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July 16, 2002

Then There's Casey

Now, growing up we always had dogs, or at least since I was really young. We didn't get a cat until I was in high school, and they, like the dogs, were outside animals. So when my own family started to grow, I assumed we'd eventually have a dog. Since we live in town, but didn't have a fence, a dog was out of the question until I scraped together the money to put up a fence. I didn't want just a tiny fence, but an area big enough that the kids could play in without worrying about them heading into the street.

So we finally got the fence up, and started looking for a dog. We went through several dogs when I was little, but the one that lasted the longest was a Border Collie mix (The mix part means it was a mutt of mostly unknown ancestry, but the best guess is that it's probably blah, blah, blah) She looked like a Border Collie in color, but in body shape she was a touch smaller and just a little off. She wound up having I don't know how many litters, which I assume were all given away, at least I know I saw several, years later as adults, owned by various people. Since we never intentionally had her bred, the best we could tell people (as my dad always joked) was that the father was from the good part of town. 

So we looked around for a Border Collie. Border Collies are supposed to be the smartest breed. And I know I loved the Border Collie (mix) I grew up with, but don't recall her being to much of a brain surgeon. We'd had stupider dogs, but then in most cases that's kind of like saying we had wetter water. I've always liked dogs, but they can be really dumb.

For some reason I imagined that the Border Collie pup we got, Casey, would be a certifiable genius. I always liked the idea of having an inside dog, but as the months progressed it was obvious that Casey just didn't get it. The idea is that a dog won't mess in it's own den, but your average house is way too big for a dog to think of as a den, so eventually they have to decide which room is the "den" and which room is the bathroom. The two key things I was told was to make sure any mess they made was thoroughly cleaned with something that would remove all the odor, and to make sure the dog had plenty of opportunity to go outside and use the bathroom there. That's what we were told. Casey must not have heard that part.

No matter how long I would stay outside with her, she'd never poop. She'd run and play and try to jump on me, but never seem to show any interest in taking care of business. But as soon as we got back inside, she lay a big one out, right on the carpet, and punctuate it with a large wet spot. So when springtime came, she found herself outside in a doghouse. Now to a dog, the den is where the pack lives, and the only reason a dog gets kicked out of the den is because they're in disgrace. It never occurred to her that that disgrace might have something to do with the large piles of steaming doggie doo she'd leave all over the house. No, she figured it was because she wasn't doing her job as guardian of the pack. So she decided to show us that she was well deserving of our attention by viciously and loudly barking at any and everything that moved, at any time of the day or night. She also wanted to demonstrate her dedication by making sure the "pups" of the pack (our kids) were safe, and of course the way to do this was to watch them closely and if they moved too fast, grab the back of their shirt in her teeth, and slow them down. The result was a long series of shirts torn to shreds, and neighbors complaining about the barking. 

Casey wasn't mean. Any dog basically had three methods of using its mouth to control someone, gripping their clothes, gripping their skin and ripping the flesh off the bone, The last is of course the option all dogs have, but most choose not to exercise. Casey has never broken anyone's skin with a bite, and in fact, to my knowledge has never bit anyone other than playing, hard enough for it to actually hurt, with the exception of my nephew who stumbled next to one of the kids which looked as if he was lurching toward them, Casey sent him a quick message that that was not allowed, which was followed by a quick message from me that she'd better not ever do that again. If a dog wants to hurt you, they can, easily and quickly. Casey would use the first option with the kids when they played, until we made her stop, by establishing that she was not in authority over the kids. She's accepted this for my 9 year-old, and sorta has for my 8 and 7 year-old but hasn't really got it for my four year-old. She would never hurt them intentionally, but her idea of the proper method of correction is kinda hard on the clothing budget, so we make sure the four year-old doesn't play in the yard by herself. A few years ago Casey dragged my, now 7 year-old, around the yard by his shirt for several minutes before we heard him yelling and told her to stop. He wasn't hurt at all, but really mad. She couldn't figure out what she'd done wrong, but hasn't done it since.

Finally we had to start keeping her in at night. We'd shut her up in the boys' room, and put her out first thing in the morning. This would only work for a few days before, for some unknown reason, she'd decide the boys' room was actually the bathroom. The tidiness of the boys' room aside, my guess is that since they would let her sleep in the bunk bed, she assumed it was the den, and the rest of the room, outside the den, and open for "business".

Well, the neighbor that had been doing all the complaining finally moved, so we put her back out side, and gave her more toys to play with. The new neighbor has a large German Shepherd so Casey didn't feel the need to threaten everything with loud barks since he wasn't either. We bring her inside every few days so she knows she's still a "member of the pack" but have to keep an eye on her or she'll head to her favorite pooping spot and leave us a present. She's also chained now that she's learned how to jump over the fence. Several times in the past few days we've had repairmen come to fix something, who tried to go into the back yard. If I hadn't known better I'd have thought Casey had rabies they way she growled and barked at these guys. I mean she was sounding vicious. The funny thing is that after I sent her inside, and they started working, one of the kids would accidentally let Casey out. The repairman would get a little nervous, but Casey, now could see that they had my permission to be in the yard, and would pester them wanting them to pet her.

I put a small tent up for the kids to play in a few months back, and they wanted to sleep all night in it. Living in town, that made me a little nervous because that was right about the time the girl in Utah was kidnapped. But then I realized that any would be kidnapper would only have a few locks to face if they wanted to get at our kids in their bedroom, but they'd have Casey to face if they tried to get at them in the tent. And when they're in the tent, Casey's life suddenly has immediate purpose. She is the kids' self proclaimed personal guard. She lays down right at the door of the tent, and does not move, does not bark, just watches. She doesn't even need to be chained up, because she won't leave her post. She just waits for any stranger stupid enough to get near her charges. You can almost see her smile slightly and narrow her eyes and whisper, "Come on evil badguys . . . make . . . my . . . day."


Posted by Jack Lewis at July 16, 2002 05:43 PM