Sunday, March 11, 2012

Our beloved Jack, 2001-2012

It’s sad out.  The air is thick with grief.  A loyal companion died.  My brother and his family lost their sweet dog, Jackson, to cancer. 

Jack’s illness happened so fast.  Less than two weeks ago, he was a special guest in my nephew, Evan’s first-grade class.  He seemed unusually tired afterward, but a class of twenty kids climbing, patting and assaulting Jack with their love would do that to any dog, right?

Last weekend Jack stopped eating.  Rich and Angela bought him soft food, but he was still uninterested.  Rich hand-fed him, and sweet Jack complied.  There wasn’t much Jack wouldn’t do for Rich.  Rich looked in his mouth for a suspected broken tooth, but found nothing.  The food perked Jack up and more days went by. 

Rich and Angela surprised their kids with a trip to a nearby resort, camping-themed and complete with indoor waterslides.  What a treat to have a break from the harsh Washington winter!  They dropped Jack off at his best buddy, Mick’s house for a sleep over.  Mick was Jack’s best friend and fellow Golden Retriever.  He spent many nights at Mick’s house.  Annette, Rich’s in-law, and Mick’s owner, lavished the dogs with attention and love.  She called Rich and Angela on Thursday morning, worried.  Something was wrong with Jack.  He did not greet her with his usual energy.  When she woke that morning, Jack lied on the floor and managed a few tail wags.  After hanging up with Rich and Angela, she took him to the vet.

The lab results were concerning.  Jack’s liver enzymes were off the charts and the doctor ordered x-rays to confirm what he feared.

The x-rays showed a large tumor near Jack’s spleen.  He needed surgery. 

Annette called Rich and Angela with the news.  They cut their visit short and drove the three hours home to see Jack.

Friday night the family visited Jack.  Rich and Angela were shocked at how rapidly he had declined.  Jack struggled to get up and walked out of his crate.  He stopped three feet from the door and wagged his tail.  On the floor of the vet’s office, Jack lied down surrounded by his family.  The pain meds made him sleepy. 

Overnight, Rich and Angela discussed the grim reality of Jackson’s situation.  They did not want him to suffer.  Once in surgery, if the doctor found the cancer had spread, they agreed to not wake Jack up.  The pain of that decision was cutting, yet driven by selfless love for a dog that had provided a family with eleven years of happiness.

Saturday morning, the family drove to visit Jack.  This time Jack managed to walk to the waiting room.  He sat in my niece, Tristan’s lap and the family of four spent quiet time with their dog. 

Jack’s ears perked up when another dog entered the office.  He wagged his tail with mild thumps as the kids talked to him. 

It was time to go.  Rich walked Jack to the back and guided him into his kennel.  Jack followed without hesitation.  He always listened so well. 

Rich welled up with emotion.  Jack lifted his head and licked Rich’s hand through the door of the kennel.  Did he know?  Was this his goodbye? 

The doctor assured Rich that he’d call as soon as he knew anything.  The surgery was scheduled for 2pm.  Rich received a call at 2:10.

The cancer was all over Jack’s insides.  It covered all of his vital organs.  There was nothing more they could do.  Jack was gone.

The pain of losing a pet is so visceral.  Many compare the loss of a pet to the loss of a family member.  A family member who never gets mad at you, loves you at your worst and is always happy to see you.  A family member who will do anything to please you and is content just being in your presence. 

The love Jack gave was unconditional.  As the family cried, my brother told his children, “Jack gave us eleven years of happiness and one day of sadness.  I’ll take it.”

Jack had the expressive face of a Golden, with light eyes that shone with compassion and patience.  His coat was blonde and silky, never losing the softness of his puppy fur.  The hair on the back of his ears looked like it had been crimped using a styling tool from the 1980’s.  His look set him apart, but his smile really stole the show.

Jackson belonged to Rich and Angela, but he was everyone’s dog.  To know him was to love him.  The day Jack died, the neighbors visited  to give tearful hugs and condolences.  The young girl from next door said, “Jack was the best dog in the world.” 

“Thanks, Ava.  That is nice of you to say,” Rich said.

“But it’s true.  We miss him so much,” Ava’s mom added.

My brother and his family have countless stories of Jackson; a decade worth of memories to fill their hearts in his absence. 

Rich shared with me a particularly funny memory of Jack.  They were at their cabin in Chelan, Washington when Jack decided to go for a nighttime stroll.  Ever the curious one, Jack came upon a new friend and gave a little under-the-tail sniff only to be sprayed in the face by a skunk!  Jack bucked and pawed at his face.  Rich found (smelled) Jack and drove to the nearby WalMart to load up on remedies for skunk spray. 

Upon his return, Rich took Jackson down to the lake and doused his head in tomato juice.  Illuminated only by the lights from his truck, Rich poured bottle after bottle of the red juice onto Jack’s head. 

“Sorry, Jack!” Rich laughed.  Jack, patient as ever, stood quietly with a blood-red head while Rich washed him in the lake.

“If anyone had driven by, they’d have thought I was murdering my dog!” Rich said.  “The poor guy was covered in tomato juice.”

Jack never again stuck his nose up the ass of a skunk.

Each of us who knew Jackson was blessed beyond measure.  Thank you, Rich and Angela for allowing us all to share in the joy of your beloved pet. 

My words fail to do justice to the magnificence that was Jackson.  We love you, Jack and will always miss you.

Jackson 2001 – 2012.


R.F. said...

Incredible. I know Jack gave you all the material you needed but you put it together beautifully.
Thanks Shan
Rich, Angela, Tristan, and Evan

Shannon said...

Thank you, Rich. I love you all. It was an honor to write about Jackson. Thank you for the opportunity.


erijavec said...

Beautiful story Shan. I never met Jackson, but I know that Rich, Angela, Tristan, and Evan were lucky to have shared their lives with him. Godspeed.

Shannon said...

Thanks, Ernesto. I know you understand the love and loss of a pet. Like Beau, Jackson was a treasure.