Tuesday, June 30, 2009
He was about five months old here. Isn't he cute?
I loved my dog Jake more than anything else in the whole wide world as I told him every day of his long life. But I might as well tell the truth here - he was not a good dog. He was not an easy dog, maybe I should say.
When the dog rescue people discovered Jake with his littermates and mom in an abandoned warehouse in West Oakland, California, they were quite sure that the dogs had all starved to death. Somehow they revived the animals, though. It's kind of a miracle. Unfortunately one result of that near starvation was that Jake's digestion was always dodgy, especially as a very young dog. I cooked for him for a year and a half until he could tolerate commercial dog food. It was a labor of love, but it was a labor.
Indeed I nursed him back to good health. In his prime he was 90 lbs. of pure rippling muscle. His head was huge and he was a first class chewer. He ate shoes, books, underwear, woodwork. He tore supposedly indestructible dog toys, like kongs, into shreds within five minutes. See that cow femur in the above pic? He ate the whole thing within a couple of hours. Had a terrible stomach ache as a result. Oh yeah, he was never easy.
In his prime, about nine years ago
Jake had many redeeming qualities. For one thing he was beautiful, right up until his very old age. He could run like the wind, too. Damn he was fast. Both a blessing and a curse for Jake was his passion. He was wildly enthusiastic about everything and his moods could fill any room.
I remember one time in San Francisco when, in a fit of happiness he began to run huge ovals around the perimeter of Precita Park. His joy was so contagious that all the dogs joined in. None could beat him, but they all ran and ran. It was like the chariot scene from Ben Hur. From inside the oval of racing dogs, the energy was incredible, all of us dog owners agreed. I'll never forget that moment.
Unfortunately he was just as passionate about the things he hated, like men in uniforms (mailman, UPS, Fed Ex). When one of these guys dared to approach the house he would bodyslam the front door in an effort to get to them. It was very frightening, actually.
People on bikes were ok, also folks with baby strollers, but anyone on a skateboard? He believed with every bone in his body that those people had to be destroyed, as quickly as possible.
A couple of years ago
Caring for Jake during his final days was one of the hardest jobs I've ever had. Harder still was coming to the conclusion that it was time for him to go. I deal with clients all the time who are extremely ill. Several of my clients have succumbed to cancer, one of them while I was visiting at her house. I'm no stranger to the sadness of death.
But the death of Jake? This one has kicked my ass more than I could have imagined. With no offense to anyone I love, I can honestly say I've never loved so unconditionally. He was not a good dog, but I loved him with all my heart. I really did. And he loved me. I've never felt that before. His presence in my life was extraordinarily healing.
He had a big personality that faded over time, though it came back full force in his last minutes. He went out fighting, as a pit bull/boxer should, or so my wise sister Deborah says. I am devastated, like everyone who has ever truly loved a dog. And I'll recover, because we humans are incredibly resilient.
Many many thanks to everyone who sent love and support while I moved through this rite of passage. Jake is gone; that era has ended. I'm taking deep breaths, letting the tears come as they may. What else can I do?
Onwards & upwards, great friend and teacher! I'll never forget you or anything you taught me. Fly high, brother. I love you!