He made sure he was heard, loved to play and always came back.
Sounds simple, but that is how I will always remember my best buddy, Casey. After nearly 10 years, we said goodbye to him the other day. He had gotten cancer and started to suffer. Euthanasia became the most humane option.
While the day was crushing, he gave us so many memories.
From the day we brought him home, Casey, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, was vocal. He barked the first day we got him and he continued his whole life.
Some dogs get quiet with age, but Casey was always talkative, a canine “yenta”, if you will.
Casey liked to bark for food, at people arriving, at the neighbor going down his driveway, while anyone was on the phone…you get the picture.
Man, did Casey love to play. We had countless catches in our yard and at the playground. If you don’t know Chessies, our guy was agile, strong and in crazy shape. There were days where I would throw my arm out because he had to continue to play catch.
One of my favorite memories was when Casey played football in about a foot of snow with my nephews. It was a laugh riot. He tackled my then 8-year-old nephew Jack a few times, but it was all about playing. My nephews had a great time, but Casey had the most fun.
There was a field by our house that he liked to play on and fetch lacrosse balls. The setup was side-by-side fields. On several occasions, we’d be playing on one field when Casey would dart into high school kids scrimmaging and come out with their ball. The coaches did not like us at first, but came to get used to our playful guy.
Casey could never get enough of playing catch in our yard. At one point, I could never outthrow him with a frisbee. He’d get to everything and catch it. I’m 5’10”, and would hold a ball above my head, perfect height for him to run, jump and catch it.
He’d rarely tire, but if it was hot outside, he would come in and pant on the cooled tile. I’m not sure if he was ever happier than that.
Well, he was always happy around us, especially our three young children. Casey loved to be a 95-lb lap dog after a run, or a spooning partner after a long day. He never realized how big or strong he was, but he was eternally gentle with the kids.
Casey was sometimes really challenging and misunderstood.
He scared the heck out of a good friend during a poker game. Casey barked at my buddy because he was sitting too close to me in his room. My friend didn’t understand that a headstrong dog requires a firm hand. Casey just wanted to show him who was boss.
Casey loved to show people it was his house. He showed this to my mother by humping her leg at least a dozen different times. I never stopped that one, because it was hilarious.
He liked to eat things and one day ate a unique toy that my infant son had. Corey, my son, didn’t sleep well and had a toy that soothed him. My wife and I were hard on Casey when he did it.
In his own way, he’d say sorry, show his puppy dog eyes and we’d move on.
Regardless of how poorly he behaved, he always came back. When he was about 8 months old, he somehow escaped my grip from the leash and darted toward a main road. I sprinted after him yelling, “Casey COME”. When I finally caught him, he laid at the edge of the road, waiting for me.
At the same park where he wreaked havoc with lacrosse players, he would sometimes dart ahead on a jog. A few times I lost sight of him and panicked, but he’d surface with a huge pant and want a treat or his head to be rubbed.
He did the same thing at our friends’ hunting cabin in the snow. But Casey never would miss the chance to be a lap dog, or get a belly rub, or a tight snuggle - so he’d sprint back.
Chessies are bred to be hunting dogs in the water. Casey was a mess in the water at first, but he became pretty proficient. I took him to a large river by my house. He took off, and got caught in moving water. After a few minutes of yelling, Casey came to his senses. And he came back.
I just came to expect that he’d always come back.
There were times when we discussed the challenges of having time for Casey, with three kids. Each time, despite his challenges, he proved worth it. He would never give up on us, he was family, and we could never give up on him.
When he got sick, in my heart I thought he’d take some medicine and get well. He’d had the same types of illnesses most dogs have - he got into the trash a few times, liked to eat chocolate and onions - but it would never last.
This was cancer, and Casey was almost 10 years old. We could have put him through very invasive surgery with results that were not guaranteed. He could have become incontinent or have more seizures.
We made the excruciating decision that putting him down was the right thing to do.
I made a mini bucket list of things I had to do with him in his last week. We played catch every day, I let him be a big old lap dog, we went on walks with the kids, we took pictures, we went on runs. Each time I fought back tears in front of the kids, and cried like a hungry infant with no one watching.
Any dog owner/lover knows the saddest scene in movie history — when Owen Wilson put his dog down in “Marley and Me”. I was dreading it with each passing moment.
Our last day was perfect Casey. He barked to eat in the morning, went outside to play catch, and walked with the kids. They were so happy going on a “Casey walk” and my son and daughter held his leash. He then barked on the way to the vet, panted on the floor, gave us the eyes, showed us love…then we said goodbye.
As the vet delicately asked us if we had anything else to say, I said (through sobs) “I love you so much, Casey. You were such a great dog”. My wife told Casey that she loved him. We kissed him and he went peacefully.
He gave us everything, all the time, always wanting to please his owners.
We couldn’t have been luckier to have him and his unconditional love in our lives for a decade.
Love you forever, best buddy. Rest in peace.