Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Cassie

I remember the day we got you. A hyperactive joyful bundle of fur, ready and trying to greet everyone you came across. Downy fluff exploding everywhere. At four and a half months you still had the pillowy soft coat of a puppy with no trace of the coarseness that often marks an older specimen of your breed. That coarseness never came. I thought you were the ugliest dog I had ever seen. Massive plodding paws and needles for teeth, a yard long tongue lolling because you were exhausting yourself with your enthusiasm for everything. I was determined not to love you yet within thirty seconds of Dad leading you out of the kennels and letting you into the car I had an arm round you in a cuddle. That was all the permission you needed to lick your kisses right round my face, sticking your tongue in my mouth when I tried to rid myself of the hairs you were being so generous with. That wasn't pleasant but I laughed anyway.

I remember how on the way home you wouldn't lie down. You jumped all over the back seat, all over me. Whining ensued. You took a short break to be sick down my favourite coat. 

I remember how we couldn't think of a name for you but were certain that your first name of Tess wasn't you at all. 

I remember those first few days of you arriving home, when it was just me and you. I remember your excited greeting, tail going wild when I came downstairs in the morning like you had been waiting for me all night. I remember when you drank my milk from the glass I had put on the carpet by my feet. No Cass, I wasn't sharing. 

I remember when you coughed up a worm. Then licked it up and licked your lips. No way were you ever giving me kisses again. 

I remember how I was so scared you'd run off I would put you on the lead to take you out for the toilet. In the back garden. I had to make sure you got back in the house somehow, even if you did bite my feet all the while. That hurt by the way.

I remember how when I tried to teach you things you thought your name was Fetch. You never did obey me. 

I remember how you used to steal our bobbles right out of our hair. So gentle and yet so adament they shouldn't be there. But you should be given a comfy place to sit. On my lap, full on, curled up, even when you grew. It was years before that one wore off.
I remember that first Christmas. One evening of the holidays we went to watch a film with Christopher but also learned our lesson that night. You did not like housesitting. Either that or you do not like trays of two dozen eggs to remain intact on the kitchen side. And your design tastes are questionable, thinking both chairs ought to have holes in and stuffing pulled out.

Life moved on and you settled in. You bloomed into the most gorgeous dog imaginable. Gracious and majestic and ladylike. Not when you ran though. Then it was wild wolf barely tamed to a German Shepherd. You were Dad's cab companion for a while until you caused him to crash his truck. Then promptly saved his life.

The time you got knocked over was sickening. Still just a pup and they wanted to destroy you. A shattered hip and no hope. We disagreed. You were brave and held on through the pain. I'm still smug that you didn't snap at me that day in distress but did at your favourite Dad. Even after the wounds healed you bore a scar under your eye where the fur grew back a different colour. You were still a beauty and loved to hear us say so.

The years turned and we both grew up. I still loved to be with you and we had our own special ways with each other. You'd gently grasp my hand to take me to show me what you wanted. We'd play the feet game, you getting more and more rowdy but we'd continue anyway until you started to cheat. I'd make you shake hands properly, like humans do. And you soon learned that to get your own way all you had to do was present a paw and those eyes.

It was incredible how strong you were under all that beauty. A facade for lean muscles. You could, and did, knock me out of the way with a nudge of your head. Right on that pointy bit at the top of your forehead too just for good measure. It was years before Mum managed to fatten you up but even then the strength remained. You were not to be messed with. A proper Yorkshire girl.

Even though I knew I was never top on your list, I know you missed me when I went to university. At the end of every visit home you'd show your distaste by sulking when I piled my bags up to go back. I know you still loved me though. We had our own bond.

For some reason I would play with you while doing the washing up. You must have liked that because that one stuck and you would bring me your favourite toy of the day each time I had my arms in the soapy water. I couldn't say no.

Supper time was something else you stuck to but that one was Mum's fault not mine. Half on the kitchen floor and half off you would stare at us, head between your paws, until you got something. You would go back for seconds too if one of us got our supper at a different time, hoping that we wouldn't realise you'd already managed to wangle something.

When you started to get ill we took you to the vets and played all sorts of games to get your tablets down you. Each little thing we treated, sometimes with prescribed medication and sometimes with our own ways. You really didn't like the smell of tea tree oil or aloe vera.

Things carried on and we accepted you were getting older. Some days you didn't act your age in the slightest while others you did until you saw a cat or the hosepipe came out. Then you showed you had been fooling us all along. 

This summer was different though. The first time you collapsed we thought it was heatstroke and the vet agreed, even though you had the freedom to choose when to be outside or in the shade. You used that freedom too even if you did ignore all the mid-day sun warnings because you always did like to sunbathe. The second time you collapsed we put it down to heatstroke again and gave you fewer chances to go outside in the warmth. A cool floor, shady rooms and extra bowls of water were the options we gave you. The third time though it wasn't even warm, never mind hot. You didn't show any improvement along your previous timescale, being lethargic and barely moving all weekend. We got you to a different vets to get you seen to quicker and they wanted to do a scan. By that point we knew deep down it wouldn't be long but we didn't realise just how few days we had left with you.

On the Monday you had your scan. An hour appointment turned to less than twenty minutes because at the first image the vet could see such a big growth on your spleen it wasn't worth investigating further. Add to that the obvious kidney failure and severe anaemia from the blood results. I took you out of the vets amazed at the strength I could feel on the end of the lead still but knowing we had to make a decision fast. Wednesday was set as the day. By Tuesday morning we realised we couldn't make you live in so much pain for any longer and we reconciled to do it that night.

We all went with you into that room. It took two lots of sedatives to calm you down because outside of the home you were acting like your normal hyper, I-want-to-love-everbody-and-sniff-every-object self. That was the hardest part, seeing you so full of life and energy but knowing that your quality of life was in fact nil. How could we force you to live any longer when each time the growth bled you were being tortured from the inside? Which would be the time when it bled and didn't stop until it sucked all the life out of you slowly and painfully?

While the sedatives were taking hold we fussed you like our fussing alone could make you healthy again. Hugs and kisses all round, each one of use so covered in fur it looked like we hadn't changed our clothes in days. I convinced myself that you didn't know because I thought it would be easier that way yet it appeared that just before you went semi-unconscious you came to see each of us in turn like a final goodbye while you still could. 

When you slumped we all crouched around you barely giving the vet and the nurse room to do their job. Still we carried on fussing and murmuring how good and beautiful you were. Not one word was a lie.

By this time your blood vessels were so collapsed it took so many attempts to get the catheter in that I lost count. You were stubborn to the last. Despite the distress this was causing the vet and then the nurse when she tried, they both remained calm and gentle, not wanting to cause you any more discomfort. Then the vile yellow fluid went in and you died.

Through the sobs and tears we said our last goodbyes and I felt you grow cold. It was a struggle to leave you laying there when such a short time ago we had led you in still pulling on the lead like you were eager to go on an adventure. We wanted to take care of you, clean you up ourselves and take you home, not leave it to someone else. How could we be sure they would treat you with the respect you deserved, give the care you needed?

Then we waited. We didn't know how long it would take to have you back with us and in the meantime we kept seeing you in the garden and in the hall. We heard your groans and sighs throughout the day. Except we didn't. You were gone.

No longer do we need to put things on the chairs when we go out so you can't climb in them. No longer do we need to trip over toys and remember to refill your water dish. We have nobody to remind us of where the keys are if we don't open the door quick enough in the morning, nor that 4pm has arrived and we haven't yet opened that bag of food. 

No longer do I need to pull off the straggly bits of bacon and let them go cold while we eat our Sunday bacon cobs. No longer do I need to make sure that 23rd November is celebrated with a special treat and a candle. No longer will I have a friend while I shed the chicken carcass of its meat.

We have no reason to squeak the toys in shops now to see which is the toughest and we can go for walks if we wish that don't involve having our arms wrenched from their sockets. We can sit down for a cup of tea without having to jump straight back up to get a treat from the cupboard to avoid a burning glare. 

I have nobody to come for walks down the village with me when I'm at home in the summer and nobody to tell to look after Mum and Dad when I return to university after a visit. I don't need to dog sit any more when Mum and Dad go to Dorset.

Mum will have to do all the digging in the garden herself now and Dad will have to work in the garage on his own.

In time we will no longer need to hoover practically every day though we will be finding random clumps of your fluff for months to come. The French doors can be washed and stay clean for more than thirty seconds and the walls won't have a grimy stripe next to your favourite spots. 

It was right that I was with you in the car when we took you to the vets that one last time just as I was with you when we brought you home. I'll always be thankful that I got to be with you in your final moments.

Now your ashes are back and I can't accept that such a big dog can be reduced to so little. It isn't you in that box. It can't be. You have too much fur and life to fit in anything like it.

It took nearly a week to have you back home with us. Bringing you through the front door again eased the hurt of having to leave you in that room, but only a little. There is still your hole in our lives which can never be filled and have instead got to learn to live with.

Thank you Cassie for loving us unconditionally and looking after us so well. You were so much. Intelligent, faithful, funny, beautiful and so many other things that cannot be said but simply felt. You will always be loved, always be missed but never, ever forgotten. Goodnight Cassie. Go find a big stick. I'll see you on the other side. 

13 comments:

  1. I am so sorry for your loss Laura. I could barely read this through my tears, you were so lucky to have had Cassie and vice versa. Thinking of you and your family x

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    1. Thank you Stuart, it means so much to us all.

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  2. Oh I am so sorry to learn to read this Laura. It hurts, really does. I lost my Moggy (a cat that adopted me and my husband) at Christmas and it totally broke my heart. I only had Moggy for a short time, 6 months and he left a big mark on my life. So I can only imagine all the joy that Cassie gave you and your family over the years. x Blessed are we to have pets that love us and are faithful and loyal, warmest of wishes to you and your family at this sad time x

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    1. Thank you Shaheen. I'm glad you were able to give Moggy a home too and that you and your husband got to love him and be loved. It's amazing what power animals have.

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  3. I'm really sorry to hear about your loss, and understand completely why you've had such a hard time lately. Dogs really are part of the family and it's heartbreaking to lose them.

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  4. I'm so sorry for your loss. It's clear you loved her greatly, and this is such a beautiful tribute. Xx

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  5. Oh Laura......... That is so sad. Cassie was clearly a wonderful, intelligent, faithful character and it sounds as though you shared many many precious moments together and as a family. Your account of her life with you has had me in tears! She was very special and that shows in your beautiful writing. Take time to grieve and look after yourself. In time the pain will feel less, but your memories will carry with you.... Promise!

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    1. Thank you Kate, you've summed Cassie and her time with us up really well.

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