Monday, March 29, 2010

Well Done, Thou Good And Faithful Friend

On Thanksgiving morning, 1995, I had to rush my old hiking buddy and beloved dog, Pepper, to the vet's office to be put to sleep. That left me with only Poppy, a tiny little Maltese who had hiked with Pepper and me to the top of scores of high peaks. I began to dream of finding her a small canine friend. So in December of that same year I took a trip to the Animal Shelter. They had no dogs as small as Poppy and I'd decided that's what I wanted. So I was on my way out the door when I saw a medium sized black dog trying to get my attention from a top tier cage. It looked like a friendly dog so I decided I'd open the cage door (rules were less restrictive back in those days) and pet her. But when I did, she crawled into my arms and laid her head on my shoulder. Well, as you can imagine, I fell in love at that moment. I carried her in to the front desk and said I'd like to adopt this dog.

Her name was Casey and she was 5 months old. She'd been surrendered only minutes before I arrived and had not yet had her health exam and shots. So I filled out the paperwork and was told to come back in 2 days.

Casey became a most beloved dog who lived with me for 15 years, dying only this past Saturday evening. So I thought this might be a good time to remember her life. The picture below is Casey and Poppy (also now gone) while hiking in Vermont:

I frequently laughed about my first meeting with Casey because I'd been so taken with her instant love for me. She had, after all, quickly identified me as a fine and generous man. But as the years went by, I learned that she loved almost everybody like that. Here she is just a few years ago with little Winky, who still lives with me:

Casey was gentle, kind and loving with people, but also with other animals of all sorts. She was quite an agile and tireless hiker and delighted in the sunshine:

Casey always had a place on my bed, even when I was partnered, and most often she'd position herself with her head resting on my arm. Here she is in the Adirondacks:

For a while we all lived on a farm in Hoosick Falls, New York. I raised Scottish Highland cattle and Americana laying hens. Casey helped tend the baby chicks, becoming their friend. And later, when the hens were all grown and living in the chicken house, both Casey and Poppy would come with me twice a day to feed the hens and collect the eggs. The hens, of course, knew them both so no panic ensued as we entered. The dogs would line up at the feeder shoulder to shoulder with the hens and snack on chicken feed while I collected the eggs. Yes, they also liked chicken poop. Dogs will be dogs, after all:

This photo was taken just a few years ago on a warm, happy summer day. Left to right are 1.Jed, the first dog I walked on the first day I volunteered at the Shelter and took home with me. 2.Gerry, an ancient Chihuahua mix whose full name was "Geriatrics." He was so special that I didn't trust anyone else to care for him. 3.Poppy, my beloved Maltese who, like Casey, lived and hiked with me for 15 years. 4.Casey:

Out hiking one summer day with 3 smiling dogs: Casey, Poppy and Jed:

Casey mugging for the camera:

And smiling alongside the flower garden:

Two nights before she died, I took a photograph of her snoozing on the carpet. I was by then quite sure that it wouldn't be long before I'd want a recent picture with which to remember her:

And that same evening, 4 of my 6 pooches keeping Casey company. In her later years, she had a very large wart on her face which the other dogs licked and fussed with. I suppose they were only liking the taste, but it was interpreted by Casey (and I agreed with her) as gestures of doggy friendship:

So good bye, old Casey, and thank you for 15 years of love and companionship:

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