Friday, October 30, 2015

Day 8: Grieving for My Soulmate with Paws

By Cal Orey
Day eight. Today marks one week since my canine soulmate has been gone--to the other side.  I have been here, done the grieving game with many dogs and cats but it never gets easier. Here's how my hellish week went. Thinking of the heartbreaking film Still Alice but in dog...

Happy, healthy, balanced with two dogs

Day 1: No eating. No bathing. Crying, crying, crying. On Saturday the day after the event, I got out of bed, walked like a zombie to the dining room drawer; grabbed dozens of pictures from more than a decade...

Photos of me and my dog named Simon. I should scan all the images but my energy level is low but up and down on the grieving scale. One call to the Crisis Center surprised me. The counselor said I was no longer an 8--"in shock" but slid down the slippery slope to a 5 on a 1-10 scale of doing superb while dealing with loss. I am still dog is not.
The first night in bed I tossed and turned. I couldn't sleep. I called my understanding ex love of my life (who knows the real me and my real love for dogs and cats) and we talked and talked as he promised me I'd get through this challenge like the others. But then, the intense headaches like I got before the Loma Prieta earthquake and vivid nightmares followed. A telephone man/part-time cop who fixed my phone said I was suffering from PTSD as if I didn't know it while holding an icepack on my forehead when I answered the door to let him fix the phone filled with static (somewhat like putting the pieces together of diagnosing my dog's demise).

Day 2: Forced myself to eat a veggie sandwich. Drink water. Savor tea. More tears in the kitchen, dining room, living room, bedroom, and bathroom--everywhere my dog had been for 12 years...and now nowhere.  Gone. Another ring to the Center with people who have become my lifeline. Some listen. Some dish advice, others not so much.  
I work the psychic networks and read people. I get it. Strangers with woes can be angry, sad, rant and rave or even hang up on you. I now had become a caller with loss--unrequited love because my dog can no longer love me back.  Still in shock. Dementia? My brilliant Brittany's brain was fried.  Images of the mean-spirited infected dogs in I Am Legend come to mind. I am now the man played by actor Will Smith in the film who had to let his best friend go because his canine was attacked and morphed into an evil monster.
Oddly, my body felt like someone bandaged it from head to toe like a mummy. I felt so tight. Aches and pains paid me a visit. Stress, I wondered? I took my blood pressure (usually 117/72/58)--now 158/90. Fight or flight response also came to me as well as isolation. I didn't want to be around anyone with two legs. 
My sleep mate for more than a decade

Day 3: I go through the hours day and night that feel like eternity. Motions of feeding my cat Zen and dog Skye...Both sense change in the household. Minus one dog and being calm for one unbalanced alpha leader--me. Our home has been hit by an earthquake of sorts: The diagnosis of canine cognitive disorder is one shaker to process, not to ignore the death of my canine with mush for his brain. He did not know who we were. My once strong canine has been sliding back to puppyhood, bit by bit, like the big fish devoured in Hemingway's tale.  
Our bond is unbroken 

My healthy, strong boy
Hellish Days:  I see me running away or to hike somewhere, anywhere but here, like angry Cheryl, the character in the film Wild. I watch the movie (each night) and flip through the pages of my graduate school thesis novella "Blood Tie"...
Ironically, it's the same story. My mother died. I took her small brown wrapped box of cremated bones and hitched and hiked with my dog. We traveled from Northern California through the Mojave Desert. Mission: To deliver daughter to mother--my grandma. It is a story of loss and trying to find inner peace while I stumble through the stages of grief and acceptance.

Bliss to Purgatory: Images of the past days before I left to Canada in early October and after I returned haunted me. My cat Zen sensed Simon was no longer Simon. My once centered canine was hyper aggressive with food and my zen-like cat. He was staring at walls, getting stuck behind furniture, and ran 10 circles like a show dog in a ring when he had to do his business (but usually it was on my rugs), sleep cycle off for months--but we all thought it was just aging as I was awakened at 5 AM every day to let him outdoors. My dog had lost memory of day and night, most commands. He did not recognize my sibling at the vet who announced to me: "Canine Cognitive Disorder" as I looked at my paper with the words scribbled "Dementia?" and "Is Simon okay?" We were on the same page. The diagnosis was bad; prognosis worse.  The end was near.
No longer in denial. As a caring soulmate I got it. His body was atrophying, he had a difficult time climbing onto the bed (the stool I got did not help). The bones in his face protruded. My dog, my best friend was an aging 12 1/2-year-old canine who was tired. He was telling us telepathically the confusion and anxiety he felt was too much, too much to endure, hour after after. He was done. 

There was a better place. I knew this earlier in the day when he laid next to me. I knew because of our bond and communication without words. The truth was an epiphany that hit like a sharp jolt, an earthquake. Light shed on the reality now that the pieces of the puzzle completed the picture. My soulmate with paws' spirit was absent. A limp, lifeless body was all that was left for me to hold. We made the decision. It was time. It was time to let go. It was the humane and selfless thing to do. No indecision--it was the right to decision to say goodbye to my canine soulmate. And the painful departure followed as I knew it would one day but tried to tune out reality: dogs are not immortal.

One Week Later:  Eight days. I'm still alive. Simon's death did not kill me. I survived the crisis.  Yesterday I forced myself to swim in the morning. But at 4:00 PM it hit me. I forgot to bathe and brush my teeth. I go through the stuff we do in daily life but my heart and soul are in another place. I'm here physically but spiritually I feel an enormous hole. How I yearn for my soulmate with paws to touch me.  I gave my heart to a dog and despite the extreme pain of loss I have no regrets. 
During a photo shoot for Complete Woman 

Today, the last day of October it hits me. I lost my other Brittany, at six, two-and-a-half years ago to a neurological disorder--it was fall, once my favorite season. Here I sit and images of my dog Simon visit me like waves in a tsunami. As a puppy at eight weeks he was a joy to love. At six months my brother took him for walks in the snow. At two I walked with my boy in the autumn, off season at Tahoe. He'd leap over logs at a campground (no tourists, ours). At three he met his best friend forever--a Rat Terrier--they'd play in the snow and house of my neighbor. Hours and hours. His energy was boundless. 

Memories of a Canine Companion: Of course, there were the book signings he'd accompany me at, from Borders to Barnes and Noble as well as hotels. As a pup and adult--he was a gentleman. Simon was seismically sensitive and helped me sense oncoming earthquakes. So, I am a News Segment Guest on Coast to Coast AM and tagged an "intuitive"; plus this four-legger evacuated with me during the Angora Fire and other challenges in life. He was my constant. Not to forget he raised my Brittany Seth (whom thought he was a God)--and helped me grieve when we lost him; and did a repeat of surrogate alpha trainer with my "healing" Australian Shepherd pup. Enough of good and bad memories, my heart is heavy. Our bond is unbroken.
 A pup to love, a dog to cherish for 12 1/2 years

Zen is no longer hissing, walking on counter tops and hiding high up on the furniture. And the Aussie has adapted to the fact that his alpha leader (he allowed him to keep the position to the end) gets it. Simon is not coming back; his fur friend is gone. We are now moving forward to the next chapter. 

But I sense my feline, young pooch, sibling--all of us--will never forget the Brittany that was loving, intelligent, alert, balanced, good-natured for 12 years, and a strong force in the family.  A wooden plaque "A house is not a home without a Brittany" stays on the wall. Simon's spirit is still present. Our bond is eternal. We will remember Simon, my rock--my soulmate with paws.

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Tribute to My Dog in the Hereafter

By Cal Orey

“The universe, I'd learned, was never, ever kidding. It would take whatever it wanted and it would never give it back.” 
― Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Simon, a dear canine companion
A true gentleman, my muse
my best friend, my rock
May 28, 2003- October 23, 2015


Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die...

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Cal's Earthquake Cake: SoCal Shaker Coming? Blame it on El Nino

By Cal Orey
Update: New NASA study: Earthquake likely due to rubber band theory...comparing rubber band to earth's crust and quakes are breaking rubber band. Also, La Habra March 28, 2014 5.1 earthquake at 9 PM may be primed for a repeat. Think: Chocolate Lava Cake after rain, mudslides upcoming 2015/2016.

SoCal + El Nino Rainfull + Rain-induced
erosion loosens faults
No shaking in October at Cascadia Subduction Zone
when I was there on the 29th hotel floor room
When I was in British Columbia early this month, I saw the film San Andreas while in my room on the 29th floor overlooking the water, part of the Cascadian Subduction Zone. As a native Californian from the SF Bay Area it would be a mortal sin if I didn't watch it. Yes, I did have chocolate. Worse, at home I viewed the quake movie two more times (three times less the price). 
Currently, we're having an earthquake swarm in the East Bay, San Ramon to be exact and on the Calaveras Fault near the deadly Hayward and San Andreas Faults. Think snakes. While it could fizzle, as swarms often do, it could shake more. After all, yesterday was October 17, the day the Earth rocked back in 1989 (predicted by geologist Jim Berkland and noted in my book The Man Who Predicts Earthquakes); and on October 30, 2007 I, the intuitive, did forecast the 5.6 that hit in Alum Rock and was reported felt throughout NorCal.
200+ earthquake swarm in SF East Bay
 Calaveras Fault

As one who survived the Loma Prieta shaker, a strong foreshock two months prior, two rolling Livermore quakes in a week, and a 6.2 in Morgan Hill, as well as predict a 4.8 shallow but very strong Reno-Tahoe quake in 2008, earthquakes are nothing new to me. And back in April before it hit, Gemma Sciabica, olive oil guru and cookbook author, whipped up an Earthquake Cake for me (and she sent me chocolate biscotti) so I could deal with our hundreds of quakes here in the Reno-Tahoe region. Caveat: Dark chocolate can help soothe rattled nerves and high anxiety when Mother Nature makes moves. Chocolate (in many forms) is the 21st century nature's finest remedy for coping with earthquakes. (It used to be popcorn.)
So, I'd like to share Gemma's recipe--straight from my timeless book The Healing Powers of Chocolate (Kensington, 2010)--formerly purchased by the Good Cook Book Club, One Spirit Book Club, Crafters, Mystery Guild, featured by Newsmax, and translated in three languages. 
* * *
Cal's Earthquake Cake
2 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cup dark cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup Sciabica's or Marsala Olive Oil
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon Danish pastry extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup raspberry-cream filled chocolate squares (chop)
1 large banana, mashed

Cheese Filling

1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg and 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease well or use cooking spray in a 10-inch bundt tube pan. In mixing bowl, sift dry ingredients together, make well in center. Pour in buttermilk, olive oil, eggs, and flavorings. Stir until smooth. Add chocolate pieces. Pour half the cake batter into prepared pan. Spoon the filling mixture evenly over the layer of batter. Carefully pour second half of batter over the filling. Bake 55 or 60 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched in center. Cool cake on a wire rack for about 20 minutes before removing from pan. Cool completely before glazing. Glaze as desired, or, may be sprinkled with confectioners' sugar. Serves 12.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Coffee Bliss in Pacific Northwest

By Cal Orey

The Canadian Coffee and Tea Show on the waterside
Last week I was planning and preparing for the Canadian Coffee and Tea Show. The day of departure, as usual, I woke up to a fresh 12-ounce cup of flavored mocha premium coffee made in my trusty Mr. Coffee maker. A large splash of organic 2 percent low-fat milk is par for the course and back to the cozy and warm waterbed with a hot cup of joe is a ritual that I love.  And it ended Friday October 2...

Different than nestled amid pine trees
Timeless book on perks of coffee
On Saturday morning, I awoke at 7 AM in Seattle and at a hotel I love because I know what I'm getting--usually. I ordered a carafe of coffee (3 8 ounce cups, sort of), fresh squeezed orange juice, and a toasted bagel with honey. Total: $24. And I cannot forget despite the tab included a tip, the gentleman who brought me my "continental" breakfast said he could use more money. Couldn't we all. I needed coffee and my solitude as I handed him bills and away he went down the elevator. The java was doable (yeah, I'm a coffee snob after writing the book on its powers) but nothing to write home about yet no caffeine withdrawal so it worked.

Instead of the train, this time around I took the glorified bus (found at Amtrak) to Vancouver since this way it gave me more than less hours of sleep.  By the time we were close to the Canadian border I was thrilled the driver stopped at the "duty free" shop.  I went inside looking for crackers or bread to settle my stomach from unexpected motion sickness. Ironically, me, the author of The Healing Powers of Chocolate was welcomed by chocolate, chocolate, chocolate... Nothing else. It was surreal.  And it wasn't even the quality kinds.

Worse, still confused by the currency exchange, I spent more than less when I purchased 8 dollars worth of the sweet stuff. I gave the cashier a 50 dollar Canadian bill. Mistake. Should have used U.S. money. I ended up spending more than 20-something on the low grade items. I gifted it to the kid behind me who was also paying it forward and giving it to his girlfriend. Also, a follow-up conversation with the aloof woman behind the store counter didn't help. At all.  The bottom line: I lost (like so many others crossing the border), she won. Evidently, the owner of the shop is AWOL forever.

Hello Vancouver
Wanted rain, settled for awesome city/water
Once in a new and different hotel on a very high floor I was pleasantly surprised by the view scene via two windows. I was seeking gloomy, rainy skies but the sun was big and bright and temps in the high 70s. I left to get coffee. Downstairs I ordered a vanilla latte and it kicked in a bit despite I was still trying to get my balance from cabs, the shuttle bus, two planes, bus, and a cab I had to fight for and finally was rescued by a driver. After the coffee did its job and picked up my mood, I realized the only thing I ate was the 24 dollar bagel; so at the downstairs bistro I ordered a comforting grilled cheese with tomatoes on whole grain bread and fries (there are no baked potatoes in B.C. or so it seems). 
When my meal was served and I took the first bite I was rudely awakened by the flavor of smoked cheese. Not my fantasy. I settled for the fries sprinkled with herbs and a baguette (I loved it.) After my "dinner" I walked and walked (they do this in Vancouver for the health of it, they say). Ended up in my room with a "million dollar view" and purchased the San Andreas film for 20 bucks. I was homesick. (No quake yet at the Cascadia Subduction Zone.)

Good Morning

While the view was breathtaking and took my breath away; I forgot to mention if I hadn't opened the brown curtain, the night before, I would have never noticed there was a third window boasting a huge panoramic view. It was a pre-birthday present for me two days before the big event when I grow older like my senior pooch back at home.
Skies with coffee are unforgettable

For some reason, I was hoping the Earth would move or a wave would hit like in the earthquake movie. But adventure was lacking--even with a different environment in a different country. So I settled for going downstairs (29 floors) and ordering two (not one) mocha lattes. And back up to the room I went to prepare for the Canadian Show. After all, I was on a mission to learn about the tea industry.

Yep, the coffee did its work and I consumed info on why tea is hot around the world and how to make it even hotter, from type to presentation, season and more. Yes, I did get it and put it to work later on the trip. 

Tea tales will be shared in tea book
The next day for my coffee consumption, it was a Groundhog Day movie repeat but I asked for extra oomph. The bistro barista added something (I forget--did she say espresso?--because I was still half asleep) but it did seem to add a kick. Back to the Coffee and Tea Show for tea tasting tidbits. This session was enlightening and I certainly can use the "notes" in my forthcoming book on tea.  Note to self: I should have ordered the white tea. But I have a lot in my pantry to savor.

Tuning into the entertaining and tea-savvy speakers, I found myself envious of their travels and it made me ponder: "I should have gone farther; I've been to Canada." After networking with some folks at their exhibits, I needed an exotic atmosphere. (I missed my two dogs, one cat, and fish.)  Took a detour to the Vancouver Aquarium and visited the birds, snakes, monkeys, otters, and fish. It made me want to go to Brazil, Mexico, or back to Hawaii. But I was in Canada.  And I continued on with my tea journey in Vancouver. (That's another story and a happy one.)
Bluebirds are symbolic for happiness

Back to the USA:  Awake in Seattle
On Tuesday it was up at 4:30 AM to catch the early train back to Seattle. Now, I could have used the hotel room coffee machine but there wasn't any cold fresh milk in my room (oops, I forgot); and the coffee containers (I tried tasting the drink the night before) weren't my cup of coffee. 
  • Keurig single cup coffee maker with complimentary coffee
  • Stainless steel kettle with complimentary tea (I did adore this baby.)
So I waited until I boarded the train. 
The nice guy behind the food counter promised me my cuppa joe (more trustworthy than the past men in my love life) was Seattle's best coffee and he did use real milk from a carton. By the time I finished half of the beverage my heart was racing. He was right about the caffeine but I craved my joe back at home in the land of bears and coyotes--Lake Tahoe.

My bedroom with a view
Once in the city, I was back at the hotel I love. In fact, for my birthday I was comped my favorite room to rave about and once there it's difficult to get out and about.  It feels like home but more elegant, less earthy.  I walked to Pike's Place and ended up at Starbucks on Pine Street. I ordered a salty caramel coffee concoction with mocha sauce, coffee, milk, whipped cream, caramel drizzle, and sea salt. (A special fall treat but the sugar and calories are off the charts.) It was oh so sweet and made me feel energized and on even keel. 
Finally, the weather was grey and cool--the way I like it. After tripping around up and down the streets (like San Francisco, sort of), a few locals talked to me and I felt a sense of belonging. "If I was staying where you are," one woman said, "I'd go back and chill rather than to the Space Needle for dinner."  
Back in my room, a card next to chocolate was on the desk below in my "study"... Not to forget the amazing tea setup. (Another story to share.) I plopped on the bed and ordered the film Jurassic World and watched it on the flat screen TV. The mean-spirited dinosaurs entertained me; as did the doorbell when I was served real grilled cheese and fries. No baked potatoes. Maybe there is a shortage of potatoes in the Pacific Northwest. But sitting on the top floor room with more than 800 square feet overlooking downtown Seattle, Puget Sound, and the Cascades--potatoes weren't on my mind anymore. I was in heaven. 

Later, in the deep soaking tub I soaked and the thought hit me: "I want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail like the Cheryl in Wild or perhaps go to Alaska." But then I mulled: "Maybe taking a small plane in the wintertime to Victoria--back to Canada--for tea will suffice." Meanwhile, enjoying the suite with amazing views of the city and bay, I looked forward to a large latte and cranberry lemon scone at SeaTac at 5:00 A.M. And I fell asleep.