July 15, 2013 § Leave a comment
Who would want to own a dog? They’re messy, they stink without diligent baths and even then the stink returns after a few days, they chew up important things and don’t even get me started on the hair that, no matter how many lint brushes you own, no black pants will ever be well, black.
Dog people are a certain breed. They overlook the stinky corn chip smell of their couch because the payoff is cuddling with a sweet little ball of fur. They deal with the inconvenience of traveling because the painstaking arrangements for pet sitting are a fair trade for a enthusiastically wagging tail when you walk through the door after a long trip. They shrug off chewed shoes, eaten cell phones and ruined crown moulding because behind all of those annoyances are a pair of big brown eyes that, despite their faults love you endlessly despite yours.
I am a dog lover. More aptly put an animal lover who happens to have owned dogs for the past 13 years of my life. My dogs have filed the empty spaces in my life. They saved me from coming home to solitude. They let me cry in the tufts of their fur when my heart ached and they allowed me to be the guardian of their lives. Even when that meant shouldering a responsibility much greater than a non-animal owner knows the burden of, the responsibility of letting them go.
Today I found out that our dog Charlie has lymphoma. The prognosis is bleak, even with aggressive and expensive treatment. We have decided to give him a good quality of life for the next 3-4 weeks. Long enough to say goodbye as we let Charlie do the things he loves most. Run in the park, sleep on the bed and be pet endlessly. Today Charlie is a shell of himself. The lymph nodes on his neck are so enlarged it looks like he has the mumps. He lies on the floor with little care of anyone or anything around him. He isn’t eating, barely drinking and he has gone to the bathroom on himself more than a handful of times. The vet is confident that as soon as we administer the Prednisone he will be back to his old self in a short amount of time. The nodules will shrink and his appetite will return. Unfortunately, it is a short-term fix to a fatal disease. Within a few weeks we are told that the nodes will again grow and at that time we will have to let him go.
Owning pets is such a heart filling and heartbreaking life. My wish is to spend the next few weeks filling my and Charlie’s heart despite the heartbreak on the horizon.
May 26, 2011 § 3 Comments
To say that it seems like yesterday when Jack trotted into my life, wouldn’t be giving our relationship justice, because it would mean discounting the many trying moments we had together that sometimes made a day seem like an eternity. It would mean overlooking his puppy years, when he had abandonment anxiety so strong that I could hear him howling for blocks as I drove away to work. It would mean ignoring the time that I fell through my queen sized mattress because, in order to quell his anxiety, Jack would eat the underneath part of the mattress until one day, he had eaten so much of it, I discovered his secret when it promptly caved beneath me. It would mean forgetting about how Jack ate the crown moulding off the door frames in my mom’s condo, or forgetting about the $300 prescription glasses of mine that he devoured, or the time I had a guy over, and while we sat on the couch “talking” Jack busied himself in the backyard shredding his shoes, which made for a very awkward (and final) second date.
Those were the trying years with Jack, my shelter puppy, who bounced enthusiastically into my life and filled my home with a tremendous amount of love tempered with an equal amount of disaster. From the moment I met Jack, I knew he was special. I knew owning a dog meant sacrifice. Even before I got Jack I sacrificed for him, moving out of my small one bedroom apartment when, despite a tremendous amount of begging, my landlord wouldn’t allow pets. I reasoned that I needed a dog. Being a single girl living alone, I needed the protection, and the company. I knew the silence in my home could be filled by a dog, but I never knew how loudly they could speak, until I met Jack.
Jack was my constant companion. When I went on road trips, Jack took his post, standing with his hind legs on the back seat and his front two paws on the console. When I went for a run, Jack was there beside me setting my pace, and afterwards, when I did my crunches, Jack would sit on my stomach looking down at me, his floppy ears drooping and his eyes intently set on trying to figure out why I was lying on the floor . When I went to Target, I made sure not to return home without something for Jack, I was powerless against his soft brown eyes that would be filled with hope each time I returned, asking “Did you bring me anything?”
Despite his tumultuous puppy years, Jack grew into a respectable dog. He was smart and knew how to sit, speak, shake, high-five, lay down and stay. He knew complicated terms, like “Get off the bed”, “Move over”, “Go get your ball”, “Whose at the door” and, of course, “Want a cookie?” When I took Jack to camp with me, he would relish in being unleashed. With no limits on where he could roam, he was responsible with such tremendous freedom. He spent the afternoons roaming from cabin to cabin visiting the kids and when I would yell his name into the woods within minutes he would burst back into view as if to say, “Present!”
The thing you need to know about Jack is that he was an optimist, he was also smart, tenacious, happy, enthusiastic, mischievous and adorable-but the most important characteristic was definitely his optimism. When Jack was 6 and had settled nicely into middle age he was diagnosed with liver failure. But, being such an optimist, Jack showed no sign of illness, no sign of slowing down. The failure was discovered after a routine blood test at the vet, which was standard for all dogs in “middle age”. So, once the results came back I was shocked, and scared. Jack was unshaken. One could say he was ignorant to his situation, being a dog and all, but I choose to believe that Jack was just being “Jack”. He wasn’t a worrier and he wasn’t into focusing on the negative. As Jack went in for exploratory surgery, I cried while he sat in the back seat of the car on the way to the vet with so much enthusiasm, you would of thought he was going to the biggest most fantastic park on the planet. The surgery was intense but most impressive was Jack’s resiliency. Despite a grim prognosis, Jack defied the odds and remained happy and relatively healthy. Over time, he shrunk from 70 pounds to 28. His appetite went from voracious to unstoppable and he, and everyone around him, suffered through his intense bouts of gas and excessive flatulence. The vet who cared for him since he was a puppy, marveled at how well he was doing despite being in acute live failure. Her estimation of his life span was one year, Jack lived six more. Jack’s resilience became legendary.
Over the past couple months Jack slowed down. He could no longer make it to the end of the street on walks, preferring instead to sniff the grass in front of our house, empty his bladder on the sidewalk, gaze to his left, gaze to his right and then slowly make his way back to the front porch. I knew my time with him was limited, so I am fortunate to of had this last month, it has been a gift. While Jack couldn’t get through the end of his Bucket List, I take comfort in knowing that he lived a full life. He’s been to faraway places like Northern California (for a dog, that is far). He has been to camp with 200 kids there to pet him and coo over how cute he is. He’s been on long runs, spent days in the park. He’s been to the beach, eaten an entire pizza by himself. He’s eaten a bone larger than his head and he’s slept in the big bed. Over this past month, I spoiled Jack as much as I could. He’s laid next to me all night in bed, taking up so much of space that Paul had to sleep on the couch, which he did without protest, because he too knew Jack and I were in the process of letting go of each other. I gave Jack baths, something that broke my heart because it meant being painfully aware of how skeletal he had become, his ribs and hip bones jutted out from his skin. And, I was happy to give Jack his litany of medications (6 to be exact), because I knew that they were the only hope Jack had to keep the encephalopathy at bay. But, on Tuesday night my precious little boy, Jack was ready to let go and it was my burden to allow him that dignity.
Focusing on the process of letting Jack go is not what I want to do here. Mostly because I’m not ready to talk in detail about Tuesday night, I will say it was the most adult decision I’ve had to make. I’m glad I was able to hold Jack as he drifted out of this life even though it broke me open to watch him leave me.
Twelve years ago, I met a dog who would shape my life in a way I never knew possible. Jack has been my constant for the past twelve years, my traveling partner, my pillow, my happiness when I needed a wet nose. He has been my love. I hardly know how to live in a house without Jack in it, but I know that in time, the hole in my heart filled with pain will in time be filled with the memories we shared together.
Jack, wherever you are, wherever you go, go knowing you hold a huge piece of my heart and know there will never, ever be another Jack. Thank you for an amazing journey.
I love you.