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.
May 10, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I wrote this and then re-read it. I will not torture you with how it sounds wondering for the entire post what happens. I will say, read this knowing that as of this morning, Jack is alive and well.
When I walked through the door of my house yesterday I was greeted by Jack, who was sprawled out on the floor looking up at me helplessly. He looked like a squashed bug, his fuzzy paws splayed out to his sides and his belly pressed against the floor. Kind of like Bambi looked when learning how to ice skate. I dropped everything I was carrying, which was a lot since I spent my lunch hour shopping at Ikea and had arm fulls of things to begin transforming our downstairs bedroom into a crafting room. As I rushed to help Jack stand it was clear that he couldn’t. Even when I braced his hips he nose planted back to the wood floors, the first time smacking his mouth hard onto the floor, helpless to brace himself with his front legs. I begged him to stand, in a high-pitched happy voice, the kind that dog owners know well when trying to urge their puppy to “go potty” I was using my best, “wanna go for a walk?” voice that under normal circumstances brings Jack to his feet with enthusiasm. But he sat there helpessly, his eyes confused and pleading with me to help him.
I moved him gently to the dog bed and there we sat for the next hour. I, cradling his head and he, breathing shallowly. I sobbed uncontrollably, bracing myself for what felt like the last time I would hold my Jack. I brushed the scruff of his neck with my hand, I ran my fingers through his floppy ears, the ears that I loved from the minute I first saw them. Twelve years ago, Jack was a 2 month old puppy at the shelter. My best friend, Jenny and I stopped in our tracks when we saw him trot by. He happily walked on the leash and his ears were perked up, the tips of them flopped down so when he trotted the tips of his floppy ears bounced. It was in that moment, I knew I found my puppy. Jack laid in my arms, his eyes rolling into the back of his head. I could tell he was tired and I began to talk through my sobs to him, ”I love you Jack, you’ve been such a good boy to me”, continuing to rub my hands over his protruding ribs I could hear his stomach gurgling, “We’ve been through so much together, Jack. Remember the summer we spent up at camp together and you chased all those squirrels, I thought once for sure you were going to actually climb a tree after that one squirrel. Remember all the trips we took up North together, you were such a great co-pilot. I love you Jack, so so much.” He sat lifelessly in my lap, his mouth becoming slack so I could see his front teeth. I willed myself to be strong, to hold him as he was dying. I found solace in knowing that I could be there to hold Jack as he left this world. Knowing that for whatever reason, I came home today an hour early from work, this was the reason. I rubbed Jack’s belly, knowing after 12 years of having Jack, exactly the spots he liked being rubbed best. Right in the nook of his thigh to the left of the center of his belly always made him let out a sigh of pleasure. I rubbed that exact spot and Jack seemed unaware. I continued to talk to him, “Jack, I love you so so much. You are the best puppy in the entire world, so smart, so handsome, so sweet. I will never, ever have another puppy as wonderful as you have been. Jack, I love you so so much.” Jack laid there lifeless still, his breathing becoming more shallow. By this time Paul had gotten home, between my uncontrollable sobbing I managed to make out the words, “It’s time, I think it’s time.” Paul sat on the hardwood floors with us and started talking to Jack in the same high-pitched, wanna go for a walk voice, “Hi Jacky boy.” He tried to get Jack to his feet, Jack looked up at him with recognition. Wobbly still, Jack managed to sit up his front legs finding a bit more strength than when I tried. I cautioned Paul to brace Jack’s head as Jack attempted to will his wobbly hind legs to stand. Shaky and steady Jack rose to a stand and took one step which sent him tumbling back down to the floor, his chin smacking the floor. I scooped Jack back onto my lap sobbing as I rubbed his chin and cradled his head.
Neither Paul or I were in a hurry to rush him to the vet, knowing this may be the last moments we had to share with him. Knowing when we took him, we wouldn’t be bringing him home. My mind raced to all the things Jack still hadn’t completed on his Bucket List. We still had to go to the beach on a sunny day, he still had to go to Petsmart to pick out anything his nose touched. I needed more time.
“Maybe we should get him a hamburger?”
“You want me to get him a hamburger, okay, I will go.” Paul said as he reluctantly walked towards the door. “Jack, I am going to get you a hamburger.”
With that Jack’s floppy ears perked up and he steadily rose to all fours. Slowly, but with determination, Jack took four steps towards the door, his tail slowly wagging. I caught Paul’s eye,
“He seriously couldn’t walk at all before, I swear, brace his head, be careful, he is going to fall!”
Paul cautiously opened the front door for Jack, who was now determined to make it all the way outside.
“Come on Jack!” Paul said enthusiastically, “You can do it Jack, come on outside.”
Jack still walking steadily had now found more strength in his legs and made it onto the porch and then trotted cautiously down the two front steps and into the bushes where he peed and when he finished he looked up to Paul with a stare that was so clear I could of sworn I heard him say, ”So about that hamburger!”
December 1998 – Still to TBD and his mom is sooo happy about that!