Here is an update I received from Cage’s parents recently that they wanted me to share with you. We will all miss him, our thoughts are with his family.
My Cage died last night. We spent his last day outside on a sunny day, traveling to his favorite parks and eating roast beef sandwiches together.
Seven and a half years ago I went to a shelter with Zach who was looking for a dog to adopt. As I walked by cages filled with other dogs barking and sticking their tongues out to greet visitors, I passed a large cage with a big brown Rhodesian/Pit/Lab mix who just stared at me. I talked to him and he just stood there and locked his eyes on mine. He looked scary, like he would take my head off, but I was still drawn to him, intrigued by his intensity and his big brown eyes reading me, evaluating me. I continued walking around and came back around to his cage. This time, he walked to the corner, picked up a tennis ball, dropped it, and pushed it toward the door, inviting me to play with him. I then noticed the handwritten description beside his cage. It had smiley faces and stickers and among other things, said “Cage is a gentleman.” He was four years old. I was hooked, and instead of Zach finding a dog, Cage found me.
Cage was one of the great loves I have had in my life. Cage was an athlete. Fit and muscular, his weight deviated only slightly, ranging from 80-82 pounds. He had no fat. If he exercised and ran a lot and burned a lot of calories, he had a voracious appetite. If he had a sedentary day, he barely ate. Lesson: eat for fuel and only put good things in your body.
Throughout his life, and particularly during his recovery from the staph infection in his spine that ultimately took his life, he never whined or complained once. He was stoic and noble and so very regal. He was a king. He had no equals in this department.
Cage was not initially a natural swimmer, but the Lab in him evolved and he lived to swim daily in the cool, crystal clear blue waters of Lake George every summer. He loved to chase balls. Lots and lots of balls. You could hit a ball as far as possible, and he would pin his ears back and not allow any other dog or impediment to deny him that ball. He was relentless. Although he looked like an alpha, he was not. He was incredibly sweet and kind and gentle. He did not care if another dog ate his food or drank his water. He did not have to be the first one in the car or out the door. But nobody messed with his tennis balls.
Cage hated the cold, as he had short hair, and he hated the rain more, but he loved snow. He loved burying tennis balls in the snow and digging them up. He loved a few, but was mostly indifferent to many people and most other dogs. He did not lick and kiss a lot. He was a gentleman, reserved, but if you did get a kiss, it was special because he was judicious in whom he showed love and affection.
But mostly, Cage loved me, and that love was focused and intense and unconditional. And I loved him. Completely. He stared at me constantly to read me, to see what we were going to do together. He wanted to be with me, drive with me, take hikes, go for swims – anything, as long as I was with him. He often came to work with me. He stuck his head out of the sunroof window on warm days. We drove around in a convertible, just taking in the day, often without a destination. That’s the point about dogs…they don’t need destinations, they don’t need goals, they just need the here and now.
And Cage had a special bond with Susan. Not naturally a dog person, she logged a lot of time with him. They were so sweet with each other. Giving Cage a treat was like lifting a pedal off of a rose. So gentle. He loved her and she loved him. It was a wonder to watch.
He sat by camp fires and rode in boats. He was almost always off leash. He went on road trips to New Orleans and Florida, Atlanta and DC. He listened intently and was ever vigilant. I talked to him a lot during our walks and rides, airing any issues or concerns in my life. He did the best thing a true friend can do. He just listened. He gave no advice, but those big brown eyes told me everything I needed to know, that whatever the problem, it would be fine and he would be there.
Ridgebacks were bred in Africa to stay in packs and keep lions away from the homes of their masters. There are not a lot of lions in Boston or Lake George, but he got the point. He was loyal. He would have taken a bullet for me.
The last several months were hard on him. He had a surgery to relieve a disc problem in his back in June , and although the surgery went well, he developed a staph infection three weeks later. The nerves in his back were paralyzed. We considered putting him down in June, but we found a wonderful state of the art facility near us in Lake George where he went all summer for therapy. Because of Matt who provided his terrific care, Cage got another summer at the lake. And we got to have him with us for seven more months.
Cage was truly a noble gentleman I am humbled by his love, inspired by his stoicism and greatly moved by his loyalty. He made my heart bigger. He had the soul of an angel and the heart of a lion. He was my boy, and I will miss him terribly.