Saturday, December 16, 2017

Preparation for Parting

I've been preparing myself for this day for many years. Honestly I thought it would be longer coming but it's rare that you can plan out major life events with precision, especially when you're talking about the departure of a loved one.

It turns out that liver cancer has been sneaking up on my dog Jake for some time. Recently we noticed a few masses under his skin, but we didn't think anything of it. He's had one on his chest for a couple of years that we had checked a while ago. The vet back then pronounced it harmless. There have been a couple of times over the last few months where he did something weird but we just figured he was getting old. Fast forward to Friday morning, I woke up to go to work and found that he had pooped in the bedroom and bathroom. Then I found him curled up in front of my nightstand and he would not move. All day Friday he wouldn't eat and pretty much laid around. Beagles are very much motivated by food and it was strange to see him stepping over bread crusts and disregarding his dish.

This morning it was more of the same. Chelsea had already resolved to take him to the vet and while she was dressing, he drank a lot and promptly threw it up. She had to take him to an emergency vet in Poulsbo because our local vet was full. They wanted to keep him up to 24 hours to do a bunch of tests so Chelsea left him there and did the 40 minute drive home.

Chelsea had only been home for a few minutes when the vet called back. She hadn't even taken her coat off. An ultrasound revealed many irregularities in and around his liver as well as blood collecting in his abdomen.

We packed up the kids and left them with our friends and Chelsea and I returned to Poulsbo to figure out what to do. The vet was very nice when he explained the situation, giving Jake a couple of days at most due to the internal bleeding, and he assured us they would be painful days.

So that was it. After only a few hours, my close friend of the last 9-1/2 years was gone. I'm grateful that it was fast. I'm grateful for the time he was with us.

I'm grateful for my wife during this. I know that she's hurting too. We went through similar feelings when Jake was lost in the Buckhorn Wilderness several years ago but at least this time we know where he is and what has happened to him. Back then we lived a few days coming home to a silent house. It was awful. Now the children are in our lives but the jangle of his tags is already conspicuous by its absence.

We could talk a lot about whether it's healthy to be this attached to a dog but that's not really a useful discussion. I loved him and I will sense his absence keenly.

I would like to withdraw into grief right now. I'd like to pull the shades and turn my living room into a den of self-pity. If I was given to drink I'm sure I would be doing that right now. However, I have people to grieve with. Chelsea lost him too. So did Jerry. (When we were getting ready to go to the vet we told him it was possible Jake would die. He asked if we were going to get a new dog if that happened. I told him probably not right away. Without hesitation he said that if we didn't get another dog then we wouldn't have a dog. I guess he's used to it.) So the pity party will have to wait. I don't get to deal with this by extended introspection.

Right now we're stepping into a very turbulent time that will be characterized by lots of transitions. Losing Jake adds to the stress in some ways, but simplifies things in other ways. We're moving to a rental and now our options are much more open. When we get into a permanent home we'll find a new friend to warm our bed and clean up the kids' bread crusts from the floor. Make no mistake, that will not be a new Jake.

Jake at 10 weeks (Our first weekend together)

As I said, I've been preparing for this basically Jake's whole life. Sometimes when I buried my face in his fur I would know that there would be a day when I couldn't do that anymore. I thought about what to do with his remains and I had resolved that I would be with him at the end, no matter what. I like to think that the last thing he felt was our touch. We don't want to bury him in a yard we're about to sell, but more than that, we thought it would be more fitting to have him cremated and leave him in a nice bit of forest where he loved to go. Before the kids came Jake and I would walk the trails in South Kitsap Regional Park on Sunday mornings. Since the kids came, we've gone whenever we could. Maybe he would like that.

The last picture I took of him, 12/10/2017

As I said, we're heading to a time of transition. You can refer yourself to my previous post for some details on that. Because of that I'm actually happy about the timing of this. The two transitions are closely overlapping. I don't have to live much longer in this house while I'm trying to get used to not seeing Jake's face at the back door or having him accompany me to the kitchen for his cookie early in morning on work days. It will be a new house that Jake was never part of.


At 6:01 AM, Blogger Miriam Higginson said...

I've shed my own tears over this, yet know that my sadness doesn't come close to what you and Chelsea are feeling. Opening your hearts to loving is giving your life permission to experience extreme happiness, sadness, and everything in between. But what poor empty souls we would be without those feelings and memories as part of who we are. I got up this morning planning to write some kind of tribute to Jake in my journal - then I saw what you had written on your blog. I couldn't possibly write anything nearly as touching as what you did, so I hope you don't mind that I copied off your entry and used that in place of my own words. I'm grateful for the time we had to get to know Jake during those months he was with us while you were in Japan. I like to think of he and Duke meeting up again - this time Duke will have an easier time keeping up with Jake! I had wondered what you had decided to do with his remains. Your choice sounds perfect, a lovely place to visit again over the years. I'm quite sure Jake would approve. You are a good and lovely man, Tom. I know the hearts of my daughter and grandchildren are in good keeping with you.

At 6:34 AM, Blogger Holly said...

Brings back a lot of the feels about Simon. Also a very turbulent time in our lives. Sorry for your sudden some ways it's nice to have a little time to prepare to say goodbye but watching them suffer for a while is really rough. Dogs have an amazing capacity to love and provide comfort. I'm glad you had your Jakey. He and Simon are now goofing off together across that rainbow bridge. Sorry for your family's loss.


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