Lessons from the Dogfather

Jake in the carJake was our first dog. He’ll probably be our last dog, too.

Long before we got our black Lab, I was already imagining the pain of saying goodbye to a treasured member of the family. Our youngest son was just 10, so I figured by that time, he would be old enough to handle it. There was no question I would never handle it; not well, anyway.

The end was quick, although looking back, Jake had been failing for some time. He no longer ran to the door to greet visitors or even family, allowing them to come to him (“the Dogfather” and “the Little Prince,” we called him). He did not hang out with us in the dining room while we had dinner any more. He didn’t eat his own dinner with his former gusto. He seldom rooted through his toy basket looking for something to chew, or lounged at my feet while I read in the living room. He had a hard time jumping up into the car, so didn’t come for rides any more. He had difficulty on the stairs, and his back legs gave out if he stood for too long. He was slow as a turtle on our walks.

Still, he was always game for a walk, rain or shine. He was the unofficial mayor of the neighbourhood, eager to greet the special friends who made a fuss over him or gave him cookies, or even anyone who had a garage door open. He loved to sit in the shade under the tree at the front of our house, sniffing the breeze and surveying his kingdom. He kept me company in my home office during the day, and slept near my side of the bed at night.

He was almost 14 years old, but it was unimaginable that he would leave us some day.

Some day was last Friday.

He never minded going to the vet’s, but once inside he was always nervous someone would try to take his temperature (a long memory, held since he was a pup). So I’m grateful the end didn’t come in an animal hospital or the vet’s office, but at home. I’m grateful it didn’t take days, but hours. I’m grateful we didn’t have to make a decision to put him to sleep, but that he went on his own terms.

I read somewhere that dogs help people (especially boys) express affection, and I think that is true. Patting a dog is also supposed to be calming; again, true. Jake also did a good job of reminding me to live in the moment. He made sure I got my exercise. He was the ice breaker who introduced me to people on the street. He was the poster boy for unconditional love and loyalty. Most recently, Jake was teaching me about patience — boy, was he teaching me about patience – on our slow walks down the street.

Goodbye, my treasured furry friend. I will miss you.

Related posts:
10 things we can learn from dogs
Some thoughts on loss and people who tell you “it’s just a dog”

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15 Comments

  1. Posted July 30, 2014 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful tribute for this wonderful dog. Everyone who knew Jake will miss him — the way he would greet us at the door, his cute manner of gently pushing his head forward for a pat, and especially the look he would give his “mom” — adoration for sure. I am so sorry for your loss, Sue. Jake was very special.

  2. Posted July 31, 2014 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Donna. He sure was.

  3. Branimir Zlamalik
    Posted July 31, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Always so sad … I had to go through with all my dogs. For 40 years. And now Chubaka is so close. You saw her when she came. Nine years ago.

  4. Posted July 31, 2014 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Branimir, I know you know how I feel! I did see her as a puppy. How does the time go so quickly?

  5. Lisa McAvoy
    Posted July 31, 2014 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Oh, Sue. I am so sorry for what is certainly a considerable loss. Our furry friends are so important, and special and meaningful. I understand your pain. How blessed you all were though to have such a special, loving dog. I’m glad you will have wonderful memories to last the rest of your life.

  6. Doreen
    Posted July 31, 2014 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Sue that was a beautiful tribute to Jake.. we knew how tired he was getting when he didn’t pee when he saw me this time.. I will always SMILE when I think of my friend Jake… he was truly loved by all of us.. Sending you the biggest HUG ever.. xoxxo

  7. Posted July 31, 2014 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, ladies. You are right, Lisa, it was a privilege to have this special, loving dog in my life. And Doreen, that was definitely a major clue that he was not himself!

  8. Branimir Zlamalik
    Posted July 31, 2014 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    Dog is a human whisperer. Dog make us happy, caring, dog tame us to love it. And when dog is gone, it continues to whisper, telling us with this unaudible raspy Scarlet O’Hara’s voice, not to cry, to cry tomorrow. We don’t hear it and we cry today, bit less tomorrow, and then we start forgetting until in a month, or two, or more, next tomorrow comes and our eyes itch and tears clean our sorrows … and dog whispers: be happy without me as I was with you.

  9. Wanda Keenan
    Posted July 31, 2014 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful tribute to Jake. We have had Gracie in our lives now for just over a year, and I already know I can’t handle that day.
    You have a way with words Sue, and I am happy that Jake was a big part of your life and who you are.

  10. Posted July 31, 2014 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    Wow… ‘t’ words not only come to mind, but are expressed quite plentifully after reading this ‘tribute’ – , like ‘touching’ and ‘teary…’

  11. Posted July 31, 2014 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    Thank you all. Branimir, that last line brought tears to my eyes. Wanda, it took me a couple of days before I could face watching the video of Jimmy Stewart saying goodbye to Beau; I am sure you can already imagine the same feeling about Gracie! Sue, thank you. Give your sweet girl an extra big hug.

  12. Kate Negrazis
    Posted August 1, 2014 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Oh Sue.
    I’m so very sorry about Jakey. He was an amazing pup and truly part of the family. Time is the only thing that can heal our broken hearts, but in that time, we can reminisce about all of the incredible memories that he made possible.
    Growing up on a farm, we have lost a few dogs and I can say undoubtedly that dogs stay perfectly placed in our hearts forever. The love for them gets stronger and the memories get fonder, not sadder, over time.
    Jakey had a fantastic family and group of friends who loved him dearly and he them, and that will never change. xoxo

  13. Posted August 2, 2014 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Thanks for commenting, Kate! I am sure you are right. We already got out his early pics and we’re reminiscing about things he used to do.

  14. Katherine Clements
    Posted August 3, 2014 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    So sorry about Jake, nothing can ever prepare us for the loss of our dogs. Unconditionally the best friend to all in the family. It was always a pleasure to run into you and Jake in the park, and Jake always wanting to say hello and chase after Franklins ball. Always showing a spark. He will be missed by the entire neighbourhood. Our thoughts are with you.

  15. Posted August 3, 2014 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Catherine! Haha yes Jake was always ready to jump in and go for Franklin’s ball. And Franklin was so polite about it even though Jake was never good at giving it back!

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