When I met the mother of my children, she introduced me to her dog, Cassidy. I was instantly enthralled and in awe of this pestilential puppy as Rachel dubbed her. I had very little knowledge of dogs and most of the knowledge I had was wrong and because of this Cassidy intimidated me. She was an American Pit Bull mixed with Australian Cattle Dog but her genotype was closer to the Pit Bull then the Cattle Dog while her behavior was a mixture of the two along with her own quirks. In the beginning, I really did not want to like her, because she didn’t act or react like I thought or felt she should. This came from a childhood fear of dogs, of all sizes because most of the dog owners in my life were complete idiots when it came to animal behaviors and the causes. So, I set out to sabotage the relationship, I set out to try and get a negative reaction from Cassidy.
At the time, I had a job where I could take Cassidy to work with me, and I did so for about a month before someone said something. I am absolutely sure it is because her genotype was more typical of a pit bull then a cattle dog or some other small, furry ankle biter breed. But during that month, the adventures we had, because Cassidy was friendly to everyone and every dog. So, I would rough house with her in the hopes that she would bite me too hard and then she finally did and it really and truly hurt. I screamed like a child and Cassidy immediately became submissive, cowering in front of me. Then she immediately began to lick the spot where she bit me and it almost looked like she was pleading with me for mercy. I felt horrible because I knew she did not mean to do it and I potentially had setup the situation because of the roughhousing.
When I came back with my Annie’s Pretzels Footlong Hot Dog for lunch, Cassidy was crying / yodeling which I have only ever heard a cattle dog do previously. So, gave her a piece of the hot dog and she licked my fingers. I sat down next to her and she watched me with rapt fascination and undisguised desire as I ate the remainder of the hot dog. Slowly, I learned that she knew tricks and that I could get her to do them via hand signs and words, especially if I had a treat. Somewhere soon after, we became friends and I could make her do things on command. If I dropped her leash, she stayed right by my side. Every day, we had the same routine. All day together at work and then a couple of hours sitting watching the reflection of the sunset on Oakland underneath of Underwaterworld, now called Aquarium Of the Bay.
I used to tell Cassidy in the beginning that she was fugly and joked that nature had designed her to get kicked in the head by bovine. I also teased her that she wasn’t too bright. In reality, I found her confirmation, her genotype to be truly magnificent. She moved with a grace and poise that left me in awe.. I can sit now and close my eyes and see her running down the beach, moving so fast she is hard to track and stride her rear legs wind up passing her front legs as she springs forward. The best part to throwing a tennis ball on Ocean Beach on foggy, cold, wet days was seeing her run back out of the fog with the tennis ball clutched in her mouth. The expression of sarcastic glee on her face, tongue hanging out to the side, flapping in the wind. And she would be moving, literally hauling ass and as soon as she would see me, her gait would change and she would being to prance and skip. Wagging her tail with such reckless glee that she couldn’t decide if she was wagging her tail or shaking her rear quarters or both. It was hilarious and never failed to leave me smiling.
The best part of taking Cassidy to a dog park when we first became friends is that she had this peculiar aversion to playing with another dogs toys. She just wouldn’t do it, so this really and truly prevented most fights as other, more aggressive dogs realized she was not going after their toy. Taking her to Fort Funston was always fun because invariable, a situation would arise where she would see someone with a chuck-it, well before I did and as soon as they launched the ball, she would take off running. Often times with more then 100 years between us and the person using the chuck-it and she would take off running and often pass the other dog on the way to where the tennis ball landed, often running past the ball so as to allow the other dog to get it. Then whip around and chase the other dog back to its owner and pass it on the way stopping at the owner for affection. This was hilarious to watch and as soon as I called her, she would come over all goofy like and lick any exposed skin.
When Cassidy turned about three, she began to become aggressive with other dogs. We couldn’t understand why she suddenly started to do this, so I contacted a Cattle Dog Owners Group and corresponded with some experts. We took Cassidy out to a farm between Davis and Vacaville. The woman at the farm explained that Cassidy had become an adult and was very dominant. She suggested methods to control the behavior and encourage instant recall on command. In the process we began to shop for another dog, knowing that getting another dog could be risky. When it was all said and done, 12 puppies later, and half a dozen candidates we adopted Jerre. Jerre is a tail challenged backyard bred Australian Cattle Dog sold as a Blue Heeler. Her and Cassidy were best friends and never had a major fight until we added a 3rd dog to the mix. Then again when Haplo locked both of their collars together on the same lead. After the fight, they seemed to be fine all was back to normal.
For the last 13 years she was my best friend, through thick and thin. Good times and bad. Whenever she saw me, she was always happy to see me. Always ready to be goofy and silly. She even ran after tennis balls for me a few weeks ago. But she had gotten old, and it was beginning to show. Her fur was no longer short, thick and slick. It was worn and rough, bristly like a grandparent. She was blissfully deaf and I think beginning to go blind. But I can still feel my fingers stroking the fur on her neck, the way the fur fought to return to the seemingly chaotic pattern that circled to a vortex in the center of her chest. I remember how she looked at me adoration in her eyes. She was an amazing dog and I am glad that the universe and providence blessed me with meeting her. She died sometime after her Thursday evening feeding and Friday morning when she was found. From the obvious signs, it came fast, it was painless and ended rather quickly. But I am sitting here on the verge of tears as I write this. I joking wrote in a reply to a comment on my Facebook status, that it was like a bad Police Song. “There’s a little black spot on the sun today and my life is a 30% less brighter then yesterday.”
The hardest part was going out in to the back yard, even though I knew she was not there. It was more because I knew she was not there and for as long as we had lived in this house, she had been a presence there. When Haplo was born, both Cassidy and Jerre would stop playing and want to go inside if Haplo cried. One time when I was disciplining Kethry as a baby, Cassidy put herself between me and Kethry and growled. It was so hilarious I started laughing, and I think Cassidy actually looked embarrassed about it. She had an odd sense of vanity sometimes that seemed to bely her goofy nature. She also had fandom fears of inanimate objects that would manifest itself in extremely comical ways. Over time we were often able to overcome the fear and she would just do whatever obstacle we put in front of her.
We called Haplo and Kethry in to the yard and when they asked what we wanted, I asked what was missing, who was missing. At first they didn’t realize and then they both said “Cassidy.” The first questions were did she get out and when was she coming back. Was she at the vet? Slowly, we let the realization sink in that she was not coming back. That she was dead and gone forever. Kethry immediately broke down in to tears, she wears her heart on her sleeve. I followed Haplo around and I watched the inner turmoil and the grief on his face. My Anthropology professor has taught me to observe and to see things more clearly. I saw him finally realize whatever internal equalization he needed for closure and he was done with it. He basically tried to make Kethry do the same, and we made him back off.
Good-bye Cassidy, I will carry your memory with me forever. You shaped who I am and I just wish that I would have arrived where I am now a few years sooner so that you could have shared the new me with me. Haplo and Kethry will never forget you because you were part of their lives from the beginning until now. We all loved you and we all already miss you. Even the sulcata tortoise which I am sure you just didn’t know what to make of and I am sure he felt the same way about you. Run free, like someone left the gate open, Cassidy. I will always look for you expectantly whenever I am on the beach, at night, in the dark, in the foggy wet that is Ocean Beach.