Simone Reyes began her rise to fame as the assistant to hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. On the Oxygen reality show Running Russell Simmons, television audiences fell in love with this sweet, sexy star as she stole every scene in which she appeared! Simone is a celebrity in her own right and a huge dog lover and animal activist with more than 9,000 followers on Twitter.
She’s also a tattooed lady, and on February 1, she memorialized her beloved dog Cassidy, who recently passed away, by adding his name to the others permanently inked on her arm. Simone stayed with Dogster during and after her tattoo session to bravely discuss some sad but important topics all of us can relate to.
You recently lost your dog Cassidy. We’re so sorry to hear that.
It’s been a very difficult few months and an impossibly hard couple of years. During this time I lost all the animals I adopted as a young adult: Wanu, my soul cat, and Diablo my King, both black cats, rescues of course. Then Pikachu, who came from the shelter with Cassidy. She was a senior and had three legs. I had to let her go at the Animal Medical Center, but Dr. Pamela Schwartz helped her to the Bridge and it was done with love and respect despite the hospital setting. Then Stevie, my 16-and-a-half-year-old deaf pit mix who I found on my way to ride the Cyclone in Coney Island so many years ago. Then I lost Cassidy not even six months later.
Cassidy for the last month had been very ill and given his fragile state, diagnostics were risky. He also had dementia.It became clear that his quality of life wasn’t there anymore.As a teen I lost my beloved cats Love and Gypsy, both rescues as well.I have suffered a lot of losses in my life, and I can tell you it never gets easier.
How old was Cassidy and what were the circumstances of his death?
Cassidy was a rescue, so of course guessing his age is just that – a guess. I would estimate him to have been 14 to 16 years old when I helped him pass.I had a trusted vet, Dr. Danielle Dalton from City Pets, come to my apartment to help him cross.
I have tried to live by the oath of “Better a day too soon rather than a minute too late” when it comes to helping a beloved companion animal cross over. However, that doesn’t make it any easier to play G-d and make that gut-wrenching decision.I know that there are advocates of allowing an animal to die a natural death.For me, I treat my animals as I would want to be treated. So, when I am old, tired, suffering, and in pain I won’t want a “natural death” for myself! I’ll want a lot of drugs.
It came to a point where it was either keep him completely knocked out on drugs, or understand he was suffering.Suffering is simply not acceptable to me. When you know the end is near and there’s no miracle cure, I would rather help an animal companion pass peacefully at home with help.
Why was losing Cassidy especially hard?
Losing all of my animals was especially hard. Losing Cassidy was particularly heart-crushing because he was the last of the pack.Having dementia during the last part of his life meant that I had to be very hands on with his care – it bonded us very deeply.I miss everything about him. Even as I was cleaning up any accidents he had (which surprisingly, even at the end, he was still able to hold until he got to a weewee pad or the yard) or rushing home from work or a dance class to be with him, I knew that it was an honor and a privilege to mother him through his twilight years. I was always acutely aware that this was a gift.
Do you have any advice for your fellow Dogsters on coping with grief after a beloved dog dies?
Be kind to yourself. Whatever the circumstances of your companion animal’s passing, there will be guilt. Did I let him or her go too soon? Wait too long? Try to be kind to yourself.Honor their memory with rituals, shrines, etc. Make them a part of your life in another way.Never forget them. I believe that they can still hear us speaking to them from beyond. I believe that without question.
Did it help to Tweet about Cassidy? Were your Twitter followers sympathetic?
When I did my TV show Running Russell Simmons, I gained a lot of Twitter followers. Many of those followers had been intrigued and curious about my lifestyle as a vegan animal rights activist.I am so proud to say that I helped convert many to the vegan lifestyle, which means that they are saving more than 150 animals a year!
When I lost Stevie and then Cassidy, I was sharing a lot of my pain on Twitter as well as photos.The response was incredible. My animals have had so many prayer tweets from all over the globe. For example, one of my vegan convert followers, @Guambabie, asked how old my dogs were when they passed and then added up those estimations and took a vow of Twitter silence to honor them – 52 days. It never ceases to amaze me. I call them my vegan Mafia. That is just one example.
Another is a follower who went vegan for a week in honor of Stevie’s passing, and then stayed vegan. That means these kids of mine are literally saving animal lives even after their passing.Makes me teary.
What inspired you to honor Cassidy’s memory with a tattoo?
I have all of my animals tattooed on my arm (I have also rescued many hamsters and mice, and while I don’t have them all listed by name, they are there as well). I also have the words ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVIST tattooed on my back shoulder, and a Spanish saying written in Gaelic (I’m Irish and Spanish) that is also a nod to my animals. Translated, it says, “Where There Is Love, There Is Pain.”This was a reminder to me that even though typically we outlive our fur kids, it’s worth all the pain just to have them in our lives – even for a short time.
Where on your body does the tattoo for Cassidy appear?
It joins all the others on my arm.
Is it an image and lettering, or just letters? How long did it take to apply?
The tattoo, like the others, will be all letters. One color: black. It will only take a few minutes.
Who designed the tattoo?
Scott Campbell of Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn.Scott is the best and he is a personal friend. We met through our mutual friend, Justin Theroux, who is also a huge dog lover and rescuer.His dogs Pooma and Lou Lou were lifelong friends of Stevie’s, and then later Cassidy and Pikachu. They are all now in Heaven waiting for us.
What are some of your most treasured memories of Cassidy?
I have banked so many treasured memories of Cassidy … I am a lucky Momma.I had initially gone to the shelter to get a senior three-legged lady I had read about, sans photo, on Petfinder. When I arrived there, I found Pikachu in the cage with Cassidy. I asked if they were a package deal as they seemed to be family.They explained that they would be adopted out separately,but when I saw how unglued Cassidy became when I took Peekie out of the cage, I knew I would be going home with two.Stevie was about ten years old at the time and not thrilled with the additions (nor were my cats), but Pikachu and Cassidy respected them so much that they all became one happy pack.
Did Cassidy ever appear with you on TV?
Cassidy’s photo is on the PETA website and his photos have appeared in numerous interviews as stills.
Are you keeping Cassidy’s ashes? If so, in what type of urn?
I just ordered a laser photo urn for his ashes.It will have his photo on the urn with the inscription “Cassidy: Eternally Loved Handsome Sweet Darling Boy, The Wheels on the Bus Go Round & Round Til We Meet Again” – that’s the song my ex and I used to sing to him. It will be lovely.
It’s so hard, but for the last few animals I have lost I go with the body to the crematorium for a private viewing. You are able to give them a final kiss goodbye (although it’s just their body, the shell … it’s so apparent that their spirit has lifted and is free) and then watch the body go into the oven. Depending on the size, it takes an hour or two and then you go home with a warm tin with your beloved’s ashes. This is not for the weak, but you are assured the ashes are those of your companion animal.When I signed up to be his mother I signed up for the whole deal.
I never understand companion animal parents who say “Oh, I’m sending a friend/partner to euthanize him/her, I can’t bear to see it.” Hey, my opinion is you STAY. You put your own feelings aside and you stay through it until the end. We owe them that. That’s what parents do.
What other ways are you keeping Cassidy’s memory alive?
I often consult with animal communicators when I know the time is near to let them go to the light, and more than a few said that whenever I needed a sign from Cassidy from beyond, I would feel him doing the one thing he always did: touch his nose to mine and gaze lovingly and intensely into my eyes. He and Pikachu were also very bonded.He would give her full-body baths and even cleaned her teeth! What a sweet boy.
Cassidy had an innocence that broke my heart â€” I knew that his heart had been broken in the years before I met him.When he first came to me he had very severe separation anxiety, but through the years he learned to trust that he had found his forever home. That was a beautiful gift for me and him.
Can you feel his presence?
Cassidy, like my other babies, is still here.He is an angel. I still talk to his spirit and believe that he hears me. I still feel them all close.The best way for me to honor his life is to push my animal rights agenda.To beg people to stop buying designer dogs, to adopt. Spay/neuter. Stop eating animals, stop wearing animals, stop using animals for entertainment, stop using them for research.Animals deserve better. Rest in peace, my Sweet Boy â€” ’til we meet again.