Remembrance of a dogzilla past

Near Darke

By Hank Nuwer

Where to start my tale? With my dog’s near-death experience, his intestines neatly sawed in five parts?

No, too grim.

I want to tell you what made my dog Casey so special, but what to say?

I have no heroic rescue to recount. No climactic moment to recall when my barking, black-coated buddy plunged through deep snows to save me, his master.

No, Casey was just an ordinary dog, no hero. That was enough for me.

Casey’s given name at birth was dignified, given by a breeder in Rushville, Ind. I forgot the name.

The American Kennel Club papers recorded him as pure Labrador Retriever. I boxed those useless papers with old tax receipts and shoved them into a dark crevice in the garage.

Casey’s daddy was big and yellow, the color of an old professor’s sport coat. His mother was dark black and weighed nearly 100 pounds. The labs lived in a big and proper Indiana barn smelling of squirrel corn, hay, and straw.

Casey weighed only five pounds when I showed up to buy him one evening. He looked like a squeaky toy as I fondled, poked, and inspected him. The seller kept looking at her watch. She explained that this was a working farm, and she had to get up at dawn.

I brought him home and fluffed up an old blanket in a box. I called him Casey in honor of a favorite uncle.

For days, I lifted his paw and repeated the command “shake” over and over, while holding out kibble as a bribe.

I bought him his very own van for transportation. It had a metal barrier behind my seat, and he could drop his head over it for a pat on demand.

He also traveled in a beat-up Dakota with 300,000 miles.

A Florida room with a wooden floor was his new permanent home. He slept in an Igloo doghouse.

Like me when I was young, Casey had a knack for getting in trouble. He swiped raw hamburger off a counter and broke into a closet to tear open a bag of puppy chow.

I considered changing the thief’s name to Jesse James.

Next, he broke a lamp with his swishing tail and big rump, and I nicknamed him Dogzilla.

One day, he crashed through a plate glass window in pursuit of a teasing rabbit. A vet removed slivers and treated deep shard wounds.

As he recovered, I let him sleep in the kitchen. That night he ate a woolen throw mat and an empty plastic bottle.

The combination settled in his intestines like twisted threads in the roller of a vacuum cleaner.

A surgeon cut his intestines into five pieces. It took her all night to work on him.

This was the grim scene I described earlier. It was touch and go for 10 days. I administered antibiotics, swabbed him with antiseptics, and fed him liquid food with eye droppers.

During recovery, Casey became the most affection-craving dog on the planet.

From then on, he calmed down and learned tricks. Lots of them.

I threw balls in the yard, and he would not chase them until given an OK or hand signal.

He rolled over on command, always stayed when told, and played frisbee like a pro.

One time when we two were in the Florida room, a low-flying bat, aerodynamically challenged, ran into a twirling fan. He stopped in mid-pounce on my command, The bat recovered and vacated the joint.

Another time a dove came into Casey’s room and knocked herself out against the repaired glass plate. He gently put her into his mouth and then gently put her down after I said the command, “Release.”

He still had some discipline problems. When not on a leash, he ran after stray cats, wandering dogs, and taunting chipmunks. Evermore, he was always on a leash except when we went to creeks and lakes. There he swam like an Olympian.

Casey lived 13 wonderful years. He aged fast, his muzzle a distinguished grey and his weight way down. His walks in the park slowed, but he never tired of kids approaching for a hug or paw-shake.

Gosia came into his life seven years ago when we dated and then married. Casey cured Gosia of a girlhood fear of dogs.

The day came that he no longer could climb into his van unassisted.

The vet gave Casey a goodbye gift by injection. He went quietly after one last tearful hug.

He used to lie under my feet as I wrote.

I can still feel the paw he always draped over my foot.

Hank Nuwer is an author, columnist and playwright. He and wife Gosia live on the Indiana side of the Union City state line. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.