After 16 years our dog Cassie finally gave up the ghost. All in all, I can’t complain about her as a dog. Sure, she pooped and peed everywhere, not mention all of the throwing up. Then there was the time on Fathers Day in 2002 when she bit me so hard that I lost my thumbnail. Ah, the memories.
Seriously though, she was a great dog. We rescued Cassie from a family in Reno when she was six. Cassie was born in Las Vegas and her family moved to Reno when she was five or so. They had bought a new house and kept her in the laundry room most of the time for fear that she would mess up the house. This family also had two little girls. The combination of being confined and the kids poking and prodding left Cassie in a grouchy mood most of the time. As a result, she started to bit and growl and such. That is when we got her. She would spend many hours perched on the top of our couch as if she were a cat. She loved to chase tennis balls and had a particular affinity for golf balls. We called them Cassiefiers. She would get one and sit for hours and just hold it in her mouth. If the door rang she would try and bark with the ball in her mouth. Funny stuff.
When it came to other canine interactions, Cassie would cower when faced with Chihuahua but try to attack a much larger dog. One time when we were visiting some friends in Phoenix, she was attacked by a large German Shepard. She had some puncture wounds and bleeding from the ear. This was right after Noelle was born. It was a real wake up call to what could happen if we were not careful.
About a year after we got Cassie, we needed some work done on our apartment. We called the maintenance guy to come over. He arrived just as I was getting home and we walked to the apartment together. Walter, the maintenance guy opened the door and I was in a position where I could see Cassie, but she could not see me. She was crouched in the corner, shaking like a leaf. When she saw me, she leap up and start to bark her head off. Walter commented that every time he was over when we were not there, she would hide from him.
I think that we knew the end was near in May of 2007. My father-in-law was visiting from Venezuela and he brought back a couple of pounds of dark chocolate. Cassie had a long history of getting chocolate out of visitors suitcases. For some reason we forgot to warn Pete about that. We went to dinner and when we got back the wrappers were all through out the house and 1.5 pounds of chocolate was in her stomach. I decided that if this was going to take her off then I was not going to stop it. I was not really prepared for what it was going to do to her. Most of time when she ate chocolate she threw it up a few hours later and all was good. Not this time. I found her a few hours later with a grossly distended belly and she was clearly in shock and suffering. I took her to the vet and go her fixed up. SI he was never quite the same again and I think that was when I started getting myself ready for the end.
We had talk about having her put down, but neither of us could seem to justify it. She as old yes, but she was not suffering and was alert. The closer we came to the end, the more we thought about it. My views on life are somewhat extreme compared to mainstream society and I was clearly projecting the same sentiments to my dog. I knew that she was only a dog and not a little person, but I felt that I would be betraying my own moral code if I put her down just because she was old. I’m not trying to make this into a treatise on social justice, I am just not able to justify that kind of measure without really good reason. During the final hours of her life I spent a lot of time with her and let know that we loved her and that it was okay to die. I wondered how many more times I will need to go through this again, but with something more than a dog.
When we got Cassie, I had it in the back of my mind that one of the reason that we were going to get a dog is so it could die. Death carries with it some very imporant lessons and an animal is sometimes one of the best teachers. We knew that we would have childern and the death of the dog would be a tool that we could use to make a connection to our own mortality. In that sense, Cassie performed her last duty very well. The added aspect is that she taught me as much as she did our kids, if not more.
Several times today I got up to take her out, only to stop myself. I got home this evening and went to check in on her, only to see her spot empty. I feel a momentary shock as a job that I had for ten years is now gone.
We have already decided that there will be no more animals in the house, save a fish or perhaps a hampster. I suppose that a couple of kittens would be nice, but that will have to wait. When Leela is born she will be the first of our children not to know Cassie and that does make me sad. I many ways though, Cassie to so deeply entrenched in our memory that she will know her.
I’ll still miss my dog.
And so it goes.