Nearly 12 years ago, shortly after relocating to Ogden, I noticed a small commotion in the parking lot of a local sporting goods store. Upon closer inspection, I found a man and a woman displaying their brood of Brittany Spaniel puppies in the hope of selling them to prospective outdoorsmen. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing eight uber-cute puppies interact with each other with their boundless energy and antics? So I came closer to get a better look.
The woman noticed my attention, and pointed to the puppies’ dame and sire sleepily watching over the puppy circus through the kennel wires in the pickup bed. “Both dogs are Champion AKC Field Trial pedigrees” she quietly offered. “These pups have the very best breeding!”
I acknowledged her with a simple, “That’s nice” reply. Having just moved to a new town, the last thing on my mind was acquiring a new pet. Our family already had a dog – a highly independent-minded Tibetan Terrier named Galileo – aptly named after the wise philosopher/scientist of antiquity. One dog was more than enough, I kept reminding myself. I was just there for the show – and the $450 price tag was way too steep for any serious consideration anyway.
But fate and Providence, as it turned out, had other plans.
As I stepped closer to the puppy enclosure, one of the male pups immediately quit his wrestling and sibling rough-housing and proceeded to look me straight in the eye with a strangely familiar, yet quizzical stare. With his newly bobbed tail pulsing wildly from side-to-side, he raced to the side of the fence where I was standing to get better acquainted. With a welcoming YIP or two, – he stretched his front paws up on his side of the short fence where I was standing as if to say: “What are you waiting for, pick me up!” And so I did. I bent over and picked the little guy up, quickly noticing that two of the liver-colored marks on his forehead came together, forming the perfect image of a heart. Outside of the puppy enclosure, I placed him on the grass where he proceeded to place his head contentedly on my foot. In retrospect, I didn’t choose him – he had chosen me.
All this had been observed by the shrewd woman. “He REALLY likes you,” she said. “You know that, right?”
“Not interested,” I replied. “I already have a dog – and one is en0ugh. But you’re right, he does seem different than the others, somehow.”
With that, I picked him up again, and with a farewell parting pat I placed him back in the enclosure with his siblings. I was quite sure he would resume normal puppy activity – and sure enough – he was all-to-quickly mobbed and body-checked by his brothers and sisters. I stepped over the fence to observe what would happen next – and to my amazement, the earlier scene repeated itself – he looked me in the eye and bolted to my side of the fence once again, frantically yipping and straining for me to pick him up, but with an almost panicked frenzy this time. When I picked him up the second time, the woman, with a knowing smile said: “You know you can’t leave him now!”. Then with a quiet whisper, she said “He NEEDS to go home with you – will you take him if I knock $200 off the price?”
On the way home, my little liver and white, brown-eyed new companion wouldn’t stay put in the passenger seat where I had placed him. He slowly inched his way over and quietly placed his heart-crowned head on my lap where it remained until we reached his new home. Our bonding was complete. Since both his parents were proven AKC champions – what better name than “KC” (Casey) I thought. The biggest worry was my wife, Joan. I knew she wouldn’t be happy about the situation, and I was right – she wasn’t. However, Casey quickly worked his puppy magic on her as well, and he became thoroughly entwined in our lives.
The alfalfa field adjacent to our North Ogden home was a perfect place to “train” Casey. Not only was it loaded with wild urban pheasants (hunting in city limits was illegal), but the stream that bisected it was home to numerous mallards as well. Indeed, his breeding was impeccable. The only “training” he needed from me was to stay close and not run after flushed birds. His innate wit and intelligence in the field was truly amazing. He just seemed to KNOW what to do, and did it amazingly well. Whenever he locked on point on a bird, he stretched into a perfect three-point stance – with the only movement being his bobbed tail which would pulse wildly from side-to-side. When the command was given – the flush would begin only after his tail quit its wild pulsing. We spent many hours in the field hunting wild birds, both ducks and pheasants. His enthusiasm was unwavering and intoxicating and never failed to be infectious.
Casey was also an amazing watchdog. He became a vicious protector of our backyard – keeping it free of any uninvited guests such as skunks, raccoons, and even trespassing humans. I constantly marveled at the transformation he exhibited – morphing from the consummate sweet and harmless family dog to a bristling, growling predator whenever danger presented.
I write this today referring to Casey in the past tense, because yesterday, 6-15-15, Casey and I had to say goodbye. For the past three months, Casey had lost his appetite and had grown increasingly lethargic. A visit to the vet ended in the diagnosis of a rapidly advancing sarcoma. Despite our best efforts, it had become increasingly difficult for him to even breathe, and his body weight had drastically dropped. So the hard decision was made. We could no longer be selfish and prolong his agony. We would take him to the vet for a final visit, and let his spirit run free once again.
The theological definition of Providence is: “t
I have to believe that a loving and caring God gave the Ott Family a special gift of Providence in the form of a loving, big-hearted Brittany Spaniel named Casey. Looking back over the last dozen years, Casey Dog provided companionship and unwavering, unconditional love at a time when our family, (especially our daughter Franci) needed it the most. If that’s not the very definition of Providence, I don’t know what is.
I spent yesterday afternoon alone with Casey. I turned my cell phone off and we walked together for three hours before entering the vet’s office for the final chapter – just him and me. It was surreal. We walked the field where he loved to run as a young puppy and where he flushed those wild urban pheasants so many years ago. Right on cue, a rooster pheasant crowed from the field, and Casey’s ears pricked up. Casey then simply turned and once again looked me in the eye, but this time, his eyes were not filled with boundless enthusiasm – rather, they were tired and sad – even filled with tears. He was telling me clearly that it was time to go. His spirit was asking me to take away his pain. I knelt by his side and told him that I knew, and that it would be over soon. I couldn’t help but sob uncontrollably, and as I held him tight, the tears flowed. Then, it was his turn. He reached up, and through his labored breath, methodically licked away my tears, on both sides of my face!
We then drove to the vet’s office, arriving 20 minutes early. We sat comfortably on the grass together in the shade while waiting for Joan and my daughter Franci to arrive . While I was quietly stroking his fur and reminiscing, a mature, red-breasted robin flew down and landed on the grass just a few feet away. One last time, Casey painfully lunged to his feet and went into a full point. The robin froze as well, and for nearly five minutes, Casey was young again – his bobbed tail vibrating in wild anticipation.
It doesn’t get any better than that, for an inextricable part of a good life well lived, is a good and humane death.
Goodbye, Casey Dog! You will never be forgotten!