Let’s see if I can do this yet.
Six days ago, Craig and I helped Jack pull free of his tired, broken body. We had been agonizing over when is the right time. With past pets, I’ve felt pretty confident about “the right time” and I believe the animal tells us when they’ve had enough. I think that helping them let go is our last gift of love. The light in the eyes goes out, they stop eating, they stop enjoying.
With Jack, it was a very slow decline. He NEVER lost interest in dinner. Every time I thought we had reached the turning point, he would rally and have a good day, or a good hour.
The rest of the time he slept, and seemed kind of out of it. He wasn’t suffering, he didn’t seem to have pain. He just didn’t have much pleasure (besides dinner). He seemed to enjoy sitting on the deck in his doggie bed, and he liked holding a chewy stick (even though he didn’t chew it).
But he also had lost his sense of balance, fell down a lot, had trouble finding his food with his mouth (although he was very dedicated to that exercise). He would fall down into the water bowl.
Last Saturday, Craig and I were sitting on the deck, and the dogs were all running around, and Jack was lying on his bed, and we just kind of realized that it was time. I’m not sure how. It had been months, and not that much had changed; it was that more and more of life seemed to be a struggle for him. We called our vet, who is open on Sunday, and made the appointment for the next day at 1 PM.
Then we bawled. It hit us in waves; one of us would weep for a few minutes, then the other one. Then we would be ok for a while. Then something would hit one of us, and we’d bawl again.
The next morning, Craig got up early and went downstairs. I was lying in bed, cuddling Jack, and telling him how much I loved him, and that he didn’t have to struggle much longer, and that I hoped he would find me again later.
Craig came back upstairs with a scrambled egg for Jack, which he ate happily, if sloppily. Craig had scrambled the egg in duck fat, which tells you a lot about him. We snuggled some more, all of us together with Jack in the middle. Then we went downstairs and sat in the sun on the deck for a few hours. Jack slept. Our friend Belinda came over to tell him goodbye.
Craig fried up some chicken skin he had saved from making a stew. Jack really woke up and focused for that. We took deep breaths, and got in the car.
Jack rode on my lap with his nose out the window, chin on the windowsill, his beautiful red and sable hair blowing back, fluttering. I could see his face in the side mirror, and he looked content and aware. I got a good picture of that face, and I’m really glad that I have it. It’s the facial expression he used to have a lot, and I was glad to see it again.
When we got to the vet, I carried him inside in his duck blanket, and he was out of it again. We sat together for a while, and then the vet tech took him in the back to put the IV in. I don’t think he even knew he was there. He wasn’t upset.
The vet asked if we were ready, and we said that we were. He pushed the medicine in, very slowly, and I felt a sense of relief, which surprised me. I think it came from Jack.
We stayed a little while, but I couldn’t feel Jack there any more, so we took his body, wrapped in the duck blanket, to the pet crematory. This turned out to be even harder than the actual injection — leaving behind his body. But we did it. Craig said that we had to be strong for him, and we were. I snipped some of his beautiful hair, and Craig folded it into a tissue. I don’t know what I will do with it, but I knew I had to have it — he was the loveliest longhair dachshund I’ve ever seen.
Jack: loving, sweet, fierce, reckless, loyal. He was my Little Guy, our Jack Attack. He was Portia’s wrestling buddy. He was a mighty hunter of back yard rats, even after he lost the use of his back legs. He would pee on us when we came home from vacations, all over our shirts, he was so excited. He was a runner. He was our Ambassador for foster dogs — the first to welcome a new foster dog and show them the ropes. He was a big reason we got into rescue and founded DREAM. So his life has led to thousands of other dachshund lives saved.
I haven’t managed to go and pick up his ashes yet, but I want him to be back home with us. I’ve ordered a river stone with his name, and I want to plant something in the yard for him…maybe a weeping pussy willow, maybe a shrub. I’m going to have some kind of tattoo — my first — so that I am marked with something about him, as he marked my heart. As I write that, I see that I have a lot of plans for things about Jack, and I wonder if it seems excessive. But I don’t care. It hurts, his absence. It’s a hole.
I’ve said my goodbye, but it still seems impossible — literally not a possibility — that Jack isn’t with us.
We gave Jack a good last day, and that makes me glad. He gave us a good 10 years, and that makes me grateful.