Stray brought family joy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 9, 2010

She showed up on our doorstep about 11 years ago. We always wondered how she got there because she was so small she could not climb the stairs by herself. In the back of our minds, we thought perhaps someone helped her make her entrance into our family but we never knew for sure.

That first morning I sat stroking her cream-colored fur holding her while she ate. Her tail wagged the whole time and she did what came to be an endearing trait – rolled over and presented her belly for rubbing.

The next morning I took her to the veterinarian’s and he pronounced her healthy but said she was barely old enough to be away from her mother, which made me feel more protective. He also said from the size of her paws she’d grow into a big dog.

That was hard to believe as I drove home with her wrapped in a towel curled up in my lap. However, he was right and she quickly added weight and height, her baby fuzz turning into soft fur and her weight close to the 100-pound mark when she was fully grown.

She became Casey when our youngest daughter decided that was the appropriate name, and her choosing a name was amazing since autism limits her communication skills, which made me think this dog was indeed special to capture my child’s attention.

To say Casey was a good dog is an understatement. As dogs go, she was the best, loving, gentle and happy. If dogs smile this one wore a grin all the time.

We took another trip to the vet to assure there would be no puppies. So, Casey had no responsibilities and her life was maybe dog paradise.

She roamed the woods, played in the water, chased squirrels, napped and ate. Along the way, she had friends. Angel, our border collie, was her companion until she died a few years ago. Then there is Bubbles; the neighbor’s dog who spends much of her time with us and pulled Casey out of her grief after Angel’s death.

Over the years, we’ve watched Casey’s antics with amusement. I laughed when she climbed into the hammock and laid her head on the pillow, looking somewhat human. She took over the round lounger on the deck thinking we were surely nice to buy her a big comfortable bed.

Casey greeted us every morning with a wag and her upturned belly. But as we all do, she got older. Even though she was in dog terms, elderly, she remained playful, showing up wet and covered in mud from some adventure, but the hot summers were hard on her and she napped more when it was hot.

A few days ago, she started spending most of her time resting, rousing up to eat, drink some water and move to a different spot in the yard. She wasn’t in pain and she still wagged and offered her belly for rubbing, though it was getting harder for her to roll over.

Sunday while I was out of town, she took a turn for the worse, sleeping most all day. My husband checked on her all night and Monday morning we called the vet to make a house call.

Before he arrived, Casey left this world. She spent her last days visiting her favorite places, resting on my in-laws’ porch, lying in the cool lake water, napping on the carport and finally sleeping under the old boat, her refuge during storms.

My husband found her Monday lying peacefully in the shade. He buried her beside Angel.

I’m sad because I’ll miss her wag and upturned belly. However, I’m so glad Casey showed up on our doorstep all those years ago because she brought joy and love with her. And for the rest of my life when I think of her, I’ll smile.