5 years seems like such a short time in the grand scheme of life…except to maybe a 5 year old.
But we had Cassiopeia Matthews-Masswohl for 5 years…and it seemed like a lifetime… a wonderful, fabulous lifetime.
Now, not everyone understands the dog/person bond thing.
Some think it is weird…overly dramatic…too much…or just not quite true…they are just dogs, after all.
But those of you who do understand, you will get that as we drove home from the vet after helping Cassie let go of her earthly bond…I was crying like a baby the whole way…George turned and said, “You know what…she always was a person or an angel to me her whole life… and I used to doubt it… but I don’t anymore… because the moment she passed… she turned back into a dog…I saw it with my own eyes.”
I do know.
We lost our first dog Otto, after living and journeying with him for 15 amazing years, and we thought we would never be able to get another dog. Never.
But then we made the HUGE mistake of going to see Marley and Me. Neither of us read the book…but we thought it looked like a fun dog movie…and as it got closer to the end George turned to me and said, “Is this dog going to die?”…it sure looked like it…and then when it did…we were gutted.
Again, everyone who knows…knows that room at the vet…the moments before they pass…the love that goes between the two or three of you and the heartwrenching knowledge that you are going to leave the building without them…but that you have the bittersweet gift of sharing their last breath…of telling them how much you love them while they go.
THAT moment was in the movie.
We could not leave the theatre till after everyone had left.
It was terrible.
We walked home in silence and sadness.
The next morning George said, “Let’s go to the Humane Society and look at dogs…” and I could not get on my boots fast enough.
Life is funny, huh.
We went for about two weeks every day…looking for the right dog for us…we knew we would know when it happened….and then one day, as I walked up and down the aisles looking at all the dear sweet souls who were waiting to be taken away to a home…I heard George softly speak my name.
I turned and there he was…looking into a cage.
When I got there, there she was...just laying on her pallet…ever so dainty…the queen of the junkyard dogs…she was waiting for us…I am sure of it now.
We were going through some really difficult times, you see…and we needed some hope…so, she was sent to us.
Now, I want to say here that I am not a believer in organized religion…and I am not against anyone who does…to each his own…I just believe in the universe…and things…and I am the ultimate skeptic.
But as we stood there looking in her cage…she just stared at us with her gorgeous eyes…and when George quietly told her to come, she did. And then, she sat right in front of us…looked up and smiled. I swear to…the universe…she smiled.
She was NOT what we thought we wanted…but she was it in that moment…we went to the puppy/person meeting room…and she was just about the best ever…rolling on her back…giving kisses (which I know some people think are gross…but I live for them)…this angel, she had already perfected how to act like a dog.
This is our first portrait, taken on George’s phone at the THS. See…smiling…
And then we took her home.
And she began the task of filling our lives with boundless joy and amazing miracles, this Junkyard Queen.
You see, Cassie was found on the street…she was half her body weight…and she had a lot of health problems…but the day that she moved to our house she was never sick again…and she had the manners of resident of Downton Abbey. She was a little scared when we ate…she would go and hide…but we slowly got her out from under wherever she was hiding. She was smart…so smart she could hardly hide being otherworldly…her angel-ness would sometimes just slip out when she was not expecting it…when she didn’t realize we were watching her.
And she and George shared a very special love.
And then, one day, while taking her back for tests at the THS, we absolutely lost our fucking minds and made the full hearted idea and partial hair brained scheme to bring this scared dude home.
Yes, she looks all sweet just laying there…but that gate is up for a reason…she really had to reach down into her angel heart with this one…even she didn’t see that one coming. She was having none of him…but oh man, he loved her from the first moment he saw her.
Then, one day…as planned, I left them for 10 minutes, he in the kitchen behind the gate and she in the rest of the loft…and I walked across the street and watched the clock…I came back to our frosted doors and saw two sets of eyes staring out...side by side.
I totally crapped my pants.
So, I decided to walk in calmly, praying for an absence of blood.
They both just backed up and looked at me.
He had bust out…and I think she had helped…god help us.
And that was it…a truce was born…and while he desperately loved her with all of his farting heart…and she tolerated his drool, lumbering ways and beastliness at arms length…a family pack was born.
And we felt love from every direction.
It was really just what we needed.
One day soon after, while George and I sat on the couch, Tyson (that is the big dog) gingerly approached Cass on her bed (they had separate beds….like all couples on 50’s TV shows) and just softly lay down beside her…
That was it. This picture was the actual moment. I love camera phones…George always calls the photo library I keep of the dogs my other hobby…I guess my first hobby is work.
AND I LOVE EVERY MINUTE OF IT.
How could I not chronicle this special life we were havingin
They are…were the Laurel and Hardy of the Dog world.
Anyhow, the truth of it all is these guys forged our lives…much to my agent’s chagrin… I loved her face when I sat in front of her and told her we were moving to Stratford to give the dogs a back yard…you could have knocked that wonderful woman over with a feather.
But, you see, every decision we made for Cassie and Tyson enriched our lives…made it all very special…see, that is what she was doing…quietly...helping us change our lives.
Helping us find a good place to live.
Helping us find a good WAY to live.
They found their very best friend, Christine, here in Stratford… who these pups love more than almost anything.
I say “almost” to make myself feel better.
I have no idea why she like lying in that part of the garden…I tried and fucking tried to keep her out of it…but again…she loved it…who am I to take away what she loved?
I know this is long…but there is one other thing I would like to share about my wonderful girl.
When she came to us…she had no voice.
She would not bark or cry.
And then one day…a few months after we got her just before we got Tyson….while she and George were playing, he asked her to speak…and like the picture of them at the very top of this blog…she started small and then never stopped…and then…this last year…she began to sing.
When Christine would come over she would sing and sing and bay…and it was something to behold…it would make me cry a bit, it was so beautiful and special.
I see now, it was just another step in her evolution.
Her angelness just kept creeping closer and closer to the surface.
And this last summer she took to chatting with me.
When I was working in the office she would come in and lay on the bed I kept there…I would cover her with her blanket…again, she HATED anything that wasn’t summer…so she spent all of her inside time covered in a blanket…
And then, this last January she had a large tumor removed and the doctor solemnly told us that Cass was living on borrowed time…she has until March, at most.
I silently prayed she could make to the spring so she could lay out in the sun a bit…her dying in the winter just seemed not right.
But we grieved.
And she did not.
She said, Fuck it.
AND CASSIE then embarked upon some of her best and most humorous work to date…
She and I chronicled the two seconds of her yawn when she is absolutely terrifying…
I discovered her shucking convention and just taking what she wanted…
Performing her Evita and/or Mary imitation…
Which, because she was so versatile, this easily morphed into Little Edie from Grey Gardens…
And then she decided to mix her mediums and try out some still work….
George and I decided not to tour my shows this year and stay home and Cassie, in turn, decided to live and live…
We called her the coffin dodger…which is a term we stole from Michael Hughes…which I must give him credit for because I dread the alternative… 🙂
And she ran and ran…and ate the tall grass she loved so…
We all had a wonderful and quiet summer.
With backyard fires, lightening bugs, bbqing, country drives, the pups had many sleep overs with best friend Christine, a beach visit just for pups, chicken, peanut butter balls, and naps.
And then as summer neared it’s end she stayed in bed longer and longer…sometimes went up to bed on her own…she started to develop a limp and a tiny cough.
One morning I looked out the back window saw her sitting in the middle of grass in the backyard just looking up…like she was talking to someone…and then she just looked around…it was something.
The leaves had begun to collect.
And she hates the winter.
And then she fell.
And we just could not make her better…we tried and tried with drugs and slings and treats and anything we could think of for three weeks.
And Tyson would not leave her side.
And Christine, in all of her love, told us that Cassie was done.
I don’t know if we could have accepted it otherwise.
We went to bed one night and asked Cassie to tell us when it was time.
The next morning she did.
We brought her up in bed with us and I told her the story that I have just told you. The story of her life with us. I am not sure what her story was before we were graced with her little soul…but I think she forgave me. I told her at length and all that I could remember.
Her best friend Christine came over and Cassie managed to sing like a star for her one last time.
And then, well, you know the rest.
It is truly one of the most special, horrible, heart wrenching, bitter sweet, and terrible moments to share the last breath of a loved one.
I will never forget it.
I haven’t forgetten it with Otto…and I will not with Cassie.
Cassie changed our lives.
She came in when we needed her and she almost left when she felt we would be okay…but kept a few months for herself at the end to party the summer away.
She leaves behind her dear tolerated and loved in silence brother, Tyson…who spends some time every day sniffing the whole house and waiting for us to produce her from thin air.
He is doing okay…
Because, you see, her last gift to us was community.
On the day Otto died, we left the vet and laid in bed for two days and cried. It was terrible.
On the day Cassie died there was a steady line of friends and neighbours who came by with flowers, cards that announced they had run to the animal shelter in Stratford and made a donation, scotch left on the porch in a red bag with a card that said, “Drink to Cassie”, one couple brought dinner…a whole dinner…and so many calls, texts and emails…and best friend, Christine, brought her dog Licorice who has spent many days with Tyson and Cassie…and she also brought her new foster puppy, Aspen…
To make Tyson’s transition a little softer…and it did.
We had a wake for Cassie that lasted all day.
It was amazing.
And when all were gone…and we got up into our bed with our 120 pound bundle of mastiff…farting…sadness…I hugged him and hugged George and thanked her …and cried.
Thank you for coming into our lives just when we needed you most.
And thank you for all you did for us.
And thank you for staying for both of our favourite seasons.
I will miss you forever.
As lordy as it sounds…we know you were an angel…we found out…sorry to bust your cover.
< span style="font-size: large;">And thanks to anyone who read all the way…I just wanted to write this because I felt this lady deserved it…if you read it, more the joy.