Let Me Tell You About My Friend Caesar…A Memorial
It’s been a bit over a week since I lost my good friend and beloved companion Caesar. Long time followers of my work here on this site may recall seeing the photographs I’ve posted here from time to time. Here’s one of my favorites:
Caesar had become a much-loved part of our family. Unfortunately, our family’s time with Caesar was very short – here’s the first photograph I ever took of Caesar – he’s with my son (John) on our back deck. The photo was taken on August 23, 2009 – the day after we picked him up from the breeder (he was still a bit under weight):
Caesar was about two and a half years old at this point – born January 1st, 2007 (a New Year’s baby) to one of Ohio’s foremost and reputable Rottweiler Breeders, Schwarzberg Rottweilers. Caesar spent his first two years living with his first owner (who named him Diesel) before being rescued back by the breeder. The individual who originally owned the dog got married after his first year, and his wife didn’t particularly care for the dog. So Caesar spent the next year as an outside dog being neglected. When the breeder found out about the dog’s situation, she promptly removed him from his home.
In January of 2009, my wife and I bought our first two dogs – Hans and Lady. Hans and Lady are Labrador Retreivers, and we purchased them from a local breeder as puppies. Having more experience with dogs than my wife Karen, I first recommended to her that we get a Rottweiler. I grew up with a Bouvier des Flandres, and later a Bull Mastiff and a Rottweiler. So I had some experience with large breeds well suited for security and protection – which my wife said was important. However, she had her heart set on getting Labradors which we ended up doing. Our Labs (Hans and Lady) are absolutely fantastic examples of the breed:
But after about 9 months, Karen recognized the nature and personality of a Labrador was not ideally suited for protection, and I started researching Rottweiler breeders in Ohio with the intent of adding one to our “pack.” In order to promote positive integration with our existing family of dogs, and help mitigate alpha issues we had decided to try and get a female Rottweiler puppy. Secretly I had wanted a male – a nice big, rough and tumble boy dog. But recognizing that getting a male could create problems, I settled on getting a female. When we reached out to the breeder, she indicated that she had one female pup from her latest liter. We set a time the next evening (Saturday) to go see the pup, with the intention of coming home with her. God however, had other plans…
On August 22nd, 2009 myself along with my wife Karen and my son John, III treked to Wilmington OH to see the puppy. When we met the breeder (Marcie) she had a long face. She apologized profusely and explained that another customer whom she had been dealing with prior to us came to see another of her dogs. But when they saw the female puppy which she had told us about, they fell in love with it and she felt obligated to let them have first pick. My wife had remembered seeing on Marcie’s website that she had rescued a dog from someone she had previously worked with when they were both veterinarian technicians. He was available for adoption after she checked references of the potential owners because she wanted to be sure he would have a good home. Karen asked to see him and Marcie agreed. As we walked into her kennel area, she told us that she had recently taken him back from the original owner and she had put him back on puppy food because he was quite under weight when she rescued him – by about 25 lbs. But after a few weeks of loving care he was nearly back up to where he should be – he was 92 lbs. when we bought him. She told us that she felt he would be a good candidate for us to adopt – he was raised around other dogs, so she didn’t anticipate him having alpha issues. We had corresponded with Marcie quite a bit before our coming to see her dogs – I sent her photos of our home and back yard so she could see what kind of home we would provide for one of her dogs. She went on to tell us “I just want Diesel to have a good home and I know you’ll provide him one – if you’ll try him out, I’ll give him to you for free and if it doesn’t work out for any reason just bring him back.” I won’t lie – I was irritated that the female puppy we had driven to see had been sold to someone else. But in my heart, I really wanted a nice big male Rottweiler. I didn’t want to get my hopes up though, so we agreed to meet Diesel. Marcie opened up his pen and the next thing that happened is something I’ll never forget. Diesel ran straight to where I was standing in the gravel and threw himself down at my feet, belly and all four feet straight up in the air with his tongue hanging out to one side, and the biggest smile a dog could ever have. For whatever reason, Diesel picked me before I ever picked him. My wife Karen later confessed that upon seeing this first meeting with Diesel she thought to herself “Oh my gosh, we’re going home with this dog.” She then leaned over to my son and told him “John, we’d better pet this dog and become friends with him because he’s going home with us.” I wanted my son to be involved, so I gave him the honor of re-naming the dog. “Son, what do you want to name him?” “How about Caesar?” was his answer. That night, we brought Caesar home, gave him a much needed bath, and welcomed him into our family.
Over the next several nights we witnessed one of Casear’s more remarkable and signature feats – escapism. We often refereed to Caesar as “Houdini” for his ability to escape from his cage, but there was not trickery or slight of hand involved. Caesar was amazingly strong and could simply, with very little effort on his part, brute-force his cage door open when he wanted out. Over the next several days we tried progressively stronger methods of reinforcing Caesar’s cage. At one point, I stacked all the weights from my home gym in front of Caesar’s cage – several hundred pounds worth in fact. When Karen returned home from work for lunch that day, she found Caesar’s cage upside down, the weights knocked over and Caesar rather proudly sitting in the middle of the room as if to say “is this the best you’ve got?” Eventually we came to understand that Caesar didn’t necessarily want out of his cage. Many times I’ve come down stairs to find Caesar in his cage with the door wide open. What Caesar wanted was the ability to come to us if we needed his protection. This was his home now and he intended to protect it – with his very life if need be. But he couldn’t do that if he was locked in his cage. That’s the sort of dedication Caesar had to our family. We a few things over the first few days we had Caesar – one, he was suffering from a little bit of separation anxiety and was having a hard time dealing with us being gone during the day. After a few weeks, and my wife’s brilliant idea of putting one of my T-shirts in his cage when we left, he settled down some. But Caesar remained very attached to every member of our family – myself in particular – and hated to be apart for very long.
Rottweiler’s get a “bad rap” for being “vicious” dogs, which is why my wife Karen (pictured above with Caesar) didn’t initially want a Rottweiler. But make no mistake that if Caesar felt any member of our family was being threatened, he would go into protection mode. However, Caesar was also one of the most gentle and loving dogs a person could ask for. During the time we had him, we realized Caesar had a deep love of children – all children. Every year we would take our dogs to an event sponsored by the Humane Society where dogs were allowed to swim in the community pool the day after the pool season had officially ended – it’s called “doggy dive.” Our Labs love it because Labs are natural born water dogs. We took Caesar too, but his big thrill was getting to see all the kids. He would run from child to child and try to get them to play with him – some were of course scared of his size and appearance. But some would play with him which he loved:
Caesar had a special love for my son John and always got very excited when he came to visit us (my son’s mother and I are divorced). John was just starting 8th grade when we got Caesar, and is now going into his Senior year of High School. So to Caesar, John was always a “kid” so he always stayed very close to him and paid him special attention:
Caesar was protective of our entire family – even the other dogs. My wife enjoyed bringing him with her to places which allowed dogs (like pet food stores) – he was so beautiful that it was fun to show him off. Caesar wouldn’t let anyone get to close Karen that he didn’t like – he was particularly bothered if someone had something in their hands and approached. The first time that she brought Caesar out with her (to the pet store) Caesar was fearful, shaking, and constantly looking to her for reassurance. Still, he growled and stood in front of her when a woman approached with a large bag of dog food in her hands. As the woman got closer, Caesar’s growl got louder and deep and my wife told the woman “ma’am, can you stop there please? I think he believes you’re going to try and hurt me.” My wife just loved how protective Caesar was around her – she always felt safe with him in our home.
Of course Caesar was my dog – he bonded with me and was very strongly focused on me. Caesar had this wonderful bed time ritual – whenever I would get into bed, he’d jump up on the bed, lay right on top of me, and proceed to absolutely drown me in sloppy kisses. When he was done, he’d go over to the end of the bed or down on the floor – he picked “tactically advantageous” spots which would allow him to respond to any potential threats. The next morning, when he’d hear me start to stir, he would be back up on the bed for our morning snuggle. This time he would give very light, very gentle kisses to say “good morning” and turn over to get belly rubs. So most days Caesar was the last thing I saw at night and the first thing I saw in the morning. After our morning wake up routine, it was time to go outside, where he’d patrol the fenced-in lawn, then head down stairs with the other dogs to their cages for breakfast.
I think one of the reasons Caesar had a special love of my wife is that he recognized that she took such good care of him – she’s such a wonderful mother to our furry children. She carefully controlled the portions of their special high-protein Orijen brand dog food to make sure all our dogs maintained their ideal weight. She also fed them twice daily (morning and evening) and made sure all our dogs stayed crated for 2 hours after each meal to minimize the risk of stomach torsion She would not let them eat “scraps” (burned meat, fat, etc.) say that “if I wouldn’t eat them, then our dogs shouldn’t either.” Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, it was a sudden and violent onset of stomach torsion which claimed the life of our beloved Caesar. Perhaps it was because of his negative experiences during his first two years of life, but Caesar genuinely seemed to recognize and really appreciate that he had such a good home. It was like he knew what a bad life was like, and now that he had such a special home, he has going to appreciate and protect it until his last breath.
My wife once asked me if dogs to Heaven, and regretfully I said “no, dogs don’t have a soul.” Truly, who knows this for certain? Only God knows. I don’t think that Christ died on the cross to save the souls of goldfish, kittens, and dogs. But by the same token, I believe that our animals are gifts from God. More than that, they are examples to us of perfect, unconditional love. I don’t understand how a dog loves anymore than I understand how God loves, but having a dog serves as a daily example – a reminder of the kind of love God has for each of us. In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, the Apostle John’s vision of heaven also included animals, showing Christ and the armies of heaven “riding on white horses.” (Revelation 19:14 ). So it’s logical to infer that animals will exist and have a purpose in Heaven. So I think that it’s possible we’ll see our beloved animals in Heaven. One theologian writes:
Most of us can’t picture a paradise of unspeakable beauty without flowers, trees, and animals. Would it be heaven for an avid birdwatcher if there are no birds? Would a fisherman want to spend eternity with no fish? And would it be heaven for a cowboy without horses?
I like the story about the elderly widow whose beloved little dog died after fifteen faithful years. Distraught, she went to her pastor. “Parson,” she said, tears streaming down her cheeks, “the vicar said animals have no souls. My darling little dog Fluffy has died. Does that mean I won’t see her again in heaven?” “Madam,” said the old priest, “God, in his great love and wisdom has created heaven to be a place of perfect happiness. I am sure that if you need your little dog to complete your happiness, you will find her there.”
I have no doubt that my mother is in Heaven. And I think that she’s watching over my beloved Ceasar every day – keeping him for me until the day we can all be reunited in perfect love and peace. I’m sure she’s spoiling him terribly too, and he’s loving every minute of it. Until the next time we meet my friend. You brought me so much, and touched so many lives. You will never, ever be forgotten.
A contribution from my wife Karen:
In a short amount of time, I realized that Rottweilers were not always what I had heard them to be – aggressive, unloving dogs. As Caesar learned from me and my husband, and I too, learned from Caesar. He taught me that he would never bite me, never be unloyal and would never, ever not protect me. I never worried when Caesar was around – he never barked when he heard a noise – only held his breath and went to check the noise out as he tip-toed around the house, avoiding the areas that my floor made noise. Caesar taught me that he had it under control – always.
Caesar, thank you for allowing me to the opportunity to provide your home life for the last four years, the many, many laughs and smiles we’ve shared, and giving me the privilege to call you a member of our family. Thank you for opening my heart and teaching me about you and your unconditional love, devotion, and protection until your last breath. I miss you so very much every day and look forward to the day that we meet again.
IN LOVING MEMORY
JANUARY 1, 2007 – JUNE 17, 2013
I will, from time to time, add to this post about my friend Caesar. It’s been nearly two years since his passing, and it never ceases to amaze me how often I think of him. Today I found this poem, which touched me, so I wanted to add it to this post.
A Loan From God
God promised at the birth of time,
A special friend to give,
His time on earth is short, he said,
So love him while he lives.
It may be six or seven years,
Or twelve or then sixteen,
But will you, till I call him back,
Take care of him for me?
A wagging tail and cold wet nose,
And silken velvet ears,
A heart as big as all outdoors,
To love you through the years.
His puppy ways will gladden you,
And antics bring a smile,
As guardian or friend he will,
Be loyal all the while.
He’ll bring his charms to grace your life,
And though his stay be brief,
When he’s gone the memories,
Are solace for your grief.
I cannot promise he will stay,
Since all from earth return,
But lessons only a dog can teach,
I want you each to learn.
Whatever love you give to him,
Returns in triple measure,
Follow his lead and gain a life,
Brim full of simple pleasure.
Enjoy each day as it comes,
Allow your heart to guide,
Be loyal and steadfast in love,
As the dog there by your side.
Now will you give him all your love,
Nor think the labor vain,
Nor hate me when I come to call,
To take him back again?
I fancy each of us would say,
“Dear Lord, thy will be done,
For all the joy this dog shall bring,
The risk of grief we’ll run.
“We’ll shelter him with tenderness,
We’ll love him while we may,
And for the happiness we’ve known,
Forever grateful stay.
“But shall the angels call for him,
Much sooner than we’ve planned,
We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes,
And try to understand.”
John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.