It's Just a Dog
I was married on June 5th, 1999. Eight weeks later we decided it was time for a dog. Being superficial by nature only the cutest most popular breed would do resulting in a decision to get a Jack Russell. The first litter visited turned out to be the one.
We were chosen, we did not choose. There were five or six of them, all as cute as cute could be with tons of character in their little faces. But one stood out, he cam straight to us without any hesitation, as if he knew we were coming. The first warning sign was the owners comments: "he's the alpha, the other puppies have to wait until he's done eating, he won't allow them to." It had to be him, so we took him home.
That night was the first sign of what was to come. At eight weeks old you could hold Einstein in your hands. He was so cute, the only logical thing to do was place him in the bed with us. During a dream where it seemed as though I was walking across hot coals or broken glass I awoke to find Einstein on top of both of my feet growling, snarling and going to town with his teeth as though he was bringing down a gazelle. This behavior would manifest itself over the next 14 years whenever the little beast was disturbed or at the very least perceived he was being disturbed.
Einstein cam home with us in July of 1999 to live with us in our little apartment. We took him on walks around the complex and its pond where he would terrorize the local wildlife including ducks, geese and all dogs. Going after them with great abandon and no fear to speak of until the day he took on a few ducklings and their mother. You see, he got his lead wrapped around a bush just before the attack. Before the lead could be untangled he pounced only to receive the same treatment from the mother duck. Not sure I have ever laughed harder as the duck pounced and little Einstein screamed. From this day forward Einstein developed a hatred for birds of any kind.
In September we attended a University of South Carolina Vs. Georgia football game, an all day affair. Little Einstein was placed in the bathroom with water, food and a blanket to lay on. Getting to and from the game proved difficult and what was to be a five hour excursion turned in to 12.
When we arrived home we opened the bathroom door to find the little genius had been hard at work. First he pushed his crate that held the blanket up against the door as if he was trying to get to the door knob. Apparently, when this did not work he decided to eat his way out. In the wall next to the door was a nice, round hole through the first layer of dry wall. Although he never made it to the outside it was an effort worthy of the great Andy Defresne from Shawshank.
With the ducks and dogs and hole in the wall, we found it necessary to hire a trainer to correct this rogue behavior. Hours were spent only to realize he would not be led. This produced the first of two of the hardest decision we ever made. Since Einstein was so active and aggressive we felt he could not function properly in an apartment and a co-worker was looking for a dog. We knew we had a great pup so we made the exchange. As Einstein was carried off in his crate he looked back with confusion and fear, our hearts broke that day. But, this was not the end.
With broken hearts and guilt we moved forward. Almost one year later we contacted the new owner to see how our beloved Einstein was doing. We were given sad news, being told Einstein was given to the parents of my coworker after the dissolution of his engagement. We were offered him back since no one seemed to want him, he was after all an aggressive and difficult dog to deal with.
A deal was made with the in-laws to keep him in their yard until we had a house. When we picked Einstein up we were saddened to find him extremely overweight and in disrepair. We were told he was left to his own devices in the back yard and a bowl of food was kept full for him. He was ignored at the very least, neglected seemed a better fit.
Although it had been a year, Einstein ran to us as though it was the day he left. He was so excited and happy it saddened our hearts that we ever let him go. Thus began a two year journey before we bought a house in another state. Making sure we bought a house with a fence Einstein finally came home in 2001.
Some things never change, some do
Einstein proved to be a resilient old soul never missing a beat and imposing his will as though he never left. Still quick to snarl and bite when he saw fit but loving and fun just the same, Einstein was home and we were grateful. Over the next 13 years we would laugh and cry and fear for his safety.
Since Einstein came from a very purebred line of JRT's he had issues common to purebreds. Food allergies, aggressiveness and the occasional health scare caused several trips to the animal hospital including a deep infection in a foot and an almost deadly bout of pancreatitis. These scared us to death, especially since we felt so guilty over his first two years.
During these years we were greeted with dead opossums, rabbits and birds. Once he walked in to the bedroom and jumped on to the bed with a grey material in his mouth. Since he had a toy squirrel this was the assumed material. After about 10 minutes a smell was noted and it turned out to be a rabbit leg, a very fresh rabbit leg.
He never changed his personality and made sure he attacked every dog no matter how big. Then there was the penchant for snapping at anyone who reached for him save his mom and dad. It has been said on more than one occasion, "he's so cute, I wish he'd let people pet him", but that was him, difficult but loved.
Through all the ups and downs one thing changed, our love for him. It grew to immeasurable amounts. We have no children so this was our child. I am not equating a dog to a person, but to us he was our responsibility. One that we failed and were determined to never fail again.
For the next 12 years Einstein would terrorize the neighbors 100 pound lab and pit bull/beagle mix. He lost two front teeth while running up and down the fence with the neighbor dogs while trying to bite them through the fence. He was not all bad, if they got in to his yard he would tolerate them as long as they respected him. As soon as one bumped him or knocked him over it was time to rumble and even though the lab could swallow him whole he would hold his own with bulging eyes and fierce animalistic sounds.
It's hard to believe a 22 pound dog could be so scary but he was. A deck builder said there was no way I was getting up on that deck as long as he was there. I have worked with people who trained police dogs. Never once did I find one with a stronger will than Einstein. I once tried an alpha role with Einstein. This is where you hold the dog down and stare him in the eyes until he looks away. Einstein looked away showing submission, the second I let him go he nipped me and ran.
He did well in his own yard, but nothing lasts forever.
After 12 years in a southern city Einstein got to move to the beach where we rented a house with a big fenced in yard. The first time he saw the ocean he affirmed his uniqueness. Every dog I ever owned would run from water, especially on the beach. Einstein marched out into the surf as if it was not there. He had no fear, no equal. The only leader in his life was me, all others step aside because he was second in command.
After a year at the beach we were forced to move up north. Einstein gave snow the same treatment he gave the surf, he was the boss but we were forced into a town home. This is where things went south.
Oh what a terrible day
Einstein acclimated to the cold with no issues. He attacked it the same way he attacked everything, head on without hesitation or fear. Almost fifteen years old, he struggled at times. The snow and ice caused him pain in his foot to the point where he could not walk on all fours. He also began to show symptoms of a spinal cord injury he was diagnosed with a few years earlier. In his last two years, Einstein became more cuddly, wanting to be in one of our laps more and more. We loved it but knew it was an expression of pain and need for comfort.
Living in a town home things were not easy. I could not look for full time work because Einstein needed care several times a day and to be walked. The pain was not obvious but he began to groan at night and get up and down and up and down, pacing around the house. It was obvious he was not 100%, but Einstein at 60% is more active and alive than most at 100%.
Over the last year of his life I would argue with my wife that he was OK while she would say he is suffering. Then on February 18th 2014 I cam home from a visit to the driving range and found Einstein pacing around stiff and wobbly. When I tried to comfort him he yelped in pain louder than I have ever heard before. A trip to the vet confirmed it was probably a spinal issue. We were given Tramadol to augment the Gabapentin he was already taking for over a year. Then again on Saturday the 22nd he flared again. We took him to the animal hospital where an X-ray confirmed at least two collapsed discs.
After much discussion we decided he was to old for a surgery that would more than likely make things worse and the inevitable was at hand. We took Einstein home. For two days we grieved over him and showered him with love. On The 24th I cooked a tenderloin filet and let him eat it. We had two great days with him, he was alive and fun, running around and even fighting with another dog. At night and in the car the pain was still evident. He could not sit many times or lay down but would try and try. Although he was vibrant and attentive, we stuck with our choice.
February 25th, 2014, one of the worst days of my life, we made the second of two horrible choices. We took Einstein to the vet at 10:30am. He was excited and strong. When we got into the room he clawed and climbed into our laps for comfort. After a sedative put him to sleep he was gone. Just like that, did we make the right decision, was it to soon? Everyone tells us we did, but I'll never know. I just know I miss him and he was the most unique and special animal I ever met. I still feel as though we may have rushed it but he's better now and at peace. Both vets looked at the X-ray and agreed with our decision but it still stunk to high heaven. Never have I felt more guilt or pain, as if I had failed him. But this is a decision every pet owner has to face barring a catastrophic injury. Not sure I'll ever forgive myself, but life will go on. I loved him, not as a Dog, as a companion.
I write this for comfort more than anything else but I would like others to know how special Einstein was. And I want people to know, choosing a pet is not for you, it's for the pet. We made huge mistakes that thankfully were not catastrophic but could have been.
All animals are unique and have personality and emotions. They are not discerning, they are what they are. If anyone else picked Einstein he may have been abused or discarded, thankfully he picked us and I am forever in his debt. He taught me about unconditional love the hard way. Through frustration and anger I learned to love him, not to control him. I also learned I have a responsibility to the pet I chose. To care for them, provide for them, love them and even let them go when the time is right. I know he would have fought through the pain and stayed with us for years to come but that was not fair to him. He should not have to suffer and I hope he at least knows we had his best interest at heart.
It's not just a dog. He's a friend, teacher, comforter and companion. He taught me so much about life, how to love and care for someone who cannot care for him/her self. He made my marriage better and taught us many life lessons. And he always brought a smile to everyone's face.
So the next time you decide you may want a pet remember it's a huge commitment. And they are counting on you, for everything.
This was Einstein's last day before he was euthanized. He is full of Gabapentin and Tramadol and is feeling no pain. We almost second guessed our decision, he's so full of life. But I know as soon as we get home he won't be able to sit or lay down comfortably. Once the drugs wear off he will be in a lot of pain. The video brings tears to my eyes but I know we loved and cared for him, that's all a dog can ever ask. To be cared for and loved.