Friday, April 04, 2008


"The Greatness of a Nation can be determined by how its animals are treated" – Ghandi

by Christopher Nyerges
[Nyerges is the editor of Wilderness Way magazine, and the author of "How to Survive Anywhere." He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or]

In memory of Cassius Clay, Christopher’s canine pal of 16 years
I have many fond memories of Cassie, but I remember the end the most right now. I thought that I was taking care of Cassie and helping and saving Cassie – I had to carry him in and out, and was always concerned about his welfare. In the end, I realize that Cassie was helping and saving me. He instilled in me a sense of responsibility and caring that maybe I never had before.

When I walked today, I missed Cassie so much, and I thought about his role in my life. I thought about how I tried to see his dog pictures of the world, how he processes the many smells that he takes so long each day to smell. When I attempted to go into his mind, like Beatrice Lydecker described in her What the Animals Tell Me book, I "saw" a colorful, very dynamic image of flowing geometric shapes that all moved like the wind in varying patterns, in a three-dimensional complexity. To me, it was the complexity of odors that meant so much to Cassie, and very little to me.
Shortly after he died, I asked him to show me his picture, and I "saw" in front of my his big face licking mine. He was telling me that he was happy, in peace, no pain and that I was OK.

As I walked this morning, I thought about Easter Day when Cassie died. Though he had had trouble walking for weeks, he seemed OK in the morning. When I came home in the early evening, it was dark and Cassie was warm but I could not rouse him from his house, and when I pulled him out, I knew it was over, even though I tried to bring him back. There was no music, no singing of birds, just the quiet of the night and the final sounds of his dying body.

As I walked this morning, I realized that Cassie’s gift was his unconditional love. And now that he was gone, I tried to sort out the meaning of that love. I have heard it said that Eternal Life is synonymous with Eternal Love. That Eternal Love is also impersonal. It is universal loving without concern for prejudice or opinion or preferences. It is doing what is right, and not being concerned about my group, or my party, or my race, or my gender, or my family. It is finding those ways of thinking, and of living, that exemplify the Golden Rule, and Jesus’ command to "Love ye one another as ye love your self." Which means we must love our spiritual self, and see that every single one of us is the same.

Cassie taught me to be a better person. He taught me to see that only through impersonal love can we ever find real meaning and harmony. Of course, I feel a personal love for Cassie, and for other close people in my life. But now again, Cassie has made me realize that death is inevitable, and personal love is full of pain and heartache and disappointment. Impersonal loving is not focused exclusively towards one person or animal but is a way of thinking about all life, including all animals. This was Cassie’s gift to me.

NOTE: We held a "fauneral" for Cassie a week after he died. We buried him in the lower orchard, planted a tree over him, and 30 people joined us to talk about our love of dogs and animals.