Cassie's Travel Story

by Patrick Borders

Having had a few hours to think about it, I have come to the conclusion that Saturday was a day unlike any other I have ever had. Cassie is of herself a most incredible little gift. She is a product of your "miracle network" of devoted people and, of course, your vision of love and hope that surpasses the limits of everyday understanding. It is wondrous to imagine the numbers of people who have loved Cassie both there and from afar. Those giving people who have sent emails of encouragement and prayers that have worked explicitly for little Cassie and for Joan and me. We already love her and all of you that have done so much for this gift of life. We know your efforts will come back to each of you individually many times again.

I wanted to tell you about another aspect of the trip, however, that was most unexpected.

I have logged well over a million air miles in my professional career. Needless to say most airports long ago ran together forming a blur of motion and anxiety. I, like most travelers, have become focused on the start and stop of the trip. I have become somewhat expert at manipulating my way across the country and around the world without seeing much of it or the people that inhabit it. That all changed during my 17-hour odyssey Saturday. With unavoidably long layovers and a three and half pound little "ambassador of love" there were no strangers in the world.

Though you told me of the impact of the little darling in the leather and net carry-on, I was not prepared for the reaction of almost everyone everywhere. Two ticket agents changed my flights without the required penalty for a change. They "fell" for Cassie and her story of high tech medicine and hope. Security staff came out from behind monitors while hiding their "menacing" metal detector wands in order not to upset her. People who very obviously had English as a second language spoke to me in native tongue with smiles that interpreted just fine. Everyone just wanted to touch her, to look into the gorgeous little Bichon eyes and tell me about themselves, their pets, their kids, and their trials, tribulations, and joys. Each started by talking about a pet they had or once knew. But most everyone ultimately ended up talking about themselves and their families. That was the incredible part. For hours on Saturday I got to know people from many walks of life that, for the most part, have been invisible to me for years.

A new security screener in Tulsa had to know all about Cassie. The information ladies at the airport desk told me about their pets and families. A rapper type street-tough kid outside Terminal 2 in Chicago sat with me to learn about Cassie and recounted the dog he had once, and had loved and lost. He was most concerned for Cassie's activity levels given her just completed surgery.

Parents with frowns pulling and tugging on kids and baggage, stopped to smile and tell me about their pet at home.

While in Chicago as I was looking for an exit with access to grass- (no small feat there) - I bumped into a demure middle-aged Puerto Rican lady who was pushing a cart of cleaning supplies and toilet paper. She wore a smock that boldly displayed her company and profession in large white letters - SCRUB. We talked a full ten minutes even though she
was just off shift. She recounted how she had just rescued a dog at her own apartment complex that had been left tied to a picnic table during an electrical storm. She said that though he was making a mess of her place, he had become great friends with her silky terrier and she wanted to keep him. She didn't really know what breed he was but said she had loved all animals from the time she were a small girl.

A young woman who had just become a baggage handler sat with me for many minutes and told me of her young son's fear of dogs. She looked at Cassie and said, " I know he would love this one!" As she held little Cassie she talked of the difficulties of her life as a single mother.

The story went on for hours. Two young high school age girls with t-shirts displaying their foreign exchange friendship organization, told me they hoped their counterparts from across the sea would arrive before I had to leave. I knew however, which of us they really wanted their friends to meet.

Everywhere it was the same. While boarding our jet for Roanoke, the last person to get on our plane was a very large and rotund man. He was quite unkempt with hair and long scraggly beard in need of some serious soap attention. It soon became obvious that he was also mentally quite slow. On board a group of young men on their way to the Virginia Tech football game stared at him and made a few jokes, which I am certain the man could hear. He was relocated to another place other than the one he had been assigned because the lady next to him asked for the reseating. He stayed to himself with head down looking at a large print map of the eastern U.S. He was expressionless. That is until he saw Cassie. After seeing Cassie I found he could not only smile, but also express wonder and love in his own unique and eloquent way.

Upon arriving at Roanoke airport, a small girl after hearing about Cassie's surgery and the people who had worked, hoped, and prayed for her, promised me that she, by herself, would say one just for Cassie before she went to sleep that night.

I am sorry to say that I would have missed all these people had it not been for our tiny ambassador of love and life. I cannot recall before ever having such wonderful conversations with so many people. In the process of course we touched each other. I came to understand that though we as human beings are all a part of each other in physical and spiritual ways, we must not underestimate the connectivity that comes from the spirit we share with God's other creatures.

We must never underestimate the silent prayer of a child and the unheard, and now sound, heartbeat of love.