Maria Montgomery and her dog, Cali – named after, of course, UK’s famous coach.
Vaught’s note: As Kentucky gets set for a huge ESPN game with Missouri tonight, enjoy this story from former Miss Kentucky Maria Montgomery about how Kentucky basketball has had a unique impact on her life and family.
By MARIA MONTGOMERY
For those of you who know my family well – you may know that we have a beloved family member who goes by Cali. Cali is a full bred cocker-spaniel who is about 3 1/2 years old now. She is known for her ability to “speak” – as my dad calls it – when you come in the door. When I’ve been out of town modeling for a week, she really goes wild when I enter the house. However, even if someone just makes a trip to the store, she never fails to greet them with excitement. So much so she can’t contain herself – she runs in circles, runs up and down the stairs, grabs a toy or two in her mouth, and yelps out of excitement.
When she was just a puppy, we took her to the Boyle County Puppy Pageant completely just for fun since we had just gott her a couple of weeks prior. To our surprise, Cali was named Boyle County’s Prettiest Puppy! Although entering her was just for our entertainment without any serious intentions, it was funny that I took up pageants after my sister began them when she was a teenager, and now we had passed down the pageant tradition even to our dog. Cali also follows the line of girly-girls in our family. This summer I took her for a walk in the park only to witness her extreme fear of ducks and total lack of interest in running through the water. She wanted nothing to do with them as she pushed her heels into the ground to stop any movement towards them. She is also a bit different in that she has no interest in tennis balls as our previous cocker-spaniels had, but LOVES her squeaky toys so much so that she treats them like her babies (which yes, can be a little odd at times…).
However, the timing of getting Cali wasn’t originally agreed upon by everyone. This was simply because we already had an old Dalmation who was not up to dealing with a new puppy in the house. This Dalmation was bought during my extreme love for the movie 101 Dalmations when I was a little girl. She was also named “Gadgett” after the movie Inspector Gadgett. Although she was a loving dog, she was known to have true Dalmation episodes of tearing up the walls, couches, and etc. It seems to be history that we name our pets after other people, and just the same, the name Cali was not random.
My father rightfully thought we should wait until our 15-year-old Dalmation passed before getting a new pup …. but mom didn’t. Therefore my grandmother jumped in and “bought my mom” this joyful and so needy little puppy from Adair County. My father was unaware that when he came home for work that we would have a new family member, so my mom decided naming our new cocker spaniel Calipari may help win my father over due to my dad’s die-hard UK fan attitude and UK’s new coach.
However, this did not help Cali receive a warm welcome from my father. It wasn’t until Cali chased off our annoying cat (who dad has nick-named “Satan”) that my dad really began to bond with Cali. They are now inseparable. Dad has even been known to say Cali lowers his blood pressure after working a stressful job.
Just as coaches don’t always have it easy, Cali hasn’t had it easy either. When I was modeling in Miami I received a call from mom that an innocent event between Cali and another dog turned bad. Cali had the cornea of her eye ripped. Even after surgery, her impaired eye can be noticed how it is swollen with scar tissue. Beside occasional running into the walls, she has recovered just fine from that event. Also, just a few months ago we were heart broken when we thought Cali only had a few more months to live. She had grown a lump the size of a small baseball on her neck and even through many visits to the vet, nobody could figure out what this growth was. She was vomitting, no longer eating, and obviously didn’t have any energy. Discussion of chemotherapy for lymphoma was brought about, but the cells were said to not be typical of lymphoma cells. Our prayers were answered when a biopsy revealed the lump was not cancerous but was a disorder unknown to the vet. I would type the term but it has about 14 syllables. Nonetheless we witnessed a miracle as Cali seems to be healthier than ever, the lump went away, and we still have her alive and well
Alhough Cali has had less glamorous times in her life, just as UK basketball may be experiencing at the moment, the real truth is that she is a wonderful aspect of our lives. I still remember being bummed about being so close to gaining the Miss USA crown in Spring 2009. I was a little down for about a week or so after returning home to Kentucky since I wasn’t in the Miss USA NYC apartment with the year ahead of me of Miss USA responsibilities. It was life changing because this dream I had chased for years to be Miss USA was gone in an instant. I suddenly faced “what now” thoughts and questions as I finished college and began to be more involved around Kentucky as Miss Kentucky USA 2009.
However, Mom brightened things up with this perfect timing of getting Cali that summer. I still remember her saying “just think, if you won you wouldn’t get to have this new puppy!” And that was true, we may not have even ever got her! Just the same, it’s important to remember that even if UK has bad games, even years, in basketball, the legendary and prestigious University of Kentucky basketball tradition has not gone anywhere. The low moments help up realize how good the high moments are. Just as I no longer take this golden, fuzzy little pet for granted since the vet began putting time frames on her life expectancy, I no longer take those banners hanging in Rupp Arena for granted either.
Let’s try to remember that it was just last year that UK was named National Champions and that these boys are just young college students!!! Let’s not lose our famous “UK Fan” personas that are known nation wide. Let’s get out there, fill up the stands, bleed blue, and GO CATS!!!!