Dog Stories: Angus, Jake, Luna = Part 2

Months passed. Friends asked us if we’d get another dog. We knew the answer, but “when” was the important question. No one would replace Angus. He would be part of us forever. But perhaps someone else could add to our lives, as he did. Eventually, we began our search for such a person. We learned that rescue organizations saved the lives of homeless dogs and gave them a second chance to find “a forever home.” We decided to go that route.

It was not easy. After realizing we were older and perhaps “the Puppy experience” would be more than we believed we could handle, we found an older dog, residing out-of-state, that could meet our needs (and his) and we hoped to meet him. Applications, interviews, and emails followed. Our search ended when Jake (pictured below) was brought to our home. Many miles and four previous homes had left him shyer than we expected. He, too, was a Lab. He’d been passed over more than once because of his age. We were told he was 8 – 10 years old. (Our vet told us later he was “at least 10.”) And he was black. A victim of “black dog syndrome.” Often referred to as BBD (ie, Big Black Dog), such animals are passed over because of a potential owner’s bias against or fear of such animals. Jake, the name he brought with him, was hesitant around strangers. With his history, that was not surprising. But we liked him –and he was only 75 pounds. We accepted immediately.

We had less training to do.   A plus for many rescued, older dogs. He knew where the bathroom was. Not surprisingly, it was our back yard. We knew Labs liked to eat… and go for walks… and play ball. My, excuse me, our pitch and catch routine began anew. But Jake had his own spin on that game. I would throw the ball and, true to is breed, he retrieved. But after racing to the ball, getting it securely in his mouth, he took a zig-zag route back to me. He went straight toward me, but then he began finding a more unique path by which to return the ball and start our game again. A series, original every time, of lefts, rights, circling back on his path, and forward movements commenced. He was not to be interrupted on his journey. He knew I was at the end of it and he took his “necessary” time and path to reach me. And I learned patience. He got exercise and I got a new, more reserved ball-playing friend. And I knew when our game was over with absolute certainty. It was when Jake made a sharp left turn, jumped onto our patio, and headed for our back door which he opened by putting his head down, pushing it open, and walking inside. Our game had a new wrinkle. And I knew what to do: accept it.

We, and Jake, had made a good choice. He, too, brought physical problems that could, and should, have been dealt with by one of his former owners. That expense was left to us. Fair enough. Jake was, as was Angus, worth every penny. Time with him was as wonderful as we hoped it would be –but much shorter.

After two and a half years, the end came quickly. One day, after time outside, he collapsed when walking through the doorway. We rushed him to the vet hospital assuming they would know what caused his sudden difficulty. They took him quickly to the examination room. A doctor came to speak with us in the waiting room and said they needed to run some tests to obtain an accurate diagnosis. We said “fine.”

A short time later, we were escorted into a private room –not a good sign. The diagnosis was worse than we could have imagined. He had an incurable, untreatable, advanced form of cancer. Tests had revealed multiple tumors. His collapse was because his body was weak and, while not in pain yet, it would soon be overwhelming. His death would be agonizing and occur in a few days or, at most, two weeks. We were given a choice: take him home and remain with him until the pain and bleeding were not manageable –or say our good-byes immediately. We asked our questions: “Are you sure? Incurable? No more time than that? And it would be …that bad?” The answers were what we feared. They left us alone to think about our “options.”

We had taken him to the hospital for emergency treatment. It turned into an immediate good-bye. We knew, from the beginning of our life with him, we wouldn’t have a long time together. But to end this quickly, and this way? No one is prepared for that. No one. Our only thought was: he won’t die in pain, no agonizing final days. He did not deserve that and nothing would be gained by it. Our pain at losing him? We would have to deal with that on our own. But he would not die alone or in mind-bending pain. He brought us joy. We owed him the most painless and compassionate death available.

The hospital staff was sensitive and took time with us. They brought in a blanket for us and Jake to share on the floor. They even brought in treats –chocolate chip cookies and cooked chicken. His final treats. No need to worry about calories or chocolate’s harmful side effects. “Take your time. Let us know when you’re ready.” We held him We told him how much we loved him, and would remember him always.

When we were “ready,” we asked for the doctor to come in. An IV was in place. There were two doses of drugs: the first put him to sleep; the second stopped his heart. We held Jake and cried. We arranged to pick up his ashes the following week. Then we went home. The house was horribly quiet, and one third empty.



About rcarmean

Two things... First, why have I decided to establish this blog? I like to put essays together. I research an idea or topic looking for information, statistics, stories, quotes, pictures, etc. I enjoy the process and seeing a finished product. I’m told that as I get older, new activities can help maintain energy and keep my brain alert. In other words, I am not doing this for money or fame. Second, regarding the gentleman in the collage of pictures's not me. Those are photos of Christy Mathewson. Why him? When I was young, my primary activity was being sick. It took up much of my time. Eczema (a case so bad I was written up in a medical journal showing doctors what their patients COULD look like), asthma, and allergies. You know allergies: don’t eat this, don’t wear that, and, for Heaven’s sake, don’t touch any of these things (eg, dogs, cats, horses --I only saw horses in cowboy movies and TV shows, dust, swimming pools, my brother --OK, that’s an exaggeration, Rick was a fine brother). In my spare time between doctors' appointments, pills, and ointments, baseball kept me sane. In the 1940s and 1950s, when I grew up, pro footballI and basketball had not yet become extremely popular. Baseball truly was “the national pastime.” I listened to games on the radio (remember it? TV without the picture). I read magazines, books, and newspaper accounts of games. I collected baseball cards. I learned about the game’s history, as well as present. The same with its stars. One man stood out: Christy Mathewson. He was a great pitcher for the New York Giants in the early 20th century. But there was much more to him. At a time when professional athletes made little money (yes, there was such a time) and ball players were considered on the same level as actors, artists, and prostitutes, Mathewson stood out. One of his nicknames was: “The Christian Gentleman.” Most men is baseball drank, smoked, cursed, and fought —with other players, umpires, and fans. The fights were physical, not just verbal. Mathewson did none of these things. But he earned the respect of other players who did them all. Even Ty Cobb and John McGraw. There’s more. He was a college graduate (Bucknell University) when most men were lucky to have a high school diploma. He played other sports, including pro football which you wouldn’t recognize. He was handsome. He played in New York City, then as now, the largest city in the country. Excellence and popularity there meant fame and money. He dressed well. Today, his commercials would rival LeBron’s. And, finally, a hero’s life must have tragedy. After his playing career ended, WWI arrived. He suffered from influenza and was exposed to mustard gas. Chemical warfare. His lungs were damaged and he required treatment for the rest of his life. (Like my Grandfather who also fought in The Great War.) He died in 1925. He was 45 years old. I have his picture here because you need to know more about him than me. He was what an athlete could be. Players like him and their accomplishments got me through a sickly, painful childhood and can still sustain me in difficult times. *****
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