January 12th 2005 9:02 am
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My family made the very difficult decision to put Cassie to sleep after 15 years of tail wags and ball tosses. She was happy until the last breath, even wagging her tail as the anesthetic was administered. Her grizzled tail and snaggle tooth smile let us know that this was the right thing to do as we held her in our arms.
We all miss her dearly and know that she is happier now to be free of her arthritic pain and feeble limbs so she can chase balls to her hearts content.
January 5th 2005 2:29 pm
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In Memoriam Cassie Barnes
January 1, 1990 – January 5, 2005
An extraordinary addition to the Barnes family arrived at Sara and Andy’s home on Valentine’s Day1990. She was an adorable black lab puppy who wore a red heart around her neck saying, “To Andy with love, Betty” (her mother). Cassie, the unforgettable, had arrived.
She was sociable and loving from the very beginning and we gave her the name “Cassie”, saying that we would call her Cassie when she was good and “Cassandra” if she needed occasional correcting. We had selected her a month earlier, when she was two weeks old, because she stood out among her seven siblings as the one who exhibited the most affection, enthusiasm and confidence. These proved to be lifelong traits as Cassie grew to become a key member of our family and the one who was invariably enthusiastic, happy, eager to play ball and go for a walk or a run and so much more.
Within days of arriving at our household, she had bonded with the members of the family, eagerly staying at the side of her new pack members, particularly at meal time. The fact that she was the cutest puppy ever, did not seem to go to her head (though her parents clearly were “daffy on the subject of girls” - referring to Cassie). As Cassie grew to maturity, her exceptional qualities started to become more apparent. We all came to realize this was a dog who possessed boundless quantities of the life force – pure exuberance, unflagging enthusiasm, remarkable athleticism, exceptional devotion and unconditional love to members of her pack. She showed gracious civility to all others, patience greater then the saints (with a few entirely forgivable exceptions), and forbearance including a capacity for peaceful acceptance of all eventualities, including things that made her sad, like her parents going away on trips (“Again”? we could see in her eyes). In time, it was clear that Cassie possessed super human qualities, in spite of her modest station as a Barnes Family member masquerading as a dog! Like her great predecessor, Zephyr, she had the ability to endure endlessly with grace, while her family members went out into the world or engaged in preoccupying activities, and then she could spring into affectionate action, the moment she was called upon, as though it was her greatest pleasure to wait patiently for hours to have a few minutes of her family member’s time. With no formal education or other spiritual training, Cassie became in time an alter ego of sorts, a knowing, highly sentinent, very evolved being who seemed to understand all or most of the universe’s most important truths, even without human conversation and certainly with! Her capacity for wise behavior often outdistanced her family members and we sometimes felt she could tell us what we needed to know, without ever speaking a word – including some profound thoughts. And on top of all that, she was a beautiful, well-proportioned statuesque black lab with big eyelashes, who elegantly posed lying down, with crossed front paws.
But lest you think Cassie might have been lacking in mortal shortcomings, it should be pointed out that she had occasional lapses. Doggie obedience training was never one of her favorites and her father often described her as a “naughty dog”, but always made this comment with a proud and large grin. She exhibited an independent trait throughout her life. She was never fond of cats, was most reluctant to share a meal with a fellow dog, occasionally grabbed tennis balls out of family member’s hands, and was known to bark uncontrollably when approaching a favorite beach like Stinson. She was well known for taking off on periodic sprees, sometimes for a swim in Blithedale creek, sometimes to hang out with other dogs at the Depot in downtown Mill Valley, and rarely to take an involuntary trip to the local dog pound. As a younger dog, Cassie would sometimes drop by a neighbor’s house, entering through their doggie door and helping herself to their dog’s dinner, without so much as a thank you note! And truthfully, she preferred human meals to her own.
This brings us to our favorite stories about Cassie’s escapades. Andy remembers her very personalized companionship during his dreariest days of working at home in the early 90’s when Cassie would wait patiently at his side while he typed letters and resumes and finally nudge Andy to stop and play ball with her. Like clock work each afternoon at 4:00 PM., Cassie would insist that they both take a break and go outside and play. It was just what Andy needed! Hanne remembers visiting the house on the Vineyard from a busy career in New York along with her former Smith classmates and collapsing on the downstairs guest bed for some girl time with her friends, only to have an exuberant Cassie leap up on the bed to join the gang for a little girl time, playfully licking all in the process. Sara remembers Cassie with her sharp intuition saving her from a lightening strike and hail storm in Denver, and also savors her memory of Cassie organizing a group of disparate kids on a beach at Martha’s Vineyard to play ball with her, creating instant community and joy in the process. We all remember Cassie’s fondness of jumping up on the bed and making herself at home, even if her fellow bedmates might be thoroughly squashed in the process. And we all remember her occasional forages for kitchen snacks, not intended for her lips! Andy remembers Cassie’s special joy in sharing a Vineyard vacation with Tucker’s dog, Miles, a soul mate male lab near her age. Chuck often referred to her as that “dear dog”. Bruce remembers Cassie curling up in front of the fireplace, wearing her special Christmas collar and thumping her tail in contentment. Hanne and Sara remember Cassie enjoying “doggie TV”, endlessly watching Hanne’s hamsters spin on their exercise wheel. She was a big hit the day she spontaneously jumped into the Healy’s pool and swam several laps before being helped out. Hanne remembers Cassie’s loving and intuitive nature when she helped to console Hanne with special licks and affectionate reassurances, following H’s painful episode at the dentist’s office. Andy remembers her extraordinary attraction to water (particularly the ocean) and her fearless leaps into large waves and competent ability to swim through almost anything. Her favorite activity was a long walk and swim at Stinson Beach followed by a meal of generous scraps at the tableside of her parents at a local outdoor restaurant. Her least favorite activity was doggie baths and grooming but she endured all this stoically. Her cousin Rosie (a lovable Beagle) remembers Cassie as a big sister and aunt who provided endless cuddling opportunities and playful interaction.
Her pet names included “Rosie girl”, “Dad’s darling sweetheart”, “that naughty girl”, “Dad’s really big dog”, “the princess”, “Miss Crossed Paws”, and “that desog”.
Cassie personified the notions of trust, constancy, unconditional love, playfulness and a joy in celebrating the simple pleasures of life (sniffing and stick procurement were particularly big on her list along with rolling in muddy puddles and going to the MV dog run with her cousins). She was always Game. She knew and accepted her place in the universe and made the most of it throughout her 15 years of life – so remarkably well-lived and with such simplicity. She managed to combine a capacity for sensitivity to other’s feelings (complete with doe eyes) with a winsome way of helping all around her get on with the fun. We greatly miss her companionship and her remarkable spirit – such an inspiration to us all! She was an all-star champion who blessed our life in some transforming ways, and she will never be forgotten.