By Bill Webb
It was only a few hours ago that our family said our final goodbyes to another family member. She was of the four-legged variety, a 9-year-old Golden Retriever that thought she owned the rest of us. As it turns out, she did. A gift from our younger son, Mark, Casey had captured the hearts of our family from the very beginning.
We could debate whether my wife, Susan, or my son, Justin, was her favorite. Both lavished attention upon her, and she would snuggle up against either of them when she could. At night, she would curl up — more accurately, spread out — next to Susan's side of the bed. Susan knew that Casey had some way of knowing when one of us needed her attention. After Susan's mother passed away unexpectedly in January, Casey became a good counselor. She didn't talk, of course. She simply stayed close.
My wife and son are at home today, experiencing our house as we have not experienced it for more than nine years — without Casey. No doubt, a box or two of tissue is getting a workout. During a very busy day in the office, my mind is thinking about that big mop of golden hair with a noble face and caring eyes. Our remaining pet, a smallish Sheltie named Molly, will greet me at the door this afternoon, but her big companion will be noticeably absent.
Our family has had pets before that seemed smarter than Casey. She never learned to shake hands on command or to roll over like one of her predessors. Mainly a house dog who had access to a fenced yard, Casey would occasionally escape and roam around our little neighborhood. Despite our calls and pleas, she continued on her way of exploring the outside world, returning only when she was ready or when she noticed us dangling a favorite treat.
Without a doubt, she had trained us well. I took her to puppy classes. She apparently passed because it's against the rules to flunk impressionable puppies. She was a class darling.
Casey didn't manage our household, but she always noted when something seemed amiss or someone was away for the night, especially if it was Susan. At night, she would pace around, concerned that Susan was not in her place on the side of the bed above the edge where Casey usually slept. Perhaps we were interrupting her schedule, or perhaps this was her way of showing concern when our family pattern varied occasionally.
Casey was not perfectly bred; she was prone to "hip displacia." As I understand it, that explained why, as she walked, her backside would sort of sway back and forth, out of rhythm with the front end. Had she lived long enough, she might have been a candidate for hip replacement.
But a longer life was not to be. Susan discovered an enlarged lymph node on Casey's neck during some routine hugging. Once removed, it looked suspicious, but a third-party evaluation suggested it apparently was not cancerous. An X-ray was inconclusive. We breathed a sigh of relief. But blood tests continued to indicate something was wrong.
After a round of antibiotics and more tests, our pet began acting even more lethargic. A follow-up visit to our veterinary clinic showed that Casey — normally on the overweight side — had lost 11 pounds within a month. An abdominal X-ray showed cancer that likely had attacked more than a single organ.
One of our dear veterinarians told me that it was obvious to her that Casey was only a shadow of her former self. Another said that while Casey was being observed and awaiting pickup, she was not offering "kisses" to staff as they passed her crate. We agreed our best option was to take her home, make her comfortable and bring her back when deteriorating quality of life suggested her time had come.
That's what we did this morning. And we already miss this family member who did her part to enrich our family's life.