do. Reaching out to others about our canine companion struggles has such negative feelings like nobody will understand or we will just be judged.

That is why I created the Canine Connection Support Group. Whether it is a new foster or adoption situation, a change in the household causing stress, or senior stresses that put a strain on our critical human-animal bond, I made a safe space for pet parents to get support at no financial cost. It will cost, though; it costs time. It costs being a little fearless in opening up to how this lack of connection makes you feel. It costs time that you will start to get to spend more of with your companion as the connection improves. It may even start costing personal space as your companion seeks you out for more quality time… aka love.

Canine Connection Support Group- Lean more about supporting your canine companion through fears & discomforts

I truly appreciate you, yes, you reading this. If you have made it this far, you have seen the raw truth about the struggles of canine companionship through my experience, but I would love to hear your story too! I’d love for you to share your story in the safe space I created in the Canine Connection Support Group. If you would feel more comfortable, though, feel free to reach out to me via and tell me your connection story or struggles.

Join us in the Canine Connection Support Group and let’s build a community where we can share our challenges and successes in building stronger bonds with our beloved furry family members. Together, we can make a world of difference for our canine companions and ourselves. Thank you for being a part of this journey.