(*It’s been a while since I participated in Memoir Monday. But today I felt the urge to contribute. This is a rough draft, very rough, because I know I can not reread it without losing my cool).
I remember sitting on the floor in my family room watching TV a few days before Christmas. I was in high school and my parents had gone out, leaving me in charge of my 5 younger siblings that night. As we were flipping through the channels, we heard my Dad’s car pull up. In typical fashion, we ignored my parents walking up that porch steps, other than a few of my siblings rushing to hide the evidence of forbidden snacks in the living room, messes from sibling arguments, and various other sundries.
As my mother opened the side door, I glanced over and greeted her. It was then that I noticed the squirming bundle of fur in her arms. Suddenly, I was looking at the cutest puppy-dog-face I had ever seen! It turned out my parents had not been out to dinner. Instead, they had been picking up an early Christmas gift for us- the puppy we had always wanted.
As my mom let the chubby golden retriever run around the family room, my brothers and sisters and I were flipping out. We had never expected to get a puppy! For hours we played with her, chasing her around the house, laughing as her unwieldy puppy paws slid on the pergo hallway. We shouted out ideas for names, with vetoes being shouted back just as quickly. Eventually we settled on the perfect name. A name that had Irish roots, was relevant to our lives, and was just plain cute. That night, Casey became a part of our family.
For the next seven years, close to eight, Casey was constantly by our sides. We walked her, played with her, taught her how to jump on the trampoline. We snuck her special treats like the bologna she loved so much, bought her squeaky toys, and played fetch in the backyard. She acted as a pillow, as a blanket, and as a best friend. Weighing close to 80 pounds full-grown, she never outgrew being a lap dog. If you sat on the floor she would race over and throw herself across your legs, tongue hanging out of that golden retriever smile. She would lick our faces, steal food off the counter, and offer a hug and a paw any time you needed it.
When I went to college, a picture of Casey and my baby sister cuddled together was the centerpiece of my desk. She never failed to race to the door and greet me (by almost knocking me over!) whenever I came home. She followed us all around the house and wanted nothing more than to lay next to us, even if it meant jumping on furniture that she was supposed to stay away from!
In August 2007, we gained another golden retriever- Lucy. Poor Casey was pretty mad at us when we had the nerve to bring home this rambunctious puppy who had the nerve to bother her all day long. All she wanted to do was sleep when Lucy wanted to wrestle and run and play. But they slowly grew to be as close as brother and sister, sharing a bed and arguing over space in the backyard.
Six months ago, my mother called to tell me that Casey was acting lethargic and seemed to be bumping into things around the house. She took her to the vet, who drew blood and ran various tests. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but the vet told us that Casey was going blind. She blamed it on either lymes disease or a genetic degenerative retinal disease. However, Casey seemed comfortable and adjusted well after a few weeks. She moved slower and more deliberately and seemed to be aging faster, but she still ran to the door to greet visitors and loved to eat her bologna.
Last week I went home during our two day break. Casey was acting lethargic and my mother warned me that she seemed to be feeling sick. Only two days before, while testing out webcam connections, Casey had heard my voice on my mother’s computer and come racing over looking for me. I didn’t think much of her illness, and it seemed even more temporary when I walked in on Tuesday and she made her way over to me, sitting on my lap and begging to be petted.
I spent a few hours with her that day, just petting her and rubbing behind her ears. Her back leg was quivering, so we wrapped some canine aspirin in bologna and she scarfed it down. Within a few hours she had eaten her entire dinner and drank a bowl of water. When I left that evening, I thought she looked better and told my mom not to worry.
On Wednesday, my mom said that Casey hadn’t gotten up all day and hadn’t eaten since the day before. She called the vet, but they couldn’t squeeze her in without an emergency. She didn’t seem to be in pain and we decided to wait a day and see if it passed. She had a tendency to eat out of the garbage if she could sneak into it, so we hoped she just ate something that made her queasy. She even took a walk with my sister that night, which was a relief.
On Thursday she didn’t seem any better. Throughout the afternoon and evening, my mother would call and tell me that she seemed to be getting worse. By about 8pm she was laying in her favorite spot behind the couch and crying every few minutes. No one could get her to move or get up from that spot. At 11pm, my mother called to tell me that they were rushing her to the emergency vet. It was time, and we knew she was in pain.
My middle sister was crying, and my youngest sister was asleep. She had gone to sleep crying over the dog, praying she would get better. As my mother told me, I started to cry. I hung up a half hour later, because I had to get up for school in the morning. They didn’t know how long they would be at the vet, so my mother promised to call me as soon as I woke up.
I don’t think I slept at all that night.
The next morning, I called my mother as soon as I woke up. She was in the midst of telling my youngest sister that Casey had gone to doggy heaven that night. As I listened to my mother share with my sister, I burst into tears again. I was in the car, driving to work with my Bluetooth on, and tears were streaming down my face. The vets had rushed Casey in on a gurney and two separate vets had looked at her. Both recommended that my parents and middle sister put her to sleep. As she was injected, the vet told my mother that to the best of their knowledge, she seemed to have spinal cancer.
Spinal cancer that should have killed her four months ago. Spinal cancer that never should have allowed her to live, pain-free, for six months. But she did. My little girl left us last Thursday, and I still cry at the drop of a hat. I haven’t been home yet, but I can’t imagine walking through the side door and not being greeted by her bounding leap and slobbery tongue.