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2/6/96

An Eulogy for

Casey Jones Milbut

She was the best of friends. A few thoughts on the life and 2/2/96 loss of my best friend.

I got her as a puppy in Nov., 1982. I was 16 at the time, a junior in high school. My parents went shopping one day and came home with a small cardboard box that shook a little. They said that a lady in front of the store was giving them away. They gave me the box without further explanation and when I opened it I found inside a small-ish, black with white hi-lights, shepherd/miniature collie mutt. She was so cool! The hi-lights on her face formed eyebrows and surrounded her cheekbones so that as she got older, she became quite good at forming passable facial expressions depending on her mood. After a few days deliberation, I decided to name her Casey Jones, after a favorite song, which in later years became just Casey for short. (Also Casey-dog, Casey-log, Racey-dog, Racey-log, Spacey-dog,....etc., ad nausium ). My parents said that the lady who gave her to them said her birthday was September 22, same as mine!!! From the beginning she was my constant companion and best friend.

She grew to a maximum height of about a foot and a half (at the top of her head, pretty small dog for a shepherd-type, but except for her size and a bit of extra fur around her neck, she looked just like a miniature German Shepherd). As we got to know each other, I got to know her strange little quirks, like that when she did the body shake (the shake a wet dog does - only she wasn't wet), her mood was changing, like shaking off the last feeling and moving on to a new one. I could use this sign to tell when she was ready to go from quiet scratching and petting, to all out romp and wrastling, or from mischievous play like nipping and gnawing to a more passive activity like belly-rubs. (She LOVED belly-rubs!) I could ask her simple questions and she would answer with one lick for yes and two for no! (I know that sounds a little hard to believe, but I swear it's the truth!) She could find anything that she understood the word for. "Where's my other sneaker Casey? Go get it!", or "Go get the baseball mitt!, Where is it! Go get it!", and she would be off to root around until, invariably, she would come back with the missing object. I didn't teach her most of the words she knew, she just picked them up by being unusually (for a dog) attentive and caring. This was an extremely smart dog!

She followed me everywhere, (and sometimes I followed her!) Every time I stood up she was there. Every time I sat down she was there. She was there on the bottom of my bed, sleeping on my feet, when I went to sleep at night and when I got up in the morning. She was the best foot warmer a guy ever had. She was a champion squirrel/bird chaser (although she never really caught many). I do remember she once caught a Robin though, when she was about two. It was scared s---less when Casey brought it to me, but it wasn't hurt at all. She had caught it and was holding it gently in her mouth when she presented it to me proudly as a present. "Look what I got you, Dave!". When I took the bird from her, I just opened up my hands and it flew away.

She loved the snow! I live in the northeast (Jersey) and we've had some pretty nasty storms here. She would follow me outside when I was shoveling and would run circles around me, leaping, bounding and rolling through three and four foot drifts (up to 6 and 8 foot in the "Blizzard of '88!) while I trudged along with the shovel. I must admit here feeling a little jealous because she could play in the stuff while I had to work. I dumped more than a couple of shovels full of snow on her back! She would bark and roll and chase me, biting the hem of my pants legs, trying to pull me down in playful retaliation! Or sometimes she would stand her ground as a shovel-full of snow arched towards her, and bark and try to bite the snow out of the air before it hit her! She made it past this past blizzard of '96, but although we had a brief romp in the back yard, it only lasted a tenth of the time we played when she was young before I saw that she was tired and cold and I let her in and went back to work shoveling. Oh well. Anyway, she liked snowball fights too. I would lob a snowball and she would dodge or catch it - she was actually better at dodging and catching than I was at throwing. Oh yea, I almost forgot! She could catch absolutely anything in mid-air! Have you ever seen the Blues Brothers where Dan Ackroyd flips a shrimp off-handedly over his shoulder and John Balushi caught it in his mouth with barely a move of his head? Casey taught him that trick! She could catch anything you threw at her from almost any distance, and although her eyes got bad towards the end there and you had to throw things from closer and closer, even in the last week I had her, if she saw it coming, it had zero chance of hitting the ground!

She loved the summer too! We had a pool, and when she was still a puppy she would sit and watch when my friends and I went swimming. I splashed her a few times and she barked happily back. Suddenly she decided to come and chastise me for my arrogance. That was the beginning of her life as a champion swimmer. She absolutely loved the pool! Whenever I went in - a running start, leaping into a dive - she would be just a quarter-step behind me, running full-tilt, leaping off the edge with me and making the greatest splash when we both came down. I would start to swim across the pool and she would chase me, paddling close behind. When she was almost about to catch me, I would dive under her and come out on the other side, she would turn and chase me again. When she got tired, (she could go for about a half an hour at a time back then), she would swim over to the ladder, put her paws on the top rung and climb out. She loved to "eat splashes"! She would lean over the side of the pool, barking and snapping at the splashes I made by holding on to the edge and kicking both feet frantically. (Although I kept this to a minimum because of the chlorine water.) Man, did she ever love to "eat splashes"!

When Casey was about 5, my parents decided to get another dog. I guess they figured that Casey was entirely mine and wanted a dog of their own, or maybe they wanted a "friend" for her. I'm not sure of the reasons behind it, but it turned out to be a really lousy idea. They got a very small, coal-black, miniature-toy poodle, which they named Puff . Now, my parents had previously owned a silver-haired beauty of a poodle - full sized - named Suzette, and I guess they were trying to recapture that, but this dog was nothing like Suzette. When I say that this dog was small I mean that my wife doesn't own a purse smaller than this dog, and you know the size of some of those formal purses! And temper! This little wretch, from day one, owned the house! She was totally jealous of Casey and we had to keep their food separate so the little monster wouldn't eat it all! She would nip and snap if she was upset and would whine until she got her way. It sounded kind of like fingernails on a blackboard. Puff was also definitely wired! Think of her as small black hand-bag on amphetamines. Casey took it all in stride. She never nipped or snapped back at her, although she was provoked ceaselessly. She would just walk away, or lay there sighing and looking at me like, "Ahem, Dave, would you please be so kind as to remove this small black furry thing from my ear (...tail, leg, or other affected part of anatomy)." I would smile and pick up the rampaging beast, toss her into the hall and close the door. Casey would always give me a sigh of utter gratitude. Finally my parents gave up. An aunt visiting from California had commented on how cute this "dog" was (I use the term dog very loosely here - demon would have been a better description- or maybe ferret), and my Dad jumped on the opportunity to pawn her off. I hear she is now the queen and owner of a home, family and several small horses somewhere out on the west coast. Puff was part of the family, or rather she barely tolerated the rest of us, for about a year. Hey Aunt Clara, if you see this remember, it took the Black Plague to free the serfs in Medieval Europe!

Casey was a world-class "grub". She loved nothing more than to lie on my feet while I was eating and wait for scraps. Later in life, she had perfected this technique to an art form by mixing the passive "sad-eyes" and laying on the feet, with the active nudging, walking-under-the-legs, circling and heavy-sighs necessary to procure a scrap or snack from anyone she came into contact with who had some food. Along these same lines, she was also an "attention-grub". She was a great watchdog and had a bark about five times to large for her size, although this was about the only time you heard her bark. She was a very quiet dog, preferring to express herself in low grunts, sighs, yips or nudges and body language. When I would open the door she would stand back and watch my reaction. If it was someone I knew, she recognized this, did the old sniff routine and then settled in to the serious business of getting "scratches". If not she put on a fearless front (even though she was a pacifist - or chicken - at heart!) and continued barking in an even louder and more aggressive way as if to say, "OK Dave, I got 'em at bay, what should we do with 'em!". When I finally let a person in, recognized them as someone I/we were not hostile to and introduced them to Casey, She would settle down. Whenever a guest was sitting on the couch she would simply approach them and keep right on walking until her head popped up between their knees and their leg rested on her back. She would stare up at them with those wonderfully expressive eyes. This was always good for a "What a cute doggie!" comment to me, and some free "scratchins" and "rubbins" for her. She never bit anyone in her entire life and I never met anyone who said a bad thing about her disposition. She was totally lovable, and the more you gave her, the more you got back in return. She would nudge my hands off the piano to get scratches, and settle her head in my lap as I played guitar. She loved music and would come from wherever she was when ever I started to play. She was also the great consoler. I lost both of my grandmothers and Casey was there to hold me up. She always knew when something had me down and would look at me with a slight tilt to her head seeming to say, "I know, Dave. It's tough, you gotta hang in there." She would lick my face until I had to laugh in spite of myself. I gotta remember this now......

We lived together like a brother and sister within my parents house for about eight years. (My real brothers and sister moved out on their own when I was about 7, so I was really like and only child.) As we both got a little older she still only had eyes for me, while I met a girl (of my own species), fell in love and got married. Right away Casey took to Gail and accepted her into our lives. She became so loyal to Gail that I could play around like I was attacking her and Casey would pull my pants legs and bark like crazy until I stopped. What a great dog. We bought a house the next town over and moved in, my wife, myself and my dog. There was a nice big yard for Casey to run in.

After living here for about a year we began to notice that Casey was starting to show some signs of aging, she was getting a little slower and limping slightly, the vet said that her had a slight touch of arthritis in her hips, nothing to worry about yet. Also she was getting some gray spreading through her silky, black hair. About this time, in January of 1993, we acquired a small cat-like beast from my step-mother. We were told that he was also a "mutt" - mixed Siamese, Persian, Himalayan, and on his mothers side, about one-sixteenth Lynx. That sounded like a good name, Lynx! (Just to mess with the vet's secretary's head a little when she asked the cat's name, I told her Linkamus - sounded more dignified somehow - and it stuck. Linkamus "Lynx" Milbut!) Now, it used to be that I would as soon kick a cat as pet one, but this little guy, from the beginning was different. Like Puff, he immediately came into our lives and took over. Unlike Puff, he was so slick about it that we didn't notice it until too late! He would do something to piss you off - blowing hair-balls on the kitchen table comes immediately to mind - and you would go to berate him and he would be so cute and innocent-looking that you just cleaned up the mess and let him off with a stern warning (ignored) not to do it again. At first Lynx was very jealous of any attention we payed to Casey and he harassed her constantly, but as time went on they became fast friends. Since my wife and I both work and are gone all day long, the two animals had no company but each other. Lynx is a house cat, never outside because we had his front claws removed. We didn't want to take the chance of him getting into a fight without the defense of his front claws. After we had Lynx for about a year, we began to notice something very strange about this cat. I think he thinks he is a dog! A very small, weird looking dog to be sure, but a dog none the less. I guess since his only constant companion for all these years was Casey, he began to act like her. He runs for the door when someone knocks, standing around the corner, ready to pounce on someone when they walk in. Lots of other things too, but I digress, this is about my beloved Casey-dog! The point is, he and Casey became fast friends, despite the fact that he will NOT tolerate the presence of ANY other animal in our home (including his own brother, who my mother-in-law owns)!

When Casey hit about eleven, she began to slow down even more noticeably, the vet said that the arthritis was taking it's slow toll on her. She recommended half an aspirin twice a week. One day a friend of mine came over and we were hanging out playing football on the computer. He forgot something outside and went to get it, while I remained upstairs in the computer room. Suddenly I heard Casey frantically barking from outside and out the front of the house! I ran down the stairs, skipping several and tore through the screen door to get outside. Our next door neighbors had two big-mean dogs, a Rotweiler and a German Shepherd. The Shepherd was a lot meaner than the Rotweiler. Anyway, Casey was spinning like a whirling-dervish between the two, much-larger dogs, snapping and barking loudly as the two behemoths attacked her from both sides. A few seconds after I arrived the Rotweiler got her jaws around Casey's neck and the Shepherd had a grip on her butt, right under the tail! As I turned to get a shovel from my porch, my friend took two or three steps and kicked the Rotweiler as hard as he could in the side/stomach with his steel-tipped work-boots on. The dog didn't even flinch and my friend later said it was like kicking a rock! Seeing Casey's head in the mouth of that monster, I was sure she was done for! The owners of the unattended dogs finally came out and one tried to grab the Shepherd by the collar to pull him off. The dog turned and snapped his hand and he immediately punched the dog in the head. This caused him to back off. As soon as the Shepherd stopped, the Rotweiler let go and just walked away. I have no doubt that the Rottie had thought it was a game and was only playing, had it really been serious, Casey would have been dead on the spot. After calling the police we rushed Casey to the vet. The only damage I could see was a nip on the outer edge of her (sorry)... butt-hole, and a small cut on her neck. The doctor cleaned the wounds and gave her some antibiotics to prevent infection, as well as a rabies booster. When we got home, the neighbors were on the porch with the Rotweiler, and two of them were loading the Shepherd into a pickup truck.. One of them had his hand bandaged. I asked where they were taking the dog and they said that they were going to the bay, a beach in our town about a block from where we live. We sat outside for a while until we heard a loud bang come from the direction of the bay. Minutes later the two neighbors in the pickup truck came back without the Shepherd. They had shot their own dog!!!!!!!!!!! This was confirmed by one of them saying that the dog was rotten anyway and had to be put down! He said the dog was fed raw meat and beaten regularly to make him mean! I mumbled something, made up an excuse and went inside. My wife called the ASPCA and the men were charged and fined for cruelty to animals! But it is a sad thing when you have people absolutely RUIN a beautiful animal like a dog! A couple days later, I got a letter from the city saying that, although Casey's shots were up to date, they could find no records on the two attacking dogs and that because of the cities rabies laws, we were to confine Casey to our property for a period of one year (YEAR!). So Casey was only allowed out back or in the car with us when we visited my parents. No leisurely walks to the post office or park for a whole year! Man that really SUCKED! But I was extremely proud of my dog and told and re-told the story of how my little pup had held off those two ravaging beasts for about five minutes with only minor scratches to show for it! What a scapper! It was the first and only fight she ever got into, and the only time I saw her bite anything besides a steak or chew toy!

Casey did great for a while after that, she seemed like a five-year old again. She was running and jumping around like old times! I think the rush of adrenaline added a few years to her life in the end, because as I said before, she had been getting rather slow before the attack. No she didn't get rabies and the year passed quicker than I expected it to. (Now that I look back, all 14 years passed faster than I expected them to!)

The next few years flew by with nothing but the everyday things happening. I look back now and kick myself for not appreciating her more. Things just got into a routine and she was always there. About a year ago she got too weak to jump up onto the bed anymore, so she just slept on the floor next to me, always in reach if I put my hand down to give her some scratchins. Around last August (95) she developed a bladder infection that had her going in the house constantly. There was also some blood in her feces. We took her to the vet who put her on medication. After a couple of months the medication became less effective. In October we bought a gate to keep her in the kitchen during the day so she couldn't go on the rug any more. That was hard. She had always been out all day and never had a problem, but, you gotta do what you gotta do. In November it was back at the vets where we found out that she didn't have long to go before she was going to be in real pain from the arthritis and the recurring bladder problems. We made it through Christmas together though and aside from an occasional twinge, I never really realized what it was the doctor was telling me.

February 2, 1996 started out pretty normal. I was up early (well, that's not normal, usually my wife gets up first!) and as I was standing in front of the TV finishing my coffee, Casey kinda let go behind me. I didn't know it at first. When I turned around, there was a big pile of poo sitting on the carpet behind me. For some reason, I didn't yell at her. I said "Poor girl", scratched her head, let her out and cleaned it up, no fuss, no muss. I went to work that day and my wife stayed home on a vacation day. Around noon she called me saying that Casey had piddled in the house about seven times and she was worried. I told her to take her to the vet and have them express her bladder again. (A disgusting procedure that is kind of like popping a big zit inside her butt - say no more!) I got another call from Gail and she is crying. I know what comes next. I tell her to wait and don't do anything until I get there. I left work immediately and drove right to the vets, crying all the way. I got there and Gail was out front with Casey walking her. Both my girls ran right up to me. Casey seemed fine, but when I talked to the vet she told me that Casey was now in a lot of pain. We decided to put her to sleep. I waited for about a half hour, Casey sat at my feet. Every time she moved I saw the drops of blood on the floor where she had just been sitting. Then we went into the vets office, put Casey up on the table. The vet said it would be very quick and painless, that basically she was going to give Casey an overdose of a barbiturate and that she would just fall asleep. I held her head and talked to her the whole time. She looked at me and licked my face (once for yes) because I think she knew what was going on and approved, and was saying good-bye. The doctor inserted a leader needle into her left front paw, right at the bend. I knew she got right into a vain as some blood spilled onto the table. The leader was filled with a brown liquid. Then she attached the syringe to the leader and asked if I was ready. I told Casey over and over that she was a good girl as I shook my head in the affirmative. I remember watching the brown fluid from the leader go in and thinking 'I can still stop this, I can still stop this!', but I also remember the pain Casey was in and I knew it was best to just let her go. Soon the brown liquid was gone and the clear liquid from the syringe was going in. "It's ok Casey", I lied to her, "Everything is going to be ok. You're a good girl." She looked right in my eyes and they locked on me. When her head got heavy and I let her lay down easy, she kept watching me. She died with her eyes open and I was the last thing she saw in this world.

Why do friends have to say good-bye. I know it's part of life and can't be stopped but I would give almost anything for a little more time together. It is now March 28th - I started writing this on February 6th - and it still hurts like it was yesterday. Over the past couple of months I've often wondered if I did the right thing at the right time. I can't say yes or no, but it is done and there's no way to take back the choices we make once they're made. I hope that someday I'll see my good girl again when I cross the "Rainbow Bridge" to join her and other loved ones who have gone before. Thanks for reading. I miss you Racey-log!

Good-bye.