Casey James, a memory by Lee Tyler
Our dog, Casey James (Casey), was a Chesapeake Bay Retriever who died just a couple months before his 16th birthday in January 1998. The average age for this breed is ten years.
We found him when he was three months old in 1982. He was one of a large liter of Chesapeakes on my husband's mail route in Petaluma, California.
The first day we took him home he became a vegetarian, just as we were/are. He immediately loved "people food" and took to macaroni and cheese and peanut butter sandwiches, carrots, apples, raisins and watermelon. He then moved on to rice and vegetables, tofu, cheese, good quality oils, etc., still enjoying his organic peanut butter and whole grain bread. Anything we ate, he also loved. In those days vegetarian kibble was not an option (that we knew of anyway) and besides we felt whole grains and organic vegetables and fruit, tofu and cheeses, nut butters, etc., were the best for him anyway. So Casey continued his whole life to eat what we did.
When Amy's Kitchen food came along in 1987, and we could get the foods in our rural upstate New York area, Casey loved the pot pies and grew with the company to enjoy the other entrees on occasion, for treats, especially the vegetarian lasagne which was his favorite and which we used to send to the kennel for his dinners if he ever had to go away from home. It turned out that that lasagne was the last meal he ever had before he died peacefully in his sleep, in 1998.
In 1991, Casey was nine years old and became sick. He was not eating properly. We took him for an x-ray at the Vet's. Because of something they saw on the x-ray, the doctor thought they should open him up. He was given surgery and his belly was cut open and the doctor went in and examined all his organs. It turns out that the x-ray was wrong, apparently it often is with large dogs (Casey was 95 pounds.) There was absolutely nothing wrong with him at all.
When the doctor, around age 35, who was educated at Cornell Veterinary School, talked to me about the situation when I went to pick up Casey, he could hardly look me in the eye. First of all, he was sorry to have operated on him in the first place, and said they should have taken a second x-ray. Secondly, he had been very critical of our feeding Casey a vegetarian diet. After talking awhile, a bit sheepishly, the doctor finally looked at me and said, "You know, I was very sceptical of the vegetarian diet for Casey, but I have to tell you, I have operated on thousands of animals of all types, many of them his age, and I have never seen one with insides like his ... they are immaculate ... every organ is in fabulous shape and there is absolutely no junk floating around inside of him. Whatever you are feeding him, keep it up!"
I had to stay up with Casey for many nights (and days) after that to keep him from scratching out the stiches on his belly, and Casey had to do some major healing from that incision, but I have always felt the operation happened for a reason. I have been able to share the story of "Casey's insides" with people who were wondering about whether to make their dog a vegetarian and it has swayed many a pet owner.
We have our second vegetarian Chesapeake named Billy. He will be eight in March. He is 100 pounds and doing great. Unlike Casey, he prefers (instead of people food) vegetarian/vegan kibble (made by Natural Life with the same protein, fat and carb ratios as Purina Dog Chow.) He has a piece of whole grain bread with butter every day; he loves raw vegetables -- carrots, green peppers, apples, sweet potatoes, etc. He has a mozarella cheese stick each day; whole grain corn flakes; slivered almonds; and my peanut butter cookies made with local maple syrup (instead of sugar) and walnut oil and organic peanut butter. One of the most unusual things he loves is Nori Seaweed, the type of seaweed that you use for sushi. He has two to three sheets of it a day. He also loves twig tea (also called Kukicha) and has a big bowl of that a day. He has a well-rounded diet and is very happy and excercises alot by walking, running and swimming.
A great story about Billy happened when he was about two. We were concerned about some aggressive behaviors and were advised to take him to Cornell Veteranary School for an evaluation. At one point in the process, the trainer excused herself and then came back with a dish of cooked beef from the kichen and put it down on the floor in front of Billy, waiting from him to move in and gobble it up. Instead, Billy gave it a sniff and came over to me and put his paw on my lap and looked at me as if to say, "Mom, what is that?" By that time, I told the trainer Billy was a vegetarian and asked her to remove the meat. Needless to say, I was very proud of my vegetarian dog.
We have absolutely loved having our two vegetarian Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. The stories of their lives and tastes in food are endless. Casey was an unbelievable friend who helped us through so much "life," -- raising our boy, getting through my mother's death, etc. Billy is also just such a companion and friend, doing wonderful things for us every day.