A Dog Named Jack
When I was living with my husband, I had two stepsons--Tommy and Kenny. Tommy brought home a puppy one say, saying, "Can we keep him? Huh? Can we? Please..."
Well, if you could've seen the look on Tommy's face, or the puppy's face, you would've relented, too.
We all loved Jack. Jack was a shepherd/collie mix, a stray that someone had heartlessly dumped. What a good dog, what a happy dog! Jack was always glad to see us. He'd great us with a big smile on his face (yes, dogs can smile--if you have one, you know!), his tail wagging a mile a minute. He always put his nose in my crotch, and I'd push his nose away, laughing. Why do dogs do that?
He grew to be a fairly big dog, and he'd try to climb into my lap while I was sitting in the living room in the evening, reading while my husband watched the TV. That always made my husband, Ed, laugh, because only about half of Jack fit on my lap.
When Tommy got his driver's license, Ed gave Tommy his old Suburban and got a new car. We figured there was more solid metal protecting Tommy in the old Suburban than in any smaller, sportier car. Tommy would say, "Go for a ride in the truck?" or just, "Truck?" and Jack would leap up, that big happy grin on his face, tail wagging to beat the band. Jack loved riding in the Suburban with Tommy. Tommy rolled down the window for Jack and Jack would stick his head out the window.
Jack was really Tommy's dog. Tommy fed him and gave him his water. Tommy built a house for Jack out on the back porch. Tommy took him for walks, then later on, rides. Jack went everywhere with Tommy.
But for some reason Jack wouldn't let Tommy, or anyone else but me, give him a bath. Jack didn't like baths but from time to time, especially when he rolled in something stinky, it had to be done. If anyone said the word "bath", Jack would cock his head to one side and his ears would go back and he'd look at you out of one mournful eye.
He'd only let me bathe or groom one side of him at a time. Then I'd have to let him go off and play or find some rocks for awhile, and get the other side later.
Jack loved rocks. We had a creek running behind our house, and Jack would find a fairly good-sized rock from the creek and bring it to one of us, dropping it at our feet.
Jack was originally "Jackie", named after Jackie Onasis. We thought he was a girl dog. The vet could've told us he was a boy when we took him in to get his tags and shots and so forth, but the subject just didn't come up. After he developed a little more, we figured it out for ourselves, and Jackie became just Jack.
As Jack got older, we noticed he had some trouble moving his hindquarters. He couldn't get into the Suburban anymore by himself--Tommy had to lift him in. The back steps got harder for him to climb. He didn't try to climb into my lap anymore--he just laid his head on my knees.
We had him for about fifteen years by that time. I think the formula is one dog year equals about 6 people years, so Jack would've been about 90 in people years. We took Jack to the vet and the vet gave us the bad news. Jack had arthritis in his rear hips. There was no cure. There was some medicine to ease him a little, but Jack couldn't get any better, only worse.
Our poor dog, God bless him. Jack was so patient and didn't whine much, only when he really got in trouble and needed help getting outside to do his business. It got really pathetic to see our Jack, who was part of the family, dragging around his hindquarters, trying to be the good, happy dog he always was.
Ed and I exchanged some very strong words. Ed wanted Jack put to sleep, and I was against it. It seemed like euthanasia to me. We wouldn't put Tommy or Kenny or Ed or me to sleep if we had trouble getting around, would we?
But finally I had to relent. Jack was maybe in a whole lot of pain, and there was very little we could do to ease him.
We all went to the vet's. Tommy drove the Suburban, giving Jack one last ride in the truck, while I held Jack in my lap in the front seat. Jack's rear end was situated as comfortably as we could make it in the floorwell of the passenger seat, and I held his upper body, my face buried in his fur to hide my tears.
Ed had thoughtfully provided a box of Kleenex, and he and Kenny passed the box back and forth in the back seat, blowing their noses frequently. God bless Tommy for getting us to the vet. I don't know how he could see to drive.
The four of us stayed with Jack while the vet administered the shot, even though the vet advised us not to. We weren't going to let Jack go to the happy hunting ground, where there was an infinity of rocks and trucks and dead woodchucks to roll in and no baths, all alone. Tommy and Kenny were at his head, scratching his ears and telling him what a good dog he was. Ed and I were at about the middle of his body, petting him and patting him and loving him up one last time.
Jack slipped into unconsciousness. His eyes closed; his breathing slowed. Then he gave a little gasping yelp--he was having trouble breathing. Then his body convulsed slightly and his front paws twitched; his bowels released, and he was dead.
The vet cleaned him up for us. We took Jack home in a plastic sack. Oh, we were crying--we were all crying. It makes me cry now, to remember this and write this, so many years later.
We buried Jack in the back yard, underneath the red maple tree.
I've never had another dog. Jack was just the best.
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