I wrote this the day that Casey was first diagnosed with cancer July 20th, 2010. He had been sick a long time before that - but we just thought it was a urinary tract infection. Casey was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was put to sleep - so very peacefully today August 30, 2010. We are very thankful that his passing went as well as it could. So this was his story. The story below this one, is the story of his last day. |
Jon and I decided to get a dog not too long after we got married. In April 2002, we went to the Prince William County Animal Shelter to look for one. We knew we wanted to rescue a dog -- we did not want to purchase one from any puppy mills or anything like that. They had multiple runs next to each other and as we walked down the row of them, there was one where about 7 dogs ran up to us -- and one cowered in the back away from the group. Instantly, we knew that was the dog for us. The underdog. The outcast. Perfect for us.
He was fixed and only cost about $20. His name was K.C. on his papers but we changed that to simply: Casey. He had 2 previous owners - and since he was only 18 months old -- that really wasn't too good. His papers stated that he was born on December 1st, 2000.
When we got him home and in the weeks to come we realized the abuse he must have gone through. He had a scar on this left ear that resembled a cigarette burn. Whenever we bent over to pet him, he would crouch down and pee. Either on something or all over himself. It took months for him to grow out of that and to learn to trust us. I remember one day up in our guest bedroom -- I was trying to play around with him and he finally stood up and did what he ended up doing for years: he bent himself into a 'U' shape and looked back at me - with his bum in my face. He wanted me to scratch it - so I did. Then I pushed his butt a little and instigated him to play. Finally, he crouched down in the 'dog playing' position and I knew he trusted me and he was finally ok to have fun with me.
Shortly after we brought Casey home to live with us, we started him in obedience classes at Petsmart. I would call him Casey Kasem to get his attention. He did so good and graduated after a few weeks-- with a cap and a diploma.
In October of 2002, we went to Petsmart one day and came home with another dog, Alison. She was VERY sick. We seem to find the sickest most downtrodden dog and say: 'That one!' We were told she just needed some peanut butter sandwiches and she would be all better. Yeah right. She has a condition-in which she will always have hook worms. It's horrible and we lived for years not knowing what was wrong. A lot of specialists, a lot of heartache and a ton of bills. We finally were able to manage her condition and when it flares up now we pretty much know what to do. When she ate....yes ATE her bed a few years later and we spent $3500 for her surgery -- in one day -- at Christmas - our patience was tested. But not Casey. Ever since the day we brought her home -- he accepted her and cared about her. Now, as she got more comfortable in our house -- she became the one to protect him and he often will let her do whatever she wants. But it's funny -- she understands that he comes first with a lot of things. He gets his leash put on first, he gets fed first. But she is his protector.
We have had our ups and downs over the years but for the most part -- Casey has his role as the Alpha male and the 'first born'. He is a snuggler and a lover. He wants all the attention all the time -- even tries to bat the phone of your hand while you are talking to someone. He knows how to high-five. He wants all the toys, all the food and the entire couch all to himself. Alison is more of a loaner. She's not really into food, or toys. She just wants to be outside. She cares about the world and what's going on more than material things. Casey resembles me in so many ways -- Alison resembles Jon. I'm sure this is why Casey has always been more clingy with me -- and Alison only ever wants Jon to hold her. Alison is not really a 'people' dog either. She tolerates a handful of them only. While Casey loves everyone -- including kids.
Bottom line is, they are both very good dogs. Overall we have been very lucky all these years. We have tried to be as careful with them as possible. And take as good care of them as we can. They have always been on leashes, always in our sights when we are home, walked 5-6 times a day, crated when we are not home, given the guest bedroom as theirs with a baby gate at the door, annual vet visits in April and in October, correct amounts of food, rarely any table scraps, bathing brushing and cleaning -- we have tried so hard to give them the best life possible.
This is why this is all so sad.
On Tuesday July 20th, 2010, Casey was diagnosed with Transitional Cell Carcinoma. Not even sure when this all started, but a while ago we suspected that he had a urinary tract infection. After treating that with 2 rounds of antibiotics, pain pills and anti-inflammatory drugs, he was better -- but not as much as he should have been. When she examined him, she could still feel a hard mass inside of him. She said that she should not have been able to feel his prostate at all. X-rays and ultrasounds were done and then finally the vet finally took cells from his prostate/urethra area and sent them away to get them tested. The result: cancer.
Treating this type of cancer is very hard. Surgery is really not an option. If they go in there to try and remove the tumor, his urethra could be compromised and there might not be any turning back when that happens. Chemo is an option -- but I just can't stand by and watch him be that sick just to keep him alive a few extra months. It's just too selfish. The best option is to treat with a drug called Piroxicam. This is supposed to help the swelling in his lower half and hopefully reduce the tumor. Of course there is no guarantee that his cancer will go into remission. Our goal right now, is to keep him as comfortable as we can with pain pills and Piroxicam. We do not know how long this has been going on inside of him and to do anything radical on an almost 10 year old dog is just not the way we want to go -- because of his age and because of what a saint he is.
Today, Saturday July 24, 2010, he started his Piroxicam. It has been a very long and hard week without any anti-inflammatory pills. He had to stay off of the ones he was getting before for 5 days before he could start this new one -- to avoid the potential of a stomach ulcer. He has been in a ton of pain and he strains outside all the time now. Hopefully with this new pill, that will calm down. And we are hoping that it helps for as long as it can. We do not know what stage the cancer is at and we do not know how long he has left. It makes me happy to see him peacefully resting beside me after the stressful week he has had. But I fear that we have a lot of pain ahead of us. The Piroxicam is supposed to be hard on his stomach -- we gave a Pepcid to counteract the pill and will continue to do this.
Eventually the tumor will grow to the point where he will have blockages and possible toxemia. No one wants to make the decision to put an animal down -- most people that I know with animals just wish for them to die in their sleep when they are ill. Jon and I are dreading the day when we can't watch him suffer anymore and we have to make that decision. There are so many questions. When do we know that too much is too much? How will we deal with Alison? When he leaves the room at the vet, she normally cries. She has to be everywhere that he is. How to we tell her? How do we go on without him in this house? How can this be true -- that this angel has cancer? It's so painful yet these things have to be discussed and thought about.
To make him a pillow out of a blanket, to give him white rice out of my Chinese food container, to watch him grab for his favorite toy, to feel his 70 pound body lean into me -- these are the moments that I am trying to concentrate on now.
Please say a prayer to whatever deity you believe in for Casey. Thanks for reading this.
I never thought I would be here. A year ago, I was making Casey wear a Santa hat and I was taking pictures of him and Alison in their Christmas garb. I would have never guessed that a year later, we would be without him.
It was my destiny to take care of him this summer. From the time he was diagnosed to the time he silently passed away. This was what I was meant to do. All of the sleepless nights. The cancelled vacations. Trying to ease his suffering the best I could. This was my role. I look back on it now and understand but in the throes of that month I was exhausted and sleep was for the lucky as Jon and I slept in shifts downstairs on both couches...taking Casey out every few hours.
I found out Casey was diagnosed with cancer while sitting in my car waiting for my Body Pump class to start. Keeping it together throughout the class was tough, but I made it until the last song -- which is always a cool down song. The students in the class are on the mats at that point - on our backs -relaxing after a taxing hour of lifting weights. The song my trainer was using at the time was 'Chasing Cars' by Snow Patrol. And when the song started I laid there painfully trying to hold the tears back but I couldn't do it. Managing to keep it mostly together, I wiped away the tears as quietly as I could and left the class to drive home. The only song I played was something that is not my usual taste in music -- but it fit my feeling at that moment. 'Resolution' by Nick Lachey. It's beautiful, painful and peaceful all at the same time. The lyric that kept me sane driving home that night was 'Breathe-it's my resolution'. And I did. To this day I don't even remember calling my parents or my husband and telling them about Casey's condition. I just remember coming home and giving him the biggest hug.
Soon after, we were at the vet's office collecting the pills he was to start taking. Pain pills, anti-inflammatory pills, stomach pills and so on. I decided to clean off one of the counter tops in the kitchen to set up all of his pills, peanut butter and a pill cutter. Every morning I would give him a Pepcid when I went upstairs (to keep his stomach calm when the mass of pills sunk in), got ready for work while his Pepcid sunk in, walked them, fed them, and gave him his pills little by little on his portioned food....and that was how we lived for that month.
As the days wore on, it was obvious that his tumor was growing very quickly. A check up at the vet revealed this and we were given a bereavement packet and sent home. No one said that he would not have much time, but it was painfully obvious. He began not being able to successfully go to the bathroom at all. And we just couldn't let him suffer like that. He would eventually become toxic and to see him suffer anymore than he already was....was just unbearable to us. On Monday August 30th, Jon called me at work and said that it was time. I agreed through a sea of tears and headed home. This was at 2p.m. Jon walked the dogs on a 'nature trail' buy our house and was waiting for me at the clubhouse pool when I pulled into the neighborhood. I parked the car and headed towards the bench that Jon, Alison and Casey were sitting on.
Casey always ran to anyone that he knew with excitement and happiness. He wouldn't let anything distract him -- when he saw love -- he ran with enthusiasm right to it. And I needed to see it again. One last time before we would say goodbye. I knelt down on the ground and called him -- and with all of his might that he had left -- he ran to me and greeted me with the same love that he always had. He never left the sidewalk -- wasn't distracted by anything - just ran right to me. It was a beautiful last moment.
We walked back home and hung in numb state for the next two hours. 'Tommy Boy' was on in the background while we pet Casey continuously, laughed, cried and sat in silence. From his walk outside, Casey picked up a moth on his fur that rode him home. Poor guy ended up not being alive, but it was just -- a moment. Still trying to figure out what that meant. I feel like it has deeper meaning and I just haven't figured it out yet.
4:30p.m. came, 'Bolt' was on and the vet was at our house. We decided to put him down at home. He always hated the car and I so didn't want his last trip on this earth to be in a car to meet his death. And also, we wanted Alison to be present when he left us. The vet was wonderful and assured us that we were doing the right thing. Casey -- although suffering -- never lost the will to eat, drink or be merry. Truly. You could tell he was exhausted a lot of the time. He wanted to know what the hell was wrong with him. And it was pure hell that we could not make him understand. But he was always Casey. The brightness was gone from his eyes, his body was failing -- but the love he had for us and his heart were the same. But he would have only lasted a few more days - then we would have seen some very painful things happen to his body and a whole new definition of suffering. For all involved -- this was the best time.
We gathered around him on the living room floor. Jon, me, the vet and her tech. Alison, curled up on her couch as she always does, watched us from there. She only got down once to come over and smell the tech, and then she returned to her safe place.
When we would take a break from petting Casey (Alison does this too) he would look back at us as if to say -- why on earth would you stop? He looked back at me once when I took my hand off him for a second and we both locked eyes. I feel like he knew. In that moment -- he knew that this was the time. He was ready and I was comforted that he was ready. He laid his head back down on the double blankets that the vet brought and calmly waited for his shots. Jon sat at his back and I got down by his ear as the first shot was given. I whispered to him that all was well now. There would be no more pain. No more restless nights. No more cancer. No more being uncomfortable. Just peace. And as the second shot entered his body, he looked off into nothing and his eyes glazed over. He was gone. It was over.
Alison saw and as far as I'm concerned -- understood what had just happened. She lifted her head only once, and then went to sleep. It was the most peaceful and deep sleep that I had seen her have in a very long time. His pain was over. His soul was at peace. Alison was always the protector. She is not cuddly, does not ask for attention and would never show any weakness. Now that he was gone, she did not have him to protect anymore. But they were always together-which we worried about now that she would be alone.
Casey was moved to a stretcher and his paw was pressed into a clay mould that we set a few days later. I followed the vet and her tech out and watched them place him in their van. They explained that we would get him back in about two weeks, cremated and in his own box. And that was it. All those years of four of us all of a sudden knocked into three.
Jon and I crawled into a ball on the couch and just cried and cried. 'Bolt' was ending and Penny was telling Bolt to leave the burning building without her. To this day, I have not watched that movie again.
Casey came back to us about a week and half later. His box is small, yet beautiful with a plaque on the front bearing his name. For a while, since he was my couch friend, I would take his box with me to the couch and either place him on the coffee table so he could be with me or on the couch so he would be where he used to be. Some nights I would fall asleep with my hand on the box. So many pictures were taken of the dogs over the years; I decided to make a photo album dedicated to him. Not sure if my Mother or Jon has seen it yet -- but my Father was able to go through it. I didn't wear eye liner for days after his death because all I did was sob at work. I cried hysterically in the shower every night. Every song I played in the car was about him. It took a long time to not be walking around all day thinking about him and how tragic the situation was. The one thing that kept me holding my head up was that he went so peacefully. It is such a comfort to see a being -- that has been in so much pain -- and constantly uncomfortable -- all of a sudden at peace. And you know that is the state he will remain in. Peace. It was a blessing that he drifted away as he did. Euthanasia situations do not always go well. And his did.
Days passed. Weeks passed. And to this day I want him back. He was an angel. Didn't deserve a single thing that he had to suffer with. From a rescue dog with cigarette burns on his ear, to a loving member of the family, Casey was amazing. I lost a lot when we lost him -- but my life gained so much by having him in it for eight years. My destiny this year was to be there for Casey during the last moments of his life. And I was privileged to do so.