Sunday, March 26, 2017

Homecoming

First photo of "Bob" surveying his new home
After detailing the pet carrier, as well as its bewildered occupant, the Prius started its commuter trek north. I wish I would have been able to take a photo of my stoic passenger's profile, focusing on Interstate 5 straight ahead from his carrier as if entranced.  It occurred to me then that several hours earlier this little guy had never seen a highway, and even two-lane roads near his farm in Kellogg, Minnesota were at a premium. What he must have been thinking.

A couple of hours later we were in Bellingham, Washington.

Home was a single-story rambler with a fenced back-yard, and a front yard just large enough for a Frisbee toss - a must for a Border Collie - on the southside of town. Environs that didn't come close to resembling Bob's free-range existence on the farm. He seemed underwhelmed as I set up his carrier in the living room. A sliding-door opened onto a backyard deck, and after I had finished configuring his new digs I found our boy perched stoically on the far edge glancing at every passing bird and digesting each new sound.

Less than a half-hour later I heard his new mom on the front porch. This ought to be good.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Hitting the road for home

Casey's last romp in Minnesota with Mom
A short walk around the tarmac with Bob was no where near as comforting for our urine-soaked Minnesota refugee as I was hoping. There was no sign that this little guy had been traumatized by his flight, but he had no intention of relieving himself after his six-hour trip (including a stopover in Minneapolis). A sniff here, another there, an occasional glance at Pacific Highway traffic, and rarely acknowledging the existence of the big guy on the other end of the leash.

It was time to hit the road for home, but first thing first. My new charge was in dire need of a bath. After removing smelly, wet debris from his carrier, I installed it in my Prius for a side-trip south to Federal Way. For the record, his water dish was dry, a plastic bag of adult kibble (Purina One) was taped to the carrier top, and paperwork accompanying the crate indicated Bob was actually seven-months-old, all red flags for mistreatment. A discussion for later.

One thing for sure, Bob would be in his forever home in a couple of hours. Before that though, my daughter-in-law Ernie would soon be the first of the tribe to meet the kid, urine or no urine. Some introduction to the family. No where to go but up.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Chasing Molly memories

OK, so now the die were cast. We were ready to bring another excentric puppy into our lives. Well, ready or not this little reject from a farm in Kellogg, Minnesota was as good as on his way. But before we go there, a little background.

Annie 1990
Victoria and I were first introduced to Border Collies in 1995 by our good friend Marsha, who owned two incredible girls Megs and Katie. To say we were impressed is such an understatement. Complicating matters that year, we lost our 15-year-old cockapoo Annie in the spring and were looking for another exceptional dog, just as irreplaceable. Then our quest was expedited by Vic suffering a nasty leg break. Focusing on a loveable rehab partner was an integral part of the search. The more we looked the more we realized that an inquisitive, active Border Collie would be a perfect match.


Marsha, Megs, Katie, Vic and Molly 1996
TThat fall we found Molly, and we immediately fell in love. She was a dynamo that kept us on our toes, even setting the agenda much of the time for almost 13 years. Our family and friends loved her. The total package. For the rest of my career Molly lived on both coasts and was up for anything - running, hiking, Frisbee, herding and she absolutely loved baseball. I couldn't drive by a Little League game without stopping to let her watch. We even went so far as to dvr a Seattle Mariners game for her to watch on television during each off-season.

Molly 2002



Molly B was a joy. Oh, she had her issues like all of us.

And we had never felt a sadness like the one we felt when Molly died of colon cancer. It became a hidden dread that I locked away in my psyche for almost a decade. 

Never spoken about again until this year. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Long-distance rescue?


All the signs were there. Vic had seen it coming ever since I first saw "Bob" on the Minnesota breeder’s site. And after I’d returned from my status call - just to see how he was doing, mind you – I must have looked pathetic. “Just give her a call back and tell her we’ll take him. You know you want to.”

“Seriously?  You sure? Really?” Not wanting to push the issue or take any chances I was hearing things, I was hitting redial for the breeder as I was heading out the door of the quilt shop.

To this day Vic has always said the look on my face before she gave the go-ahead to call, just pathetic. Never regretted it, particularly not now.
Arrangements were quickly made to fly our guy to Seattle, ETA one week. It could have been sooner but Vic and I had made plans to stay with our friend Marsha at a B & B on Orcas Island for a couple of days, a delay we would second-guess for years.

So…I’d done everything up to now that I had been told to never do when looking for a dog. I began my search before I’d even stopped grieving for the loss of our beloved Molly; I found our new dog on the internet without personally checking out the breeder; and I had him shipped by air to the northwest. All red-flags in any dog adoption or purchase process – and I’d never recommend our plan of action to any potential guardian - but something was telling me that time had been a thief up to this point for Bob.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Wheels turning

Calico Creations Quilt Shop
OK, so where was I. And what exactly does a Mt Vernon quilt shop have to do with Casey's Worlds anyway?

So, after wrapping up our visit to the Skagit Valley Highland Games...the Border Collie competition was over anyway...Vic and I headed over the West Side Bridge and the Skagit River to city center's First Street. That gave us enough time to ruminate over the competitors, especially the young male collie, and of course Bob's status. It was about time to check up on him again. He had to have been adopted by now. Are you starting to get the picture? Vic was.

Our first downtown stop was Calico Creations, a quilt shop that Vic could have spent the rest of the afternoon in. She had to have sensed that I was distracted while I was feigning interest among the racks of fabric.

"Why don't you give the breeder a call and see how he's doing?" Vic had that look. She knew my grown-up creds were on the verge of crumbling for our reject in the Heartland.  

"OK, someone must have taken him home by now. Be right back."

I was back inside in ten minutes after finding out that my Minnesota distraction was still for sale, and there had been absolutely no bites. "He's just not outgoing enough, kind of timid." Incredulous at this news, as well as her dispassionate update, I hung up and trudged back into the quilt shop. But the wheels were turning.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Softies

We kept a cyberspace eye on the "hard to place" runt for a couple of weeks more, even called the breeder - no takers. But we did find out that our guy was  actually 10 months old, having been returned for a refund, and no longer in the best bargaining position when a new litter of half-siblings were his competition.

www.goskagit.com
Our long-distance, dispassionate pragmatism was starting to come apart at the seams, and the Skagit Valley Highland Games & Celtic Festival in Mt. Vernon finished it off. While watching Border Collies compete in the sheep trials we were completely blown away by a two-year-old male who didn't place, but the rapport with the commands of his lady guardian...priceless. And that wasn't all.


Even more than that, her exhausted "kid" jumped into her lap for a rub down, as we were kudoing their performance. Public displays of affection were never our alpha girl Molly's thing.

"Oh, yeah," she said, "Border Collie males are way more affectionate than females, real softies, at least those that I've worked with. They just want to please...look at my love junky here." That got my attention. Just had to go check on Bob.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Keeping tabs

We didn't have a clue what we were getting into. About a month before Casey - actually "Quantum Leap Bob" to the breeder - arrived at Seatac Airport, something just didn't seem right. I mean the idea that here it was summer and this little guy still hadn't been snatched up. Ten months old and no forever home. It was unsettling.


Bob

Before Victoria and I had even stopped grieving over the loss of Molly, our first Border Collie, I had been scouring the internet for an occasional puppy fix. To this day I don't remember how I found the website of a Border Collie breeder in the middle of Minnesota but one day it just popped up, and there was that face. Bob, the runt of the litter, should have been totally forgettable. He was sporting a nose that had way more than his share of pink and a partial blue left iris, both products of the Merle Gene from the sire, Bubba. Show dog material, unlikely, but that face was lure enough. I had to keep checking on him.

In a week or so I phoned the breeder to see how Bob was doing. "No takers yet. He just sort of hangs back," said a less than enthusiastic rancher. "The runt of a litter of seven and more submissive than most folks are lookin' for."

"Well, someone will take him home..he'll be perfect for some kid. Come on. He's a cute kid."

"Interested? Money back guarantee." Of course, she had no way of knowing that we didn't have the time to invest in another Border Collie so soon after losing our irreplaceable Molly to cancer. No way of knowing for sure, but she had to be sensing I'd be calling back.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Prologue

Late in July 2008 I drove to Sea-Tac to anxiously retrieve a new family member at the airport. When I arrived at the baggage area I was redirected to a vast freight facility on the south end, where I began wandering through a cavernous Northwest Airlines cargo hangar. An airline employee soon joined me in navigating mountains of cargo and a labyrinth of freight containers. We were on a quest that afternoon for a simple grey pet kennel, one that had been driven and flown over 2500 miles from a farm in America's heartland.


The company baggage handler led me through even more stacks of containers and nondescript freight until we both spotted the familiar Petco travel crate, large enough to hold a German Shepherd. At first glance it appeared empty. But after stooping to peer into the wire opening, I spotted, tucked in the shadows of a rear corner, a small dog, seemingly content to stay right where he was.

After a few minutes of gentle coaxing, nothing was succeeding in convincing our reluctant traveler to move off his haunches and into the light. "Hey, little guy, you wanna get out of here and go home?"..."How you doing kiddo?" Nothing doing, nothing at all, but who could blame him after his cross-country trip in steerage. What should he expect next?

Finally, taking a chance, I carefully reached into his dark, durable plastic den with a treat in hand, and was immediately enveloped in a cloud of ammonia. The kennel pad had morphed from cushion to urine sponge, and probably several hours earlier. "Quantum Leap Bob" was awash in the evidence, and had to be feeling worse for the wear. So, after using a combination of sweet talk and gentle tugging, the newest member of our family slowly - ever so slowly - ventured out of the darkness of the hangar and became the light of our lives. 



Friday, February 10, 2017

Memorial Support for WHS


Casey has so touched the lives of friends and family, as well readers of Casey's Worlds it's no surprise at all that Victoria and I have been asked if there is anywhere they can send a donation to his memory.

As monthly sustainers of the Whatcom Humane Society, caring and rescuing animals since 1902, we have already set up a file with the WHS staff to handle such commemorative contributions.

Donations can be made online  or mailed to the Whatcom Humane Society,  2172 Division Street, Bellingham, WA  98226. Be sure to specify that your gift or donation be made "To the Memory of Casey McLaren Marx" (or just "Casey"...they'll know who you mean).

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Moving sentiment from "across the pond"


Today, in a Facebook chat from London, a good friend indicated that she had just heard about Casey.  I'm certain she wouldn't mind me sharing it. 

                                                           4:25pm
                                                       
Gene, I've only just found out that beautiful Casey has gone. I'm so, so sorry. I've been there as others have. My dad still has a tuft of our lovely Sky's fur in a gold box. I miss her still and the 17 years of joy, mischief and love she gave us. She looked like a black version of Casey. The pain is deep I know. I read your blog; heartbreaking. I'm reminded of the poem Byron inscribed on the tomb of his beloved dog, it's in the book I gave you. The last two lines say it all: 'to mark a friend's remains these stones arise, I never knew but one - and here he lies.'  Sky sometimes comes to me in my dreams. My personal belief is I'll see her again, but whatever yours is, Casey's love will always be with you. Big hug from across the pond xxxxxx

Alison, lovely, lovely. Hard to read such beautiful sentiment without tearing up. I believe that Sky and Casey are swirling around together in the multiverse somewhere, and their spectres will never leave us. Nor would I want them to. Thanks so much for the hug.
                                                           10:20pm   

I like that idea Gene, we know energy never dies so theirs is still in form somewhere and their love is still very much alive. Eternal hug xxxx

Winter glint

January 20, 2013

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Snowstalgia

It looks like the snowpack Whatcom County has been dealing with for a few days will be history after tonight. It was always great while it lasted as far as Casey was concerned. 

Here's one of our favorite pictures, from about four years ago, as his guardians invoked  adult status, calling an end to the frozen fun. But he did "help" them complete a deck igloo.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

OK, I guess this is home.

One of Casey's first photos in his new backyard - Summer 2008 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Missing paw prints in our snowfall blanket


Regretfully, spectres aren't able to leave evidence of their presence. This view of the front yard would be more healing if it was mussed with paw prints. Casey would certainly have already talked me into a subzero Frisbee toss by now.


December 21, 2016

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Wake up snug

January 31, 2017
Casey's eyes in this last picture at home seem anxious to me. What did he sense? What was he feeling? He obviously needed Stella. 

What do our pets try to tell us when they're ill? 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Altered state: Always brother and sister from different species


Last year, Casey, as always, vying for space by the fire with Stella

There are times in Casey's Worlds when words are probably superfluous.


This morning.

Casey's presence will likely be felt by Stella - in her indoor universe - for a lifetime.

December 22, 2016

Friday, February 3, 2017

A Tribute



It’s snowing.  Casey loved the snow.  What an amazing, coincidental backdrop to this tribute to our boy.  It’s almost like he had a hand – well, paw - in it.

Who am I trying to kid?  There was no refuge in sleep tonight, but at least I can attempt to come up with a Casey’s Worlds post without crying.  One more for the kid, for now.  He’s been a loving intrusion to my every conscious thought anyway, ever since Victoria and I watched a clinician administer by IV a merciful overdose of Propofol. 

Time stood still until an ER doctor’s stethoscope could no longer detect a heartbeat, ending our boy’s suffering, while jumpstarting ours.


It’s just now starting to hit me how rapidly Casey went from catching Frisbees on Monday to gasping for breath on Wednesday afternoon.  No visible, at least apparent symptoms until a suspicious lethargy, accompanied by a shocking unsteadiness set in around noon.  Something was wrong, and this time we were nowhere close to overreacting, as had been the case in the past.  And we weren’t waiting.

Thanks to an opening at Fairhaven Veterinary Hospital, Casey’s lifelong veterinarian was able to conduct a thorough exam, but he wasn’t satisfied.  Dr. Mark Kummer needed a blood scan and set of x-rays.  This just wasn’t the Casey he knew.  And he seemed to have detected an almost imperceptible flinch near his stomach.  An hour later, the first bad news - abnormal red and white cell counts, and worse, an x-ray image clearly showing a mass on the spleen, with another less definitive spot on his liver.  His resulting, palpable concern was urging us to get an ultrasound as soon as possible.  Our best option was an emergency room triage, including an ultrasound and surgery if necessary, within a couple of hours, at the VCA Veterinary Specialty Center of Seattle, almost an hour and a half away in Lynwood, Washington.

Vic and I had no way of knowing it then, but we were literally in a race for life.  Casey was bleeding out internally, in the back seat of his favorite mobile kennel, from suspected lesions. 

Thanks to Mark, there was a team waiting for us.  By the time we arrived, our boy needed to be carried into the clinic.  The first priority was getting him stabilized after an ER exam confirmed not only the suspected bleeding, but several tumors on Casey’s spleen, as well as a spot on his liver.  The shift doctor advised that surgery wouldn’t even be a consideration until stabilization – his pulse rate was 70 and going south.  She didn’t come out and say it, but the vial of blood she was holding, withdrawn from Casey’s abdomen, as well as her body language, telegraphed every pet guardian’s worst fear, that is, the final compassionate solution.



In lieu of a worst case scenario, we insisted on seeing the results of a morning ultrasound.  We hadn’t heard the words cancer and malignant yet, and Casey deserved a shot.  He was settled in, sedated, and on his way to being stabilized.  And after all, we were only discussing the possibility of Hemangiosarcoma.  Right?  Let’s see what the ultrasound turns up in the morning.  Most of these spleen masses are benign.  This one had to be.  We had come this far and we had never let Casey down and weren’t going to start now.  We went to our boy’s clinic bedside, told him goodnight and to be good.  He watched us leave and our long sleepless night began, with cautious, though tenuous optimism.  While I usually think hope is for losers - not this time. 

At 1:37 in the morning the duty veterinarian called to report that Casey received a blood transfusion and seemed to perk up, even coaxing belly-rubs out of the staff.  The perpetual love-junkie’s vitals were good, the bleeding was stopped and his clotting would be checked all night long.  Hopefully, one transfusion would be enough.  The relief clinician would be in at 4:00am, and no news by then would be good news. 

There was no phone call, but no sleep either.  Casey memories and inevitable what-ifs, a mélange of joy and the bittersweet, deflected any semblance of much needed oblivion.  And we each conceded to our relentless processing of decisions to be made the next day, as we both tossed and turned and cried quietly in the dark.

The next morning – incredibly Thursday, February 1, and Casey seemed fine twenty-four hours earlier – I rushed to check on our kid.  A devastated, swollen-eyed Victoria was opting to wait for the radiologist’s arrival.  When Casey was led into a visiting room, my momentary - admittedly unrealistic - optimism was crushed at the sight of my Methadoned, nearly spiritless best friend.  Lying on a shared blanket in the middle of the room was therapeutic, at least for me, but Casey had been sedated nearly to the edge of disinterest.  His ears twitched only once or twice to “Momma” and “Frisbee” as I stroked and inhaled his essence, while burying my face his once glistening coat.  Shortly later I told the tech it was alright to return my boy to the ER.



The ultrasound results, as well as our follow-up meeting with the treatment veterinarian came much too quickly.  That’s always the case I suppose when the odds are stacked, but Victoria and I had decided to take Casey home.  Even if palliative care only bought him one day or one month, he deserved to die at home.  We were ready.

We were ready, at least until the ultrasound findings were summarized.  The readings were explained in detail.  Our resulting questions were answered, options discussed.  Numerous tumors on the spleen, with the liver likely involved but not definitively.  Metastasis was a certainty.  Yes, a splenectomy was survivable, but the prognosis was dismal.  Canine spleen cancer is incurable and undetectable without an ultrasound. Nothing we could have done had we known.  The guardians and medicine had done everything humanly possible…except make that last dreaded decision.  We were told Casey could die before we reached Bellingham; and then “death by HSA” was explained in detail.  The painful, reverberating worst case scenario echo chamber subsided and we were able to opt for sanity, our last gift to Casey - a simple, peaceful surrender to an endless slumber, without the nightmares of a rescue dog.

I hope the faithful readers of Casey’s Worlds have excused my therapeutic ramblings by now.  I’m certain some of you have been there.  You might even be in tears as I am, as you finish this post.  We’ve dreaded these inevitable bouts with the multiverse, even when our friends were stealing our hearts as puppies.  I will always choose to believe Casey was blessed, in spite of his relatively few trips around the sun.  Victoria and I could never come close to repaying him for the joy, and life, he brought to our earthly existence.  We devoured it like addicts, from his first morning wake-up nudge, to his early farm boy turn-ins at night. 

As an abused rescue dog, Casey taught me about healing from day one.  Right now, as always, it’s as simple as one foot in front of the other.  And don’t forget the Frisbee.



Thursday, January 26, 2017

So close, but oh so far away.

 

There is no normal, tried and true Frisbee catching technique under gusty wind conditions and a tree is never your friend.

In this sequence Casey was mostly just willing this lilac tree to cooperate. 



Monday, January 9, 2017

Taking a load off

Vic and Casey during a respite by the Falls