4,190 DAYS WITH CASSIE

It was her ears that saved her. The census collector saw them sticking up out of long grass as she was driving slowly along the country road, and stopped to investigate.  There, in a paddock surrounded by cows, abandoned to fate, was a shivering little scrap with dog bites all over her.  She was promptly uplifted by this kind woman and taken to her home.  

As luck would have it – or maybe it was destiny - the census collector lived next door to our daughter and took the puppy over to show her, saying she would take it to the SPCA on Monday.  But Jen, knowing I had long yearned for a dog, phoned me immediately and said, ‘Mum, come over right now, I have a puppy for you.’  When Mr B and I got there we saw a broken, sad, hungry little pup wrapped up in a towel, being cuddled and kept warm by our son-in-law.  “I suppose you want it”, said Mr B.  It wasn’t really a question – he knew I did – even though he was reluctant.  And so, with great excitement on my part, some trepidation on his, and a whole lot of what-the-hell-are-we-getting-ourselves-into, we took the shaking, limping, sick bundle of misery home with us.  I thought she was a boy and named her Sam.

We were fortunate that the vet could see us that afternoon.  I began talking to the vet about the puppy as HIM.  She interrupted me to say HER.  “No”, I said, “HIM”.  “Trust me”, said the vet, “this is a HER!”  She didn’t think that the puppy would survive the infected dog nips; the massive septic bite through her kneecap; the worms in her body; the malnutrition and neglect, but she reckoned without the determination of Mr B and myself.  So off we went with instructions on what to feed this little one, how to get antibiotics down her throat, and how to care for her.  We already knew how to love her – that was the easy bit.  She was renamed Cassie –a derivative of Cassidy as in ‘Hop Along Cassidy.’

That first night we popped her in a warm bed in the laundry with food and water and a dirt box, and closed the door.  In the early hours, I woke up and heard her crying pitifully, so up I got in the dark, opened the laundry door and immediately stepped onto dog poo which squelched up between my bare toes.  I spent some minutes hopping about on one leg, trying to stop Cassie from escaping, all the while giggling uncontrollably.
Cassie - 12 weeks old

She got better very quickly with all the love and attention, good food and medication, but she still had problems with her kneecap which needed sorting, so she was booked in to have an $3,000 operation.  Then the vet found she had a heart problem, not one that would delay the procedure, but one that would ultimately shorten her life span.  We decided to go ahead anyway, and she was in a plaster cast for six weeks while the leg healed.

Cassie became best friends with our youngest grandchild, very gentle with her and patient – never snapping, never snarling.  And right up to her last day, she was going out for walks with Aless.

Some of our fondest, despairing, grumpy and hilarious moments with Cassie include: fixing the watering system three times because she’d chewed through it in several places (loved the gushing water); repairing the linear boards on the side of the house where they’d been chewed; retrieving footwear from her mouth (I still have the jandals with the munched tops); sleeping on the sofa and bed (a big no-no at the beginning); clipping her toenails (a major feat); teaching her to come into the shower so she could be shampooed and learning the hard way that we should have closed the bathroom door before we tried to dry her; reburying our dead cat after she dug it up and brought it proudly to the door as a ‘present’ for us; watching her run like the wind after balls and sticks and cats (oh my goodness, those poor cats); teaching her to sit, wait, catch, come here, manners, have a ‘nice’ mouth; being thrilled and excited when she learned to head a ball; and being exasperated when she would fetch the ball back but refuse to drop it.

When Mr B and I went our separate ways in 2010, Cassie stayed with him to keep him company and we agreed that he’d have ‘custody’ and I’d have ‘access’.  She became his dog rather than mine, though she was always thrilled to see me and her tail would wag so fast she’d almost turn herself inside out with pleasure.  And so, eleven years passed by.

Last Thursday night, I was about to get into my car to go into the city to listen to a concert.  Opening the garage door just on 6.30pm, I was astounded to see the whole vehicle lit up and pulsing with light – though no one had touched it.  I was a bit spooked to tell you the truth, but I quickly realised that somehow the hazard lights had come on by themselves.  On my way into Auckland our daughter phoned, but the Bluetooth didn’t connect so I couldn’t take the call.  Once I got where I was going, I called her back.  “Oh Mum, I’m so sorry to tell you that this evening Cassie’s heart gave out suddenly and she died in Dad’s arms.”  “What time was that”, I asked. “It was right on 6.30pm.”


Apart from your own children and grandchildren – is there a greater joy than having a dog in your life?  Dogs don’t give a stuff what you look like or how you’re dressed or if you have a huge wart on the end of your nose.  All they care about is loving unconditionally and being loved in return, being fed and watered, exercised and played with.  Although Cassie was naughty, mischievous, and disobedient at times, she was always fun.  She didn’t have a big master plan, she wasn’t worried about the past or concerned about the future.  Simply, she lived in the moment.  So, sometimes when life seems a bit overwhelming, how about opening your car window and sticking your head out.  There is nothing quite like the wind in your face to remind you to live in the present.




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