Dear Casey, this letter is to say how much I love you.
Even though as neighbors I'd never taken the time to be with you, or have you over, I feel now as if we've become friends for life.
Our week together has been great, although I have to admit I wish you could talk. I know you missed your un-biological parents and their two girls. But I did try to make up for that by talking, feeding and singing to you.
Gee, you are one big eater. However, with your wagging tail, you did say thank you.
Your manners, for the most part, were impeccable, except for the habit of throwing that old shoe and butting me in the back when I wasn't looking.
Still, I will miss you. Stay as sweet as you are and don't forget your worm pill." OK, if you don't like dogs don't bother reading this.
This is a salute to dogs everywhere that are reluctantly left by their owners when said owners go on a much-needed vacation, and a next door neighbor like me, who doesn't know a tick from a flea, cares for them.
My neighbors were gone for a week, and they asked me sweetly to feed and walk their big dog Casey, a beautiful golden retriever with great eyes. Casey hates kennels.
"Sure," I said, and went over for initial instructions on caring and feeding. The family had left some written notes, their vacation address and the vet's number.
As an owner of two cats, I did know the basics. But the family neglected to tell me what time they fed Casey in the evening -- before or after her nighttime walk -- and when to put her on the run outside. These were little things, of course, but still . . .
At first, taking care of Casey seemed like a breeze, but I hadn't bonded with her yet. And I could tell she was homesick for her real family.
The first day was rough on both of us.
At the end of that first day, I sat down in the den, her favorite room in their house, and said, "Casey, can we talk? If only you could talk. What time do they feed you at night? And how long can you wait to go to the bathroom?
There was no response. She did not divulge her plumbing habits or why in the heck she panted so much.
"And another thing Case, about the worm pill: Do you like it in your food bowl, separately or dissolved in water?
Nothing. Not even a tail-wag.
Casey's game plan was this: She would fetch an old tennis shoe, which meant she wanted to play. The old shoe was about a size 13 and had a life and aroma all its own.
Ah, what a simple life a dog has.
I would say to her, "For heaven's sake, don't choke on those shoe laces, Case. Don't you have a bone you could chew on instead?"
No response, but there was one tail wag.
She chewed on her leather leash when I took her for walks, and I hoped she would not sever it with her big teeth. The one thing I could not have tolerated was for Casey to have bounded to the next county. I would never have forgiven myself, and I would, of course, have had to move to Kansas.
I spent a half hour or so talking to her in the evening at sunset. We sat outside and discussed the different squirrels that seemed to taunt us.
Casey seemed to love my conversations. About the third night, she seemed reluctant to have me go home, I decided to turn on the television for her. She liked that too, although she didn't like tennis as much as I did. There were no dog commercials although she loved one of the cat commercials.
Then a brilliant thought occurred to me.
"Casey, how would you like to see "101 Dalmatians?"
She wagged her tail.
I happen to have it on video, and the next day I tried to work Casey's owners' VCR. Unfortunately, I am not good with VCRs and Casey never did get to see the animated classic.
Well, the end of the tale, if you will, was that Casey and I became terrific friends.
The night we heard the family's car returning, she went bonkers.
They're home! Did I say it, or did she? I'm not sure.