Thursday, May 3, 2012

Good, Good Dog

One week ago tomorrow I had to say goodbye to one of my very best friends.

Cassie became my dog in 2003.  My then-fiance (now ex-husband) and I were living in Missouri at the time and took a camping/canoeing trip to Arkansas with another couple.  Upon arriving at the campgrounds where we were staying, I immediately spotted this pretty dog just hanging out.  I suspect she was a St. Bernard/Collie cross, but I don't know this for sure.

She wandered over to our campsite and being the sucker dog person that I am, I started talking to her and petting her.  Well she decided the lot of us were pretty cool and started hanging around with us the whole time we were there.  At night, she slept outside of our tents.  During the day, she followed us everywhere; including the 5 mile hike we took one day.  We talked to the park ranger and he confirmed our suspicions that she had been abandoned out there.  He said he had been bringing her food, but hadn't had time to take her in to the shelter.  By the time we packed up to go home the decision had been made.  I opened the door to the van and asked her if she was coming and she jumped right in.

Cassie was my dog from the beginning.  Why I do not know, but I truly believe dogs choose their favorite humans all on their own.  She was a gentle, loving girl who laid beside you on the bed/couch when you were sick, gave you kisses just when you needed them, and hid her head on your body like an ostrich when she wanted your attention.  When my furry baby gained a human baby brother 2 years later in 2005, I wasn't sure how she would react.  Turns out, I had no reason to worry.

Cass was with me through my wedding, my husband's deployment to Iraq, my pregnancy and new mommy days, my separation and divorce, and my journey into single parenthood.  No matter what life brought me, I knew I could always count on a snuggle or a whine for attention at just the right time.

Somehow 9 years had passed and my Cassie was starting to show her age.  She was at least 10 and possibly older because we don't even know for sure how old she was when we found her.  Her arthritis was worsening and her lethargy was increasing.  A couple of weeks ago, she really started to go downhill.  Vet visits and medications didn't really seem to help much.  By last Friday she could barely walk.  I knew the time had come to let my baby go to the Rainbow Bridge.  I hung out with her all day that day bringing her water and whatever food she wanted.  I laid down next to her on the floor and talked to her and petted her and cried.  A lot.  Letting her go was honestly one of the hardest things I have ever done.  I know she is no longer hurting and that is somewhat comforting, but I still miss my girl.  My son and I have both been pretty sad over the last week.  He has invented this thing where we pound our fists on our chests whenever we feel sad about her being gone.  I'm surprised we don't have bruises there.  She really was a really special dog and I don't know if I will ever not miss her.

Cassie was not the first pet I have lost, nor will she be the last.  W and I are already talking about getting another dog.  We decided that it would be a good idea to take our time, look around, and find just the right fit for our family.  No dog will ever be able to replace Cassie, but there really is nothing like the unconditional love of a pet and I think when we find the right one they will help us heal our currently broken hearts.  Until then, we will be sad.  We will pound our chests.  Farewell, my good, good dog -- until we meet again at the Rainbow Bridge.