Tuesday Feb 16, 6am
I was awakened by words at my bedside I feared I would someday hear. "Mommy, Jake won't wake up."
"What? Are you sure he won't wake up or he doesn't want to get up? Is he wagging his tail?"
"Yes, he's wagging his tail and I want him to wake up now."
"Okay, well he is not quite ready, so please leave him alone and he'll get up when he's ready. I'll be down in a few minutes."
Before long, I heard Jake's nails against the wood floor slipping repeatedly as he attempted to get up, or was having a seizure; neither a good thing. I jumped up and ran downstairs to find Nathan laying on the couch with a blanket, something he has never done in the early morning, ever. Jake was nearby in the kitchen, legs splayed out, breathing heavily.
I was transported to a similar scene two years prior when his littermate, Jasper was at the end. I did as I did then and strategically placed two small rugs on either side of him, tucked his feet beneath his body and waited. He struggled to stand, I put myself in the heel position at his right side. We walked this way his whole life and he was great at it; stop, start, run, walk, that dog was glued to my left leg. Contending with arthritis and failing eyesight, the proximity of this position most recently brought security. The morning air was crisp as we stepped into the backyard, he trotted toward the dog run so I retreated into the warm house and to the downstairs bathroom. I heard Shaun on the steps and a few moments later slid the back slider open to find them in the breezeway. Shaun was gently lifting our dog from his own puddle.
Twelve years ago, on that first day, Shaun had held Jasper and the look from them both was full of promise. On this last day, holding Jake in a much more compromising position, the tenderness was still there; but this time my heart sank at the humiliation, confusion, and sadness I saw in both their faces.
Shaun brought in his bed, laid him on it and cleaned him up. I was first taken back by his fastidiousness, then softened, realizing his actual intentions; no one should lie in the rank of their own bodily function. Jake gladly snacked on his favorite--bread--he drank some water and wagged as he always did. This gave us hope. As I look back, I am saddened that we may have let Jasper suffer too long; we finally understood it was time when he refused water even from a syringe.
While Nate got ready for school he told me that Jake would die that day and then he would be getting two cats. Hard not to react to such insensitive words, but thankfully I remembered they came from a logical and usually tender--barely five year old. I had been the one, after all, that put off requests for additional pets with the statement that Jake was more than enough for now.
Shaun had the good wisdom to have Nathan tell Jake goodbye before we left for school; odd since he really had no awareness of what the day would hold.
Lots of phone calls were made, appointments made and cancelled, advice given, grandparents called upon, decisions made. Actually, the big decisions had been made two years prior; just one of the many gifts of Jasper.
It all happened very quickly. We arrived at the Emergency Vet Clinic. We were greeted and accommodated by the same efficient and caring staff that took care of Jasper previously. Jake was taken back for preliminary tests and examination, we waited. We signed things, flipped through magazines, absently stared at the Olympics. We watched two other families bond over the name that each had chosen for special members of their families--nevermind that one was plush and belonged to a three year old and the other was in the flesh, slobbering over anyone in his vicinity. I suppose just an odd coincidence that that name was Jasper...protector, bringer of peace and calmness.
In less than an hour we were brought to a room, the condition - life threatening, estimates, prognosis, decisions, payment and finally, finally our Jake was wheeled in on a gurney for final goodbyes.
I remembered the warm tears that fell on my wrist two years ago. I knew Shaun needed more time. I tried to be patient. I felt guilty and confused by the relief that would come also to me with this end. Odd, relief is exactly what I wanted for Jake, but that I would feel some as a result of his was somehow evidence of my lack of sensitivity. Turns out Shaun was feeling his own brand of selfishness in his desire to hold on a little longer.
Jake laid on his side, still on the gurney, at some point his tail came to rest and he relaxed. Shaun crouched at his head, stroking him, looking into his eyes and feeling the sadness of what we were doing and all that we were losing. I stood along his back; one hand planted at his his shoulder and the other at his hip and consciously breathed deep, cleansing breaths. I knew I wanted to give him the firm touch and the stillness of spirit that I find a comfort.
The vet told us exactly what she was going to do and what to expect. She gave our pup lots of strokes amongst the necessary tasks. Her words and movements slow and rhythmic, like a guided meditation in just the right cadence. She lingered a little at the very end before placing the stethoscope over his heart and confirming he was gone.
We thanked her and collected ourselves to leave. An assistant entered the room, extended her arm toward Shaun and handed him the collar Jake had been wearing, only it wasn't his--it was Jasper's.
Fiesta with Grandad August 2007