There are dogs you can greet with “what a nice doggie-woggie” and a pat on the head.
My Cassie was not one of them.
Cassie was not a pleaser; she didn’t shake hands or making puppy-eyes. She never begged for food.
She was, fundamentally, a wolf. A haughty, beautiful, proud wolf. A duchess.
She was loyal to only her family and not all mankind. She guarded them constantly. But she was not beholden to them for her existence. She tolerated them because the opposable thumbs were handy.
She was not a Good Dog. She didn’t wear a collar.
She loved her corner of the couch, her pillow, meat with bones, long drives and her family. She liked being cuddled, but only for a little while, if we had been good.
She wouldn’t even let my grandmother into our home if it were empty. She was ferocious and suspicious. She grabbed food from table-tops, kitchen tops and the cooking range. She knew how to slide grills and work handles.
She had, we are certain, a sixth sense. She used various barks to indicate the trust-worthiness of a person.
If you could be trusted, you were allowed to sit down after the welcome bark. If you couldn’t, you didn’t make it beyond the front door.
You could not touch one of us around her. Not even in jest. My maternal uncle, who greets me with a whack, could never be left in the room alone with her.
There is only one person, beyond the four of us, into whose lap she leaped and settled down to. I married him.
On the day that I put her down, she had bit my mother when she tried to shift her into a more comfortable position. Cassie did not like to be told how and where to sleep.
By the time she went, at the age of 15, she had lost her hearing, partly her eye-sight, the control of her bowels, the use of her lower limbs, but none of her virginity.
She disliked other dogs, and it drove her mad if they brushed against her fur. She jumped over puddles and hated what rains did to her fur.
For a princess like that, it was the indignity of having to lie in her own faeces and vomit that I couldn’t bear. We couldn’t clean her because she could not handle the cold that came with wetness.
Not all dogs lick when pleased to see you — Boo head-butts, Rusty crawls in between your legs.
Cassie would hold our hand in her jaws and make a nibbling motion. It hurt.
By the time she left, she was so weak that only a few drops of anaesthetic did their job. She had lived without food for five days and fifteen injections. She was, as merlin said, “Too tired to go on, too stubborn to let go. You’re going to go like that.”
We had to tie her jaw. And after she was gone, we stood still for a while, sure she would get up and attack us for tying her down. This kind of behaviour really pissed her off.
But she didn’t. She just let out her a laboured breath while I was watching the needle come out because it slipped her vein. I asked the doctor if he needed me to hold her leg to find her vein again, and realised she hadn’t drawn a breath.
Just like that, my precious dog was gone. To a place where ankles are plentiful and wolves aren’t domesticated into dogs.
All that was left was the doctor telling me how she wasn’t clinically dead, “because sometimes, the heart is still beating for even 20 minutes, though there is no glucose or oxygen being circulated.”
Thank you for the precise assessment, doctor. How wonderful is your bed-side manner.
I know she loved me. I hope she knows how dearly I love her.