Friday, March 11, 2011

Our Caesar

It was love at first sight, something in which I had never believed. He was looking adoringly at his savior, Cindy.  I remember thinking he would look at me that way. It took many treats, patience, belief, love.  Eventually, Caesar came to regard, not just me, but our entire family with that same love and adoration.
          He was patient with each of us as we forged our bonds of trust and love.  We also had to be patient with him.  When he first came to live with us, we were his fifth home in 8 months. He was without trust, angry with an, “I ain’t doin’ it!” attitude. At the same time he could be silly, funny and mischievous. We crumbled major barriers at the end of 3 weeks by taking him on a 3 day vacation to the Russian River.  There, he dug gigantic mud holes at the river’s edge, which he defended against the enemy invasions of my youngest son. He wrestled, roughly, with our eldest son, pulling him by the shirt or shorts, as the police had taught him. He exhibited a silliness and appreciation of laughter we had not previously seen. After that weekend, our life settle into a pattern of, "family with dog". Only one other time, about a month after that vacation, did we have any problem. My husband and Caesar had a final stand-down. Caesar challenged my husband for dominance; Caesar was looking for second-in-command position in the household. My husband won.  It was the last time we had worry in regard to Caesar's behavior.
          Over the years we learned many things about Caesar, including why the Folsom Police rejected him as a police dog, despite testing him out…twice. Caesar was a family dog with a great sense of humor.  He couldn’t be serious for long periods of time.  But, he never forgot what the police had taught him and would often wrestle with my husband by pulling his pant legs or shirt sleeves. He could have a temper, which he controlled well and fully.  There were few people he met that he didn’t like. But, he did not love toddlers, yet always made time to flirt with their Moms. He loved all our closest friends.  He greeted them with openness and love.  He made them feel welcome and was honestly happy to have them visit. And, he loved women. I believe that love of women started in his (foster) third home.
          Cindy was an animal rescue worker who had met Caesar at a shopping center.  Two boys were trying to find a new home for him and there was a woman trying to decide if she would take him.  Cindy gave the woman her card, and took Caesar home for the night. The woman never called.  Over many months, Cindy trained Caesar and tried to find him a home.  The police took him, but thought he was too young.  Still, Cindy tried to find him a forever home.  The police tried him out again a few months later, and gave up a second time.  When I finally came along, Cindy was nearing her wits end. Cindy already had an alpha-female golden retriever who did not enjoy the alpha-male that was Caesar. Cindy, her sister and her niece loved Caesar, but were diminished by the dogs’ quarreling. We promised Cindy we would always be a one-dog family; Caesar came for a visit and never left.  
          Our life progressed. Caesar was in integral part of that progression.  He attended baseball games, vacations by the river (his favorite vacation), trips to grandma’s house. He loved boating, but hated flying. He loved water, but hated to swim. He loved Tim, but hated when Tim hugged me. He made us laugh, sometimes until we cried. Caesar communicated his state of being more fully than any other dog I’ve known.  He was a wonderful communicator. Tim and I would laugh and call him “Rin-Tin-Tin” every time he led us to a door, pantry or other area. We lived together, as a family.
          When Caesar was 7 ½, my son, Sawyer, was going through a difficult time.  We decided to give him a dog of his own to help teach him many things, including responsibility. We brought home Wyatt, a mini-dachshund. Over a period of two months, Caesar’s emotional state grew from irritation and anger into full-blown love. He loved Wyatt like a son, caring for him and protecting him.  He also loved wrestling with Wyatt. Caesar fought gently, mouthing Wyatt lightly.  Wyatt fought like a warrior, often going for Caesar’s soft spots or eyes.
          Six months after we got Wyatt, the first signs of Caesar’s disease, knuckle walking, appeared. In a few months, I was web-searching knuckle walking and the results were horrific.  Caesar had degenerative myelopathy which is a slow-progressing genetic nerve disorder.  It started in his back legs and would eventually move to his front legs. Eleven months later, we knew it was time to put him down.  We had his Vet come to our home and Tim and I stroked Caesar’s face and shoulders while he left this world. We will forever be grateful for the years we had been given to share in his wonderful presence. Caesar was that wonderful, well-behaved dog and family member about which books are written and songs are sung. For us, he was our one family dog. He built relationships with each of us. He meant different things to us, each. He was a gift.

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