Tag Archive: Loyal Dogs

Goodbye, Casey Dog

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: “the foreseeing care and guidance of God or nature over the creatures of the earth.  God, especially when conceived as omnisciently directing the universe and the affairs of humankind with wise benevolence.”  I love that definition.  Scripture tells us that Adam was given the assignment by the Creator to name the animals.  Is it any coincidence that the word Dog is the mirror image of the word God?   Is it any coincidence that the “promised land”  of Canaan is eerily similar to the word Canine?  

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!







Life Lessons – Marley and Me, (and Mormonism)

Life Lessons – ultimately, it’s all about the heart.

Those who subscribe to this blog who happen to be “animal lovers” may find this a bit hard to believe, but it is true nevertheless.  There are millions of people in our society who never cried even a little when they watched Old Yeller die.  There are people out there who never shed a tear as the amber liquid was slowly pumped into into the veins of author John Grogan’s yellow labrador named Marley and he closed his eyes forever in the arms of his “master”.  It’s tragic, but still true.

I submit there are too many people who look at animals as mere commodities, or even as nuisances, and do so with hearts of pure stone.   More often than not, this is the mindset that permeates the cold corporate board rooms of America these days, and too often permeates the mentality of many in our nation’s ranks of law enforcement as well.  The mantra: show no emotion. Be efficient.  Do your job and do it well.  If you enter private property and encounter a pet such as Grogan’s “Marley” who wishes to protect their master’s home and property a bit aggressively – just pull your gun and take care of the problem.  Do it without emotion, and do it just because YOU CAN.  It seems this tragedy is playing out across America; for roughly every hour and a half some family dog is killed by law enforcement personnel.    See http://www.wnd.com/2014/07/police-take-horrific-action-every-98-minutes/

The Life Lesson is this: such coldness towards animals, especially pets, is a symptom of a much bigger disease plaguing America and the world: Love is Waxing Cold.

I don’t mind telling you my friends – I cried when Old Yeller died.  I shed even more hot tears when Marley said goodbye, because you see, like John Grogan shared so poignantly in his bestselling book and movie – I too have loved and lost some very special, loyal canine companions similar in so many ways to “Marley” over the last three decades.  So have tens of thousands of others.

Enter, the Life Lesson.

Why is it, dear Reader, that the more incorrigible and “bad” the dog is in his behavior, the more lovable he/she eventually becomes to its master?   Old Yeller was highly skilled above all other dogs at sucking eggs and stealing meat from the smokehouse – yet he was loved all the more because of it.  Grogan’s Marley was not only highly skilled at being a “problem” in every imaginable “dog” way – but his habitual behavior was so “bad” he was kicked out of obedience school.  Yet, in spite of this, Marley was loved by his family in a powerful, and rare way.

Here is the reality: Marley was simply being a dog in every possible way – both good as well as bad.  Perhaps a part of it was because he was the runt of the litter, and not deemed as valuable from the outset.  Grogan often called Marley the “World’s Worst Dog”.  Yet, Marley was also in many ways, the very best.  Here’s how Grogan described it: “Dogs are great. Bad dogs, if you can really call them that, are perhaps the greatest of them all.”

I submit it is all a matter of EMOTION.  A “bad” dog often evokes the emotion of heated anger and frustration from their master. However, they are just following their nature and “being a dog”.  Emotion is the key – in actuality, as far as brain wave measurement is concerned, there is very little difference between the emotion of anger and the emotion of tender heartfelt love in the human brain.  The two brainwaves are very closely related as a matter of fact.  The point is, Marley and Old Yeller excelled as dogs go, exactly because they brought their best qualities to the relationship in equal measure with their natural tendencies, i.e. their “problems”.   This endeared them with a unique heart bond with their human partners.  This, then, is the great life lesson – learning about unconditional, pure love.

Grogan wrote these words: “A dog has no use for fancy cars, big homes, or designer clothes. A water logged stick will do just fine. A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart and he’ll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare and pure and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?” 

He also wrote: “Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day. 
It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them. —- owning a dog always ended with this sadness because dogs just don’t live as long as people do.”

The reality is, life on this planet is designed by a loving Creator to be a finite commodity, and it is to be treasured as the ultimate gift.  Death comes to all – but it comes quicker to our pets.  By design, we all have to learn to say goodbye to loved ones, and tears will flow and hearts will grieve.  Yes, saying goodbye to beloved pets is often just as hard as saying goodbye to human friends and loved ones.  The ultimate LIFE LESSON to me is the archetype metaphor I have learned from my dogs over the last thirty or so years.

I have learned that our time on earth is a time prescribed to bind and forge a personal relationship of trust, loyalty and love with our Creator, aka our MASTER, in much the same way in which a wise and understanding dog owner does with a beloved pet.  The Master understands His creation, and our fallen tendencies are to simply be human – and the amazing thing is: He loves us anyway.  The Master will take us exactly as we are with all of our faults and imperfections – even if we are the runt of the litter.  We don’t have to earn His Love and His Grace by “good behavior” for indeed, he is “all in” for us in our behalf – He has bought each of us with the highest possible purchase price.   All we have to do is completely give Him our hearts with absolute trust and loyalty, and He’ll give us His in return.  It’s a simple formula really.  He knows there will be times in our relationship that we will pee on the carpet, defecate on the beach and get a ticket, chew up the furniture, and generally smash things up – for that is our fallen carnal nature.  He loves us anyway, and does so powerfully and unconditionally.  He won’t ever give up on us, and look for a “new home” for us to live in.  The problem is, we are the ones running away from Him. Too often we blind sheep are totally ignorant about our loving and caring Master and His unconditional love for us.

To me, as a Christian, that is the message I have learned from my dogs – a message totally missing in false religions such as Mormonism that my family and I abandoned a dozen years ago.   I have learned that once a real and living relationship is forged with the Master – that all good human qualities are magnified, and we in turn no longer have the innate desire to engage in “problem behavior”. In the process, we glorify Him and we truly become one in heart and mind.

“In a dog’s life, some plaster would fall, some cushions would open, some rugs would shred. Like any relationship, this one had its costs. They were costs we came to accept and balance against the joy and amusement and protection and companionship he gave us.” 

At the end, this is what transpired between Marley and his “master”: “Then I dropped my forehead against his and sat there for a long time, as if I could telegraph a message through our two skulls, from my brain to his. I wanted to make him understand some things.

You know all that stuff we’ve always said about you?” I whispered. “What a total pain you are? Don’t believe it. Don’t believe it for a minute, Marley.” He needed to know that, and something more, too. There was something I had never told him, that no one ever had. I wanted him to hear it before he went.

Marley,” I said. “You are a great dog.” 
― John GroganMarley and Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog