Cassie the Peekapoo
(March 24, 1999 – January 31, 2012)
I’ve spent the past few minutes updating my online biographies—changing them to reflect that I no longer have two dogs, just one. I don’t know why this seems so necessary, why I had to move her bed out of my room, asked BFF Sarah to change our four dog bowls to two, or why her favorite toy, Stinky Dog, has been carefully tucked away. The memory of my beloved dog, Cassie, hangs over my apartment like a thick fog enveloping us all, but me most of all.
It’s been less than 24 hours…and I feel like I’m going through all the stages of grief simultaneously. Fear, anger, denial, bargaining, and acceptance over and over and over again. When I woke up yesterday morning, I didn’t think that Tuesday, January 31, 2012 would be the day my dog died. She was coughing and hacking like she usually does, but it was worse, much more guttural. As I tried to focus on my daily devotions, I could hear her gasping for breath. I started crying because I could hear her distress, so I called the vet to make an appointment. Then I called my mom and asked her to accompany me; I knew it wasn’t going to be good.
Cassie’s horrible coughing echoed through the waiting room. Apparently, she could be heard all over the clinic. An examination, x-rays, and a decision—what did I want to do? The vet gave me some steroids that could help her breath more easily, but they wouldn’t make the large mass in her abdomen/stomach area go away. When we got back home, I took her on a walk. Her tail was between her legs, she looked at me for help, for relief, and I knew this was to be our last walk together on a strangely warm, pleasantly golden winter afternoon.
I called the vet and said I didn’t want to make her wait, didn’t want her to suffer anymore. I wanted to do it tonight, after BFF Sarah came home from work and said goodbye to Cassie. After BFF Sarah got home, we all sat on the couch—my mom, BFF Sarah, and I—listening to her labored breathing in the silence. It was deafening. I called the vet’s office again to see if we could move it up.
I carried my precious dog to my mom’s car, telling her that I loved her all the way to the office. When we arrived, I held her close and kissed her head letting her know that she was the best dog in the world. I told her not to be scared, that I would be OK, and that she would soon be out of pain. The vet came in and I handed Cassie to my mom. I pulled my sweater hood over my hand and put my fingers in my ears. I didn’t want to know any of it, see any of it, remember any of it. I just wanted her to feel my presence in the room.
Then she was gone.
I sat in the “doggie death” room staring helplessly at all the books with titles like “Pawprints in Heaven” and wondered if Cassie was running towards my grandparents, if my Poppy would throw Stinky Dog for her like he used to, if my Grammy would feed her from the table when she thought no one was looking. I wasn’t sure about the theological correctness of it all. Yet I beleive she is running and jumping and playing and begging for food like she was meant to, not like how she lived on this fallen planet. As Randy Alcorn says in his book, Heaven, why would God withhold our dearly loved pets from us for all eternity? When everything sad comes untrue, everything sad, I want to be reunited with my pedigree mutt.
Before I left the “doggie death” room I uttered a prayer. I thanked God for entrusting Cassie to me for almost 13 years. I praised Him for my dearly loved companion, that she lived and died well. I told Him that I was grateful that death will not always have this sting, that our broken world will be redeemed. I asked God to hold my heart, as I could feel it falling to pieces from the big hole her absence has left.
Then I went home and cried. Now I go through cycles of overwhelming emotion. I calm down and then cry, sob, bawl, wail, scream, wretch, and write. Or hold a very confused Maddy the Shih Tzu with trembling arms. After that, I lose it. Distract myself, then cry. I imagine the next few days will be the same. Distract, cry, distract, cry. I know God is with me and that Cassie is with Him. This wound will heal, and maybe my one dog family will become a two dog family again.
But not today.
Today I miss everything about her—the way she barked at nothing, how she demanded to have her food dish refilled, the way her and Maddy playfully zipped around the apartment chasing one another, and the empty little spot by my door where Cassie would lie while I typed. Perhaps this is where I feel her loss most deeply, our special alone time when I would write and she would watch over me, in between her naps. During these times, Maddy the Shih Tzu patrols the living room, so it was just Cassie and me, canine and mistress, just as in the days before Maddy came to live with us. And though Maddy is here and BFF Sarah is home today and I hear Kylie the Cockatiel chirping, I feel alone without my writing buddy.
I miss her so much, loved her so much, cherished my beautiful little dog. Distract, then cry. Excuse me while I grab the tissues. It’s crying time again.