Monday, December 15, 2008

My Dog is an Awesome Dog



These are Jake's final days. OK, it's possible I'm being a bit dramatic, maybe I should say these are Jake's final weeks. He could stick around for a few more months, even. If he remains in his body for another year I will be very surprised.

As he has for thirteen years, Jake is teaching me great life lessons. I'm seeing that when a creature gets really old, it's actually OK for them to die. I didn't know that since every animal I've ever had has died before its time. My parents died young, my sister died young. I don't have a lot of experience feeling love for really old beings.

Jake is ancient. In dog years he's more than 100 and he's showing it. Bumpy, saggy, scrawny, he spends almost all of his days sleeping. We no longer take our big walks all over Capitol Hill. After a few blocks, he's ready to turn around and go back to his chair (where he sleeps). Some days he has such bad tremors in his leg that he can't quite lift it when he pees. Other days he's confused; I take him out, but five minutes later he thinks he needs to go out again. His hackles come up, then flatten within two seconds. His digestion isn't that great, he has arthritis in his shoulder and hips, his breath is so bad I can hardly believe it.

Truth is, Jake and I are not as close as we once were. Both of us, in our own ways, are preparing for the end of his long life. We love each other, but it's different than it was when he was fierce and going full blast. He doesn't have a lot of energy to focus on me anymore. He loves me, but ... he's starting to check out. It's as it should be. What a great thing to learn!

Some days I think about how I'm going to buy a nice quilt after he's gone, something that won't be torn up when he jumps up there, or how I'll be able to travel without worrying about his care. Other days I am so sad I can barely keep back my tears. It's a trying time, but this last little bit of his life is rich with learning and feeling.

My roommate says it perfectly: what could be better for a rescue dog than to die of old age? Well said, isn't it? Every day until that day I am giving my ancient dog Jake serious love, giving serious thanks to him for all he has taught me. What else can I do? Nothing lives forever, not even my awesome dog. It's OK, it's really OK. Oh yeah.

22 comments:

Celestite said...

This is a special time for both of you. I once had a dog who was the light of my life for 16 wonderful years. Finally her brave legs gave out and she just couldn't get up any more. I carried her into the vet's to be put to sleep (70#!) and then sat on the floor with her. While we were sitting there she closed her eyes and died. When the vet came in he said "she was just waiting for you to tell her it was alright to leave."
That was an important lesson to learn.

Cyndy said...

This eloquent post exactly sums up the feelings I had during my cat Ted's final weeks a little more than a year ago. He had been saying goodbye for quite a while. I still miss him. I'm glad that you and Jake are both ready and at peace.

Val said...

sad days Reya but a good time to focus on the wonderful memories you have of such a faithful friend. xx

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Edward sends his blessings to Jake.
I send my thoughts and prayers to you.

ArtSparker said...

That is some good stuff you have there. I had a cat that I probably held on to for too long, it seems you have put this into very lucid perspective. Thanks for posting about this challenging experience. Best wishes to both of you.

IntangibleArts said...

This seems to be a season to reflect on the wisdom of dying "properly"... The pagan calendar captures this thought beautifully but in more tangible terms, I've had two very wise men check out around this time of year (I've just done a very lengthy post about one of 'em) --

And it seems vital to pay exceptional attention to the dying. They're creeping up on a hugely magical experience and have a lot to offer those of us with eyes and hearts. Anyway...

Adrianne said...

What a beautiful,tender tribute to Jake. And what a beautiful relationship the two of you have with one another. You are both in my thoughts and in my heart.

Barbara said...

My Jake at 10 is suddenly slowing down. He seldom runs to the door to greet me now. It's a sudden change and it is so jarring. I wanted to think he would live forever as the frisky friendly half-breed he has always been.

I'm thinking about your Jake who is even closer to the end. And I'm thinking about you as you watch him leave you little by little.

Steve said...

Well said, Reya. Enjoy every moment.

tut-tut said...

I think your roommate summed it up best. It is so difficult to say goodbye to a beloved animal; so many of our memories are bound so tightly to them, sometimes it feels they are the physical connection to past happenings. Look at your tree with the lights on in the darkness, with him next to you.

willow said...

I'm sorry to hear about Jake. We lost our Ralphy last October and miss him terribly. I have lots of wonderful memories, though, and you will, too. You're in my thoughts tonight.

Reya Mellicker said...

Thank you all for these beautiful comments. Made me cry!!

Rebecca Clayton said...

I had to laugh at your title and top photo, but your lovely musing on Jake and life made me cry. Guess that's life.

Angela said...

Our beloved black setter, Zeus, also showed these signs at the end of his life, at almost 13. I so hoped that he could die in my arms, just sleeping and not waking up anymore. But he grew weaker and weaker and could not get up alone anymore, so on a beautiful April day I had to call the vet who came to our house. He gave him a shot (a syringe) out in the garden, and so finally he died in my arms, and I let him "sleep" on there for the whole day, visiting him on and off, till I felt he also had understood. Then we buried him on his favorite place up on the slope where he could overlook his meadow...and as you see, he has never left me...

Lynne said...

I've lost so many dogs in the past few years that I can't help but tear up when I read about Jake's failing health. At least you have time to prepare for the day when he won't be with you any longer.

Give him extra hugs and pats from me. Then give yourself a great big hug from me.

XX

lettuce said...

:-[

hugs reya

mouse (aka kimy) said...

hugs 2 you and 2 jake

LuLu and LoLLy! said...

Dear Reya and Jake, We are 2 Maltese dogs. We live in a pack with two Humans we love very much, despite their human limitations. We are so happy to know that this awesome doggy Jake got to live with an awesome human like you. That is so special for him. Love, Your PaLs, LuLu and LoLLy. http://www.luluandlolly.com

Moonroot said...

This is an amazing post. Love to you and your awesome dog.

Rose said...

Beautifully written. I get it, my rescue dog is 13 too and you described perfectly his condition. Oh, and mine about him.

Just me said...

(Sorry for all the comments- I just found your blog. :) )

"what could be better for a rescue dog than to die of old age?" I have two rescue dogs also. I just posted about my baby on my blog- about how I dread losing her as I watch her get older... I hope I am able to get to the same point as you are before she dies. I can't imagine being without her!

janis said...

I am catching up on reading some of my favorite recent discovered blogs. I stumbled onto yours and love yur photos and writings.
About Jake, I don't know if you still have him today physically. I have been blessed with many pets that have lived just a few years to a dog that lived to be 21 and a couple of cats that lived past 18. They will always be with me in my heart though. I think God brought them to me for reasons and I have gathered something from each of them. I can't imagine life without them, even when it is so difficult to lose them.
Keep up your lovely blog, and thank you for sharing with us.