This page is dedicated to my two black-tri Australian Shepherds
Cassie & Joey

Xmas Bones
Waiting to open their xmas bones!

This is a tribute to the two Australian Shepherds that had been my house-mates, or rather, pack-mates, for the last 15+ years: Cassie, and Joey- whom I often referred to collectively as 'The DX Dogs'- a reference to my activities as an Amateur Radio operator, and they being my mascots.

Cassie was my beautiful little girl. I raised her from a little puppy. She was so cute and smart- she reminded me so much of a beautiful woman I had met named Cassandra- that I gave her that name- 'Cassie' for short! At the time I got her, I was working from home while living in Malibu, California- in my condo just up the hill from Broad Beach- where we walked togther very often! While I had raised an Australian Shepherd male with my ex-wife, Cassie was my first dog as a single doggie-daddy. I had a lot to learn about this. Because of my naivete, Cassie was difficult to house-break, since I was not staying on top of reading the signs of when she had to 'go', and also not leaving her outside until she did. This was a source of consternation to me for quite a while, but we finally got it worked out. She loved to chase frisbies, balls, and birds while we walked the beach together.

Cassie
Cassie

When she was about 2 years old, we had moved inland to Malibu Canyon to a larger property, but my career situation had changed. I now had to go back to work at a 'regular' film studio job in town. Although I now had a tremendous back yard, I was concerned about leaving her there alone by herself for long periods of time. I did not want her to be unhappy and lonely, so the choices were: find her a new home, or find her a friend.
I decided on the latter...

I contacted the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) to inquire about rescue Aussies needing homes (now handled by Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline- ARPH). I found that there was a black-tri of nearly the same age available from a woman in Big Bear, CA. She was no longer able to care for her dog, and needed to find it a good home. After we spoke by phone, I went up to Big Bear with Cassie to meet 'Chip's Brown Eyed Joe'- his kennel name. Although he answered to 'Buddy', I decided that since my late father's name was Joey, it just seemed like that would be a good name for our new friend Joe as well. Of course, I did not take into account that Cassie and Joey sound very similar, so it took them a while to get used to that.

    Joey
Joey

After they met in the snow-covered areas around Big Bear Lake, and his owner checked out his new family, we agreed I would take Joey once she had him fixed. She had held off on this, since he was very docile, and thought it better to wait a while. So within the month, I was back in Big Bear to retrieve our new house mate.

As soon as we got into my Blazer, Joey, who was in the passenger seat for the ride home, lay his head on my leg... and within a few days I realized that the friend I got for Cassie had nearly instantly bonded with me. I think that he led a somewhat lonely existence on the large rural property that he had the run of, and must have craved companionship. Since he was a smaller male, and almost totally black, I took to calling him 'Bear' or 'Joey Bear', since he looked like a little black bear cub. Within a few days, I discovered Joey's talent for dare-devil escapes from my double fenced property! He couldn't care less about Cassie- our new friend was waiting for me outside on the front steps when I got home- he could not let me out of his sight! He went over, under, around, and through fences! I could not immediately figure out how he did some of this. I realized then that he was, in fact, the reincarnation of the Great Houdini- and 'Houdini' became his other nickname. He was NEVER able to be contained if he wanted out. I had to reverse engineer his escapes and figure out how to prevent them- then he would find another way. He worked his way out of chains and steel cables! He was truly a genius at escaping. After we moved to Ventura, every time he escaped, he would come home after midnight- filthy black dirt ground into his coat as if he spent the day in a culvert or ditch, waiting for the safety of night to come home. The one time he didn't make it home, he had dug up the pavers from under the side gate and tunneled out! While I was at the pound seeing if he had been picked up, some dog-folks saw him near the freeway about 1/2 mile from home, and recognized that he was disoriented, and not a stray. They called the home phone number on his tags, and we were quickly reunited. That was a very long night for me- and his last escape from this property. But while I was getting the materials to secure the perimeter... he performed his last and greatest escape: he escaped from the locked kennel I had placed him in while I went to the store- without going through the locked door! He was truly amazing!

Cassie had no desire to escape, and never tried to follow him out. And while Joey was stand-offish with other people, Cassie absolutely loved them! She was the 'Ambassador of Dogdom'! She would welcome everyone with a big kiss on the lips- which, standing on her hind legs and opening her mouth to smooch- was sometimes a bit confronting to non-dog people. I got her to stop jumping up on me- but I could never get her to stop jumping up on others. I could teach her tricks- she would do ANYTHING for treats! And after she finished her dinner, she would try and scarf some of Joey's food from his bowl when he left it unattended. And she liked to watch animals on TV! I would turn on animal shows, and she would go up to the screen and follow them around, even trying to follow them off the screen!

Joey, was 'my' guy, and generally a loner. He could care less about food, treats, balls, frisbies, etc. The previous owner had mentioned that the only thing he ever played with was a leather work glove- so I gave him one, and that was really the only toy he ever showed any interest in. He was also accutely sensitive to sounds, to a point that he nearly drove me crazy by jumping on my face full force before the crack of dawn- because he heard a little birdy chirp?! He was trying to bury himself under my armpit! He did the same when he heard horse whinnies on TV! However, if we stood before whinnying horses or chirping birds, they had no affect on him- it was as though, if he could not see (or smell?) them, that those sounds scared the heck out of him!? He was not a big fan of bass sounds, and so I played very little bass guitar, or music on my large speakers, in his presence. My house has been pretty quiet for years as a result of Joey being such a music critic!
Needless to say, Joey had some issues, and was, at times, a handful. It took a LOT of work- and belly rubs- to get him to calm down.

Cassie was very generous, and seemed to have no problem sharing me with Joey, who craved my attention and attempted to monopolize my time when I was around. I unfortunately found myself catering to his idiosyncracies, and giving him lots of slack, while sometimes being very hard on Cassie- perhaps because she was so smart, and since I raised her from a puppy, I may have had greater expectations of her- while Joey needed more 'special attention'.

Over the years, and several residences, it became apparent that these two creature were very different from each other, and very very smart in very different ways. Sometimes they were both too smart for me! Recently, I read the book 'Merle's Door', by Ted Kerasote, and it explains quite a bit about the differences in brain development between a canine that is 'contained' within a perimeter from birth- as is common in our modern society- and one that is 'free-ranging'. Cassie and Joey showed those distinct differences. If you love dogs, I most highly recommend that you read his book.

These beautiful, sensitive creatures have been my nearly constant companions these last 15+ years. I have taken them camping as far north on the California Coast as Patrick's Point, north of Eureka. It was late in the season, and definitely a 2-dog night, as we all huddled together in my tent.
I was able to take them onto the 20th Century Fox lot in Century City for quite a while, before the project I was on went from the design stage to the contruction stage. I don't think they would have liked jackhammers any more than they liked firecrackers or gunshots- they were definitely NOT hunting dogs. I started to sedate them for their own good on July 4th and New Year's Eve. Whenever I could take them with me, they went along. They were always much happier traveling in the car with me, than staying home without me- especially Joey. He has always been funny- he liked to find the darkest, quietest place in the house to lie, and every once in a while would come check to make sure I am still there... and then go back. But he would pitch a fit if I left his sight! Unlike Cassie, and until very recently when he was not feeling well, he has never had an accident in the house- he has always been very communicative of his needs regarding potty. If he needs to go out, he will come and put that cool wet nose against me. And he is still like an atomic clock ringing my alarm precisely at 7PM when he expects to have his food ready!

Cassie passed away very suddenly shortly before Christmas in 2007 of liver cancer. She was healthy until that day she stopped eating- when I noticed her gums were white! First thing in the morning, we went to the Doc, and he immediately knew she must be bleeding internally. The X-rays seemed to show her spleen as being the issue, but once he got in, it was apparent that her liver was damaged beyond all chance of recovery. I took her home to make her last days as comfortable as possible- she laid in back, Joey up front, just like that first day he came home with us. I spoke to her all the way home, letting her know what a good girl she was, and how special and loved she was. When I got home, and went to the back of my RAV4, she had already passed. I never let Joey see her like that... I took him inside quickly. Being a chilly night, I covered my little girl over and left her in the vehicle. In the morning, I would lay her to rest. Cassie was 12 years old. I still miss her.

Joey has continued on as if nothing has changed, other than I do not have to fend her off of his food bowl! Over the last few years, his sight and hearing had diminished substantially. Losing his hearing, I am sorry to say, was almost a blessing- as he was much calmer- almost serene- nowadays. He was 15 this past February, and although he has some arthritis in his front elbows, he was in very good health- but I no longer feared him escaping, as I now had to lift him into the car. He has long since stopped jumping fences, or onto my bed- although he will poke me with that cool snoot of his if he needs to go out... and of course, he has been getting me up and going, even when I have not really felt like it.



Today August 17, 2010, I released Joey to join his friends Cassie, Ninja, Sudden, Sage, Patches, BooBoo, Cuja, Rocky, Hanzie, Yale, and all the other special canine angels- too numerous to name- that we have known and loved, that have gone before him. 

We spent the last 4 days together, just the two of us, saying goodbye. His hind end had weakened, and his inability to walk more than a few steps the last several months had deteriorated to not even being able to get up this past week. All other systems were fine, and he was eating like a champ, but I knew his time was near. The decision was made at the right time. He had a good run to the end, and made a peaceful transition today. His journey here is over. Now mine must continue- in new and unknown directions- alone.

I do not know how I could have survived these years without my two canine friends. I have learned so very much from them, in ways that I think have made me a better person- for animals, and for people. Their ability for giving unconditonal love, being 'in-the-moment', non-judgemental, and incapable of being mean-spirited or grudge-holding, has been a true education for me. I can only hope and pray that, in spite of my ignorance and shortcomings, that I have been able to provide them with a decent home and the high quality of life as they, and all of G-d's creatures, deserve.

Cassie & Mike   Joey_sunset
 Cassie helping Mike with guitar overdubs- always giving her opinion!               Joey, sunset illuminating him, on our last trip to the beach                                         
Please support these fine organizations by making a charitable donation

The Humane Society of Ventura County


HSVC

The Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline, Inc.

Aussie Rescue


©2010 by John B. Rotondi
Website Programmed and Maintained by John B. Rotondi
Last Updated 17 August 2010