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Date Sent:      March 22, 2015
Subject:           The Fury Brother and His Pesky Sisters
From:               John Bondon
Casper was my wife's dog. He was already 7 years old by the time Prachi and I got married. When we first met he was always excited to be out with people and would be jumping up and down wanting you to pet him. When we started dating, Casper quickly became jealous, but not of me. Quite the opposite of what you would expect actually. He became protective of me and jealous when my future wife tried to get close to me. Whenever I would go to my then girlfriend’s place to hang out, typically she would still be finishing up some work on her computer when I would arrive. So naturally I would play with Casper while waiting. And because of that, I'm sure as far as he was concerned I was there to see HIM. I was his playmate so he would always find a way to maneuver in between us whenever we tried to do something that didn't involve him.

After we got married we continued bringing Casper on hikes until age started to catch up with him and he could no longer handle 6 and 7 mile hikes in the heat of summer. It was because of the difficulty he experienced on the Lake Chabot hike in 2008 that we started to restrict the hikes we could bring him on. I believe it was the Nimitz Way hike in April of 2009 that turned out to be his last hike with our group.

I always hoped to bring him out for at least one more hike, especially one where HE could play the hike leader, but that never happened. the plan was to post his picture as Hike Leader and let him take the lead. Whenever he would go, we would follow. But I was worried he might lead us into a wet creek. Or worse. Then later as his stamina diminished, so did my hopes for a Casper led hike.

For the past year or so, it was clear he no longer had the stamina for hiking at all. About a month ago his hind legs gave out on him almost completely. He needed help to get up and walk around.

There are lots of people who have a dog as a pet. But not everyone views their pet in the same way. For some a pet is an animal they keep at home for companionship. Or to play with their children. For others a pet IS their child.

Prachi and I and my parents fall into that last category. Casper was our child. And for my mother and step-father, their grandchild. To us,Casper wasn’t just a pet, he was a full on family member.

If you and your parents fall into that last category as well, and you want a taste of how your parents will treat your future human children, get a pet. You'll quickly discover whether they are spoilers or not as grandparents. Even if they didn’t spoil you as a child, you might be surprised to learn that the rules are a bit different when it comes to the grandkids or grand pet!

It was interesting to watch the family dynamic with Casper. He definitely didn't view himself as just "the family pet". He definitely felt equal to human status if not superior, in his mind.

Before we had (human) kids, he was our only child. So he got ALL the attention. But of course that changed once we had human babies. Because babies require practically full time attention.

And I'm sure he doesn't understand this double standard we have between him and his human sisters. Like whenever he begged for food we'd tell him to stop begging and send him away from the table. But whenever one of his human sisters used to cry as a baby, her reward was FOOD! And if he barked at that point as if to say, "me too! Me too!", rather than getting food like his sister, instead all he got was a scolding ending with something along the lines of "NO barking!"

I'm sure he was very confused about the whole thing. Here he was always STARVING for food but never got enough to eat, yet his sisters hardly ate anything. He was always offering to help us out with their food ("hey, you know I can finish that for ya."). Yet we never gave him any of their food. Instead we would continue to shove food in THEIR direction! What's up with that? It just didn't make any sense at all.

I remember the first day we brought my oldest daughter home from the hospital after she was born. Casper was all excited at first and took a lot of interest in sniffing her. But after s few good sniffs he backed away and gave us that look as if to say, "Send her back! Take her back! We don't need one of those around here. ".

He was right about one thing. Things would never be the same. Just like a human sibling entering the picture, now he had a younger sibling to compete with for attention, for food, for just about everything.

I always refer to Casper as "the fury brother". And my human daughters as "the pesky sisters", because if you watch their interactions, it truly was a brother/sister type of relationship. And also because even though they are not all part of the same species, they ARE all part of the same family.

Casper was the jealous older brother who now had to be naughty in order to get attention. The younger one, being a baby, required almost full time attention. Casper didn't understand that. Nor did my oldest daughter when her little sister was born. The dynamic between them was exactly the same as between my oldest and Casper just a couple years earlier.

In those early years especially, Casper used to steal my daughters' blanket, toys, whatever he could get his jaws on. And run off with it. But never in a mean way. He wouldn't dig a hole in the backyard and bury it as if to try to hide it. He was defiantly waiting for someone to notice before he would run off. And just like a human big brother, he always knew what was valuable to my daughters. He only took and threatened the items they most cared about.

At the same time, he was also very protective of his pesky sisters, despite probably being annoyed by their presence. If one of them cried during the night he would go to them all concerned, as if to say "DO something!!" Or he would lay down to bed on the floor next to their beds in their room as if taking watch and helping to scare away any pesky cats (or intruders).

My wife and I were never concerned with Casper around kids, whether our own or others. Casper wasn’t really a big fan of children. He loved adults, no doubt. Especially dog friendly adults. He always knew he could appeal to their love of dogs and get some special attention or even treats! He'd give them a pleading eye stare to say, “my parents ignore me and never feed me. Can you help me?”

With adults, you know what to expect. They either LOVE dogs or they don’t. But with children it’s a totally different story. Kids are totally unpredictable. Both in how they act with dogs and what they view as right and wrong. One kid might act really nice but then pull on the doggie’s tail. Or try to sit on his back in an attempt to get a ride, like from a horse. Little kids don’t typically have an accurate assessment of what is hurtful or harmful for the animal versus what is safe fun. So Casper has always been weary of little kids, though much to his dismay, we’ve always been rather encouraging and accommodating to little kids who asked to pet him. Poor doggie. And to his credit he’s always been good with children, all the while sitting there nervously expecting the kid to try to sit on him or step on his tail at any moment.

And with his sisters he was also very patient. One of my favorite video clips, for example, is one we have from a few years ago shortly after my oldest was born. She was discovering a tennis ball and trying to mimic our dog. She was sticking it in her mouth (or at least trying to). She was trying to roll it and feel it’s texture. All the while this is going on, Casper is sitting right next to her, intently focused on what she was doing with HIS ball. He couldn’t wait to get his own jaws wrapped around that ball and rescure it from her. But he patiently watched and waited. And when the right opportunity did present itself that he could safely get the ball away from her, he gently chopped down on that ball. He was really good about not biting you if you stuck your hand in his mouth. Especially with little kids.

So I always had a concern of HIM getting hurt by a little kid, whether one of my own or someone else’s, far more likely than of him hurting THEM. Only once did I ever witness him snap at one of my girls. And that’s because he really did get hurt. But he never bit anyone. And he had an incredible tolerance for pain.

If you’ve never had a pet or spent a lot of time around animals, you might think of them as different from humans. I don’t really think so. They have bad dreams just like us. They are emotional creatures, much like us. I’d say, they are probably more like us than different from us. And we probably need each other for survival more than we all realize.

Everyone in my immediate family considers Casper as part of the family. Just another one of the children, really. I'm sure he thinks of himself as either human or at least equal to a human as he fully expects to go with us and do everything we do. He's always offended when we go out to eat or to the store and can't take him with. Guilting us with those sad looking, pleading eyes.

It is with great sadness that I report to you that our beloved Casper passed away last weekend, just two days after his 15th birthday. He was the BEST DOG EVER! He is and will always be my First Born child.

Happy Trails,

John




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