Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Nanny Cassidy

Recently I read an article about nanny dogs. It seems that in the early 1900's they were quite common. For parents who wanted to ensure their children were protected at all times, it was a must. A puppy was usually introduced to a child in its infancy, and the bond grew strong, the child and nanny literally growing up together. The majority of these dogs were pit bulls, a loyal and protective breed, but nannies of all breeds and sizes watched over their human children day and night. You may remember Nana, made famous in Disney's Peter Pan. Nana was responsible for caring for the children of the Darling family. She even gave them their nightly medicine! A top notch nanny indeed. Anyone who had a pet as a child can relate to the sadness of the scene wherein Nana is taken out to sleep in the dog house for the evening, upsetting the Darling children. Even one night away from a beloved pet can seem the cruelest of punishment. Below are vintage photos of children with their nanny dogs.

As I read the article I realized that my sister Sara and I had a nanny dog too. He wasn't a pit bull, nor very large in size. He was a small, scruffy, West Highland White Terrier and we called him Cassidy. Now, he wasn't the only dog our family had when I was a kid. We also had Sassy the Sheltie, Magic the Collie, and Sunny the Golden Retriever (not all at the same time, of course). All fine dogs in their own right, but none a nanny. 

Nana and the Darling Children

My father came home after work one night with a scruffy brown puppy. My mother wasn't happy about his solo decision to adopt a dog, but after hearing his story she decided he could stay. The people who owned him had recently had a baby and for whatever reason didn't want Cassidy anymore. If they had any idea what a loyal and protective companion he would have been for their kid, they surely would have regretted the decision. My mother set about to bathe Cassidy that night, and when he emerged from the tub he wasn't brown at all, but stark white from head to toe. His fur stuck out in all directions like he had licked an electrical socket and he looked more like a mutt than a pure breed. Still, he was sweet, and quiet, and stayed with my sister and I through night and day. 

When I was a kid in the late 80's/early 90's it was still the norm for children to wander the neighborhoods during the day, playing with friends and riding bikes. No matter where Sara and I went, Cassidy would follow. If we went inside a friends home to play, he would wait patiently in the yard for hours until we came out again. If one of us fell and hurt ourselves my mother swears she always knew something had happened because Cassidy would run back to our house alone, alerting her that something was wrong. (We should have named him Lassie, right?) Once, an old woman who walked her poodle on our street, gave my sister a spanking for petting her dog without permission. Cassidy charged at the old woman barking and snarling and if my memory serves correct, he bit her (or at least he was accused of biting). It did not matter. My parents would never get rid of our dog. If he had attacked someone, it was for very good reason.

Cassidy was, to this day, the smartest dog I have ever known. He taught me about loyalty and unconditional love. I believe that little dog would have done whatever necessary to protect my sister and I. He eventually went to live on a farm or wherever it is a child's dog disappears to once he is old and ready to die. It was heartbreaking but deep down I knew it was time for him to go. Cassidy had lived his life in service, with a most important job. He really was a nanny dog. The best nanny dog a girl could have hoped for! 

Childhood Easter photo with Cassidy

~ Love & Light ~


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