March 6, 2014 - She Was A Good Girl

Today our family lost a friend.   Let me tell you about our friend.  We fell in love with her before we ever met her.  Mostly because of her brother, Kai.  What a sweet natured boy.  But it wasn't the love that first drew me to her but the fact that she needed someone to rescue her and show her the love of family.

Cassie was born to two champion chocolate labradors in 2002.  She was a Christmas gift to the breeder's daughter.  When a patient and good friend told me she was trying to find a home for this unnamed 9 month old lab, I immediately responded that we would take her.  In her short nine months she was crated and rarely, if ever, let out of her crate.  She was covered in feces and urine all the time.  She weighed 35 pounds and her ribs were showing.  Our friend, Heather, made a plan to rescue our girl.  It was on a Sunday morning and she was due any day with her first baby.  She knocked on the owners door and there was no answer.  She walked in and woke her up, told her she was taking the dog.  Heather had to drag the crate through the house , feces and urine with it.  The woman came out and defended herself saying she had just bathed the dog the day before.  Doubtful.  Heather brought her to her home and gave her two baths.  Cassie and Kai ran around the yard, jumping in the swimming pool.  

I remember the day we picked her up from Heather's house.  Our son Jeff came with me.  He was almost 10 years old and it was a perfect time for him to have his own dog.  Over the years she became affectionately known as Jeff's girl.  We took her to PetSmart to buy her a collar and tag.  I was embarrassed to bring her in, as she was so emaciated.  I vowed to fatten her up and bring her back.

It took her less than a week to house train her.  After just a few lessons, she was doing simple commands like sit and down.  After a while she would "speak", play fetch and like any good lab, retrieve just about anything.   She loved swimming in the lake behind the house.  I cannot count the times she would swim out of the yard and wander through the neighborhood.  

Perhaps her greatest love was lizards.  She had her eye on chasing lizards and it was the first thing she did when she was let out of the house.  In fact, one night several years ago, she ran into a pile of wood to get a lizard and knocked two of her bottom teeth out.  Ah, the sacrifices she made to capture a lizard!

In the last year, she started losing weight.   Never a large lab, she weighed 55 pounds in her prime.  Last April she weighed 51 pounds.  It was my first clue that Jeff's girl was getting old.  In January, I noticed a mass on her abdomen.  I took her to our amazing vet, Dr. Galipalli.  Her weight had dropped to 44 pounds.  He did a needle biopsy and started her on antibiotics.  The mass looked like mastitis.  The biopsy results came back negative for cancer but included a note of caution that cancer couldn't be ruled out in an intact female.  I was hopeful.

In mid February, Cassie suddenly developed vestibular disease.  She couldn't walk.  I took her back to Dr. G and he prescribed some medication.  By the next day, the girl was walking but still seemed "off".  We were optimistic, I knew we had some quality time left with her.  I took her back to Dr. G a week later as that mass had more than tripled.  We both decided more out of curiosity than anything to do a tissue biopsy.  The next day, Cassie slowly started to fade.  

A couple of years ago we lost our 16 year old family dog to cancer.  A good friend and vet told me I would know when it was "time".  Until that "time" came I kept asking myself "is this it?".  It's a fine line between selfish love and letting go.   My friend was correct.  When Ursa's time came I knew it.  No question about it.  We were able to let her go peacefully.

Since Monday of this week, every hour of every day, I wondered if it was time to take her in.  Each time I had that thought, Cassie would look at me, perk up her ears and wag her tail.  I took that as a sign that she wasn't ready yet.

Thursday morning at 4:30, Cassie woke me up.  She managed to get to my side of the bed and I heard her.  Her breathing had become more labored.  I stayed up with her.  Offering her water.  She wouldn't drink.  It was time.  I asked her to wait until 7:00 when Dr. G's office opened and I would take her in.  I would let her go.  

At 7:10 Ray, Jeff and I arrived at Dr. G's office with Cassie.  He wasn't in the office that day but when his tech called him to tell him there was an emergency, he told her he would be right in.  Ray carried her in.  I wanted to get her weight one more time.   Then Ray picked her up from the scale and placed her on the blanket on the floor in the exam room.  Immediately I knew she was fading FAST.  I laid on the floor with her, stroking her head and telling her it was okay to go.  Within two minutes she was gone.  She waited until 7:20.  Dr. G walked in 2 minutes later and confirmed she was gone.

Twenty four hours later, I'm still listening for her nails to click on the wooden floors as she walks through the house.  I'm sad but more than that I'm thankful.  Thankful to Heather for rescuing our girl.    Thankful for Dr. G and his staff for caring.  Thankful for the years we had with Cassie.  

She was a good girl.
Chasing heavenly lizards


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