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Cassie’s Story

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Cassi’s Story

On June 3rd, 2013 I posted this note on my Facebook page. It was the eulogy that I had dreaded for so long…

“And so at noon today we let go of our little man… Rudolph “Rudi” Pork Chop Ambivalence of Norwalk. To be alive, to be mortal, is to succumb to the whim of time and fate. Conversely it allows us the joys of a life well lived. He certainly lived, and Doug and I experienced life so fully and differently because of him. While our hearts are smothered, we cherish the 14 years, 6 months and 17 days he graced us with his unconditional love, his perseverance, his exuberance for life, and his never ending love affair with a tennis ball. As my first dog, he opened up an entire chapter in my personal life, as you are all well aware. The sadness will pass, the memories will not. And the gratefulness that is permanently etched in our hearts for the endless life-lessons that this one, medium-sized red dog bestowed upon us is immeasurable. Good-bye for now my sweet Baa-Baa. Run like the wind, swim, and give big soft kisses to Grandma and Poppi for us. We will meet you over the Rainbow Bridge.”

Rudi was our first Vizsla. He was also my first dog. Ever. My husband was the “dog guy”. I was the reason that Rudi’s moniker included the descriptor “ambivalence”. It’s not that I didn’t like dogs. It’s just that I had no knowledge of them. Or any other pets for that matter. My mom was allergic to everything that moved that wasn’t human. And there was some doubt about my brother. But I digress. I never had any pets growing up. My cousins had a HUGE Shepherd that they kept closed in the basement. Naturally he was a beast when they let him out. That unfortunately was my “experience” with dogs. I enjoyed the idea of a dog, my husband was such a dog lover, but I was ignorant to the entire process and therefore somewhat opposed. We finally compromised. My husband said we would get a dog and I could pick the breed. Again, HELLO, no canine knowledge whatsoever! I had a friend at the office that had Vizslas and he would, on occasion, bring them in. Low and behold, an epiphany. They were crazy fun, so cool, and red…one of my favorite colors. Done and done. My husband’s reply, “What the hell is a Vizsla?” My retort, “Well, you said I could pick”. Ignorance is bliss. The rest is history.

Rudi was an amazingly smart, fun, challenging puppy. We lived in a condominium complex at the time and every other unit had a dog as a family member. Rudi was in his glory. Play dates every day at the big field at the school next door, treats galore and boatloads of belly rubs. Life was good. Then, as was planned in pursuit of our American dream, we “moved on up” as it were and bought our first home a year or so later. Over an acre of property. Great neighbors. NO DOGS! So while he now had his own field of dreams to run in, and all of our love and attention, Rudi became depressed for lack of a better term. He missed his friends. I found myself driving him back to the condo complex before work to morning play dates. Really? Well, yes, really. Enter my husband, once again. “You know what this means don’t you? ” Yes honey, time for another dog. Why bother resisting?

But let’s go back a little ways first. Once we did get “the dog”, I was committed. I immersed myself in the dog world. I tend to do that with things that are attached to life changing decisions. And while I didn’t know much about dogs, I was smart enough to realize that getting a dog would be a game changer. I wish more folks would think that way. And so I had not only availed myself to absorb every bit of knowledge there was out in the universe about dogs, and Vizslas in particular, but I also became acutely aware of the dark side of it all. Over-population, abuse, puppy mills and mismanagement. I had always sworn that if we were to get another dog I would like to rescue. I was thrilled to discover that there were breed specific rescue groups at the ready. And so once the decision was made, we began the hunt for another V, preferably one that could benefit from the love and compassion that Doug and I had for those dogs that are less fortunate, no matter what the circumstances.

My research brought me around to Stephen Shlyen. What good fortune for us! We told him our situation and kept in contact for a couple of months. There were a few dogs that he had in mind for us but that he thought were not quite “ready”. Then we got the call. I’ll never forget the conversation. “I have a dog you might be interested in. He’s got more things wrong with him then you can shake a stick at, but he’s really a sweet boy. ” Say what? A challenge? A dog who needs me? Bring it on! We immediately made plans to go to PA with Rudi and visit. Enter Rusti. He was emaciated, had eye infections, ear infections, for all intents and purposes a disaster, but about as sweet as honey and nearly as sticky. He was a lover! He and Rudi played for several hours, running in the fields with the countless other Vizslas that resided there, and at the end of the afternoon, home he came with us. Albeit not before a few tears were shed by all. Stephen and his partner had nursed him for weeks and while clearly happy to see him go, there was the momentary sadness that I would learn all too well years later, comes with every adoption.

I could go on ad nauseam with stories of these fast friends. Rudi was our super jock and Rusti our “stoner”. They played off of each other’s differences and truly were constant companions. Each one bringing to our family his own amazing and unique personality. And as it turned out they were about the same age. It was perfection.

Don’t get me wrong, there were hurdles. We faced canine diabetes, splenectomies, cataract surgeries, and survived it all intact–too much to cover; maybe another newsletter. For now, fast forward to June 3rd, 2013. Rusti, our usually goofy, playful boy, sensed that something wasn’t right. As he lay on the couch in our living room, and mused about the processes that our vet was demonstrating, we knew he knew. He was losing his friend.

Rusti and Rudi









Rusti and Rudi


Now we experienced a different kind of depression. A 13-year-long friendship had ended. Rusti had all our attention during this most difficult time, and yet he clearly felt abandoned. He had lost his alpha. I expected the loss to be difficult for us. I did not however expect it to be as difficult as it was for him. He wouldn’t eat. He would go out in the yard and just stand there, head hanging. I couldn’t bear to watch. And even though the thought of getting another dog was the furthest from my mind, I quickly realized it might be what we needed to do…for Rusti. I was afraid the sadness would take him too. And that I knew I could not bear.


In the interim we did everything we could to help Rusti in his grief. We began walking him on leash again. A process we hadn’t really followed for some time on a regular basis. We typically let them run, and in later years, stroll, around in the yard, and on the weekend we would go to a park or the lake for some family time. But now we had to step it up. We needed to keep his mind occupied and his spirit elevated. Doug and I began walking him together religiously, every morning before work. It did help, but wasn’t quite the ticket. And so after a few months of careful soul searching, we considered rescue once again.


Again back to the rescue community. Interestingly we did find that even though he was no longer actively involved in setting up adoptions, Stephen was still connected to so many, and had mentored quite a few. I had some long, detailed and heartfelt conversations with the likes of Debra Evalds and Stephanie Fischer. They truly helped me get through a tough time. When I cried about the fact that as much as I wanted another companion for Rusti, I didn’t believe I was really ready, they understood and offered solace. In a weird way you feel like you’re replacing the lost one. In my head I knew I wasn’t doing that but it made my heart ache. I have to admit that Doug was more open to it than I. And again, you get the call. Stephanie Fischer…” We have a situation…” Oh boy. And so for Rusti’s 15th birthday, enter Cassie. Really mom? I would have been happy with a slice of cheese.


Well, let me just say, Cassie, who is now Cassi Rae ‘cause we need the “R” to be present, IS the ticket. As much as he protested at first, no aggression mind you, but a clear and present concern, Rusti has warmed up to our girl. And she has without a doubt, turned his head. He looks forward to his walk even more now that he has a sniffing partner. He eats competitively, and













Cassi Rae


yes, we did catch them snoozing together more than once. Cassi tries to engage him in play but once she realizes that he can’t participate at the level that she would prefer, she basically leaves him be. She’s very respectful of his age and limitations. He will occasionally hop around with her for a few seconds, and that makes her happy.


She has brought a joy and vibrancy back into the house that we missed, perhaps a little more than we realized. Our hesitation about rescuing a seven-year-old quickly dissipated. She apparently doesn’t realize that she’s seven. More like two we think. She sashays through a photo shoot like nobody’s business and in the next breath guts a chew toy in 60 seconds flat. She’s a brilliant dichotomy of a bitch. And Cassi has lent new meaning to the term “daddy’s little girl”. Don’t make me go there. Doug can write his own letter.











Cassi and Rusty


And so we say thanks again. Thank you thank you thank you to Stephanie, and Debra, and all the others who lend their


time so freely, and work so tirelessly to make the matches that are otherwise only available in heaven. Thanks to the family that was responsible enough to contact them when they realized their situation was such that Cassi could no longer be cared for in the manner that she deserved. Thanks to the Magyar tribes for breeding a dog that is as unique and fulfilling as the stories we tell about them. And most of all thanks to Rusti who has displayed such resilience in his 105 dog years, and through it all has maintained his great sense of humor.


Patti, Doug, Rusti & Cassie Chervin

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