Monday, September 7, 2009

Good Dog

When I was growing up, a variety of smallish pets came in and out of our lives with some regularity. We had goldfish, a gerbil, parakeets, and eventually a cat, Emily. My youngest brother Paul always wanted a dog and, swayed heavily by ubiquitous Taco Bell commercials, his obsession was chihuahuas. He really, really wanted one of those small, ratty dogs; I imagine he thought it would speak to him in a Spanish accent.

My mom had always had a dog growing up, something my grandpa made sure of. He is the kind of man who can still rattle off the names of every dog he's ever owned and tell you details about them, who will feed a dog ice cubes directly from his mouth, and who is just generally happier when accompanied by a canine companion (I'm assuming this, because I've never really known my grandpa without a dog. He's been between dogs, but that's not the same thing.)

When I left for college, my family was still dogless, though Paul's campaign continued. It was shortly after I graduated that my parents got Casey. Originally they named her K.C., an abbreviation of my mom's maiden name and our last name. But after my brother hooked a Grateful Dead collar around her neck, it was an easy evolution down the path to Casey Jones. Or Casey Lou, as she was later known. Casey was not a chihuahua. She was nothing close to a chihuahua. At first, she was a very cute ball of reddish brown fur, and she grew to be a lean, athletic medium-sized dog with a ridge. She could run like a greyhound, but she never spoke Spanish.

Casey was a quirky and, it must be said, neurotic dog. She did not like loud noises, and might slam her entire body into doors when she heard thunder. When I came home for holidays, she would be there to greet me, tongue first. I would sit at the kitchen table and she would lick my legs, my hands, my arms, until I complained loudly that someone should remove her tongue, The World According to Garp-style. One morning I woke up in the guest bedroom that had been my sister's. Someone was licking me directly on the mouth. I leaped out of bed, disgusted, but definitely wide awake.

There was also some confusion (Casey's) as to whether she was a dog or a person. The best evidence of this was when we all sat on the couch to watch TV. Casey would insert herself between two people, sitting upright on her butt, watching along with us. When asked to go to her box (the bed on the floor near the TV), she often acted like we must be speaking to someone else. She would stare straight ahead, as if to say, "What? I can't hear you. I'm trying to watch a program here."

Casey was a fierce champion of smaller, younger dogs, which was abundantly clear during our recent trip to Wisconsin when Liz's dog, Rigby, tried to eat my grandparent's dog, Lucy. Rigby was just a tad confused about whose house it was, since she had been the first to arrive. Also Lucy is small and might be delicious. Whenever Rigby advanced on Lucy, Casey was close behind, with distraction tactics or general threats. Still, Casey and Rigby remained friends, and Lucy left the trip in one piece, if just a bit nibbled on. Casey couldn't be everywhere at once, after all. Unless it came to my mom. The two of them seemed to have an unspoken bond and Casey always wanted to be near her.

They were together when Casey passed away on Sept 5, at home. She was nine years old and she died quickly and gracefully. She was buried in the backyard in her bed. I can't believe she's gone. We'll miss her very much, not in spite of her quirks, but because of them.

Here are some photos of Casey and her friends.


Elizabeth said...

Perfectly written Sarah. Our girl really was the best dog ever, due in no small part to her wonderful owners. Mama, I can't wait for you to save another dog and give him/her the best life ever. Casey would want that, of course!

Anne said...

My girls are both lovely and amazing!
Sarah and Liz, you are also most eloquent writers and Casey would probably lick you with her doggy breath if she could read these testimonials. I actually think she COULD read - she was lovely and amazing, too!

Amanda said...

So sorry to hear the very sad news, friends. This is a lovely tribute to Casey and her wonderful antics. A good dog, indeed -- she will be missed.

Dan said...

Such sad news. Can't help but think of one of my favorite quotations: "It's just the most amazing thing to love a dog, isn't it? It makes our relationships with people seem as boring as a bowl of oatmeal."

Mary Ann Smith said...

Casey was like Anne's fifth child and sometimes even i had to give in and realize that this wonderful dog was her BFF. I loved Casey and will very much miss her licks...she was truly a girlfriend....

Anne said...

Just for you, Sarah (and for Paul)

I hope if dogs take over the world, and they choose a king, they don't just go by size, because I bet there are some Chihuahuas with some pretty good ideas.
~Jack Handy