Jake was a 14 year old Springer Spaniel, black and white. He was my father’s dog, his baby, his buddy. When I was young, we had dogs- Smokey, a collie-lab mix that died when I was 14, and Prince, a purebred collie. During that period, I can’t remember my dad ever showing much interest in the dogs- if any- but after my brothers and sister and I had all grown, and moved out, and long after Prince had died, he determined that he *needed* a springer, with sad brown eyes, that he would call Jake.
Dad is a pilot, flying around in his small plane, taking care of clients and finding the best skiing; and he’d encountered a springer at a small airport in northern Minnesota, and determined that that is the kind of dog he needed. One who would travel around with him, to the cabins, here and there.
So, he found a breeder, and found Jake. They became best pals, wrestling around on the floor, going running together, flying to the cabin as planned. Unplanned was the silly puppy eating rocks, and requiring surgery not just once, but twice, but Dad forgave all, including the puppy chewed shoes and muddy paws and fur all over couches and beds and carpeting.
When my Mom got too ill to stay in Minnesota, and had to move to California, Dad was still working; so, we were all glad he had Jake for company, until he retired and could move to be with Mom full-time. The hard part at that time, is that Jake couldn’t go too, and so Dad was talking about having to get rid of him. At that point, we stepped in, and said don’t be silly- you can’t let him go to strangers, we’ll bring him home with us until it’s time for you to move back to Minnesota, and can have him back.
So, four years ago, Jake came to live at our house. Our daughter adored him, from the start, and our other dog Dizzy loved having a pal. Jake would greet me when I came home from anywhere, by being “fierce”. He’d roll onto his side, his back, or gently take my wrist in his mouth, and “talk”. He was the most expressive dog I’ve ever met, with rrrrrrrrsssss and grrrrrrsss, and little squeaks and pretend growls; we used to call it playing police dog, when he’d do that, pretending to be so fierce; but, he couldn’t hide the glee in his eyes, or the wag of his whole back end, as his little tail would go so hard.
The past year, though, he’s started to slow down, and gotten a bit creaky, and lost what little hearing he had left. He stopped talking so much, and police dog became a game we “used to play”. But, he still loved to see us, and run around the woods, and greet his special friend Beth, and sleep curled up in her bed at night.
Until the last couple weeks, he just did his thing. But then, he started to get shakier, and wobblier, and over the last two days, he got to the point that it was hurting him to move at all, and he could barely stand up.
So, today, I took our old friend in, and held him while the vet gave him his final injection. It’s amazing to me, how much it hurt. I knew it had to be done, I know it’s the right thing to do, and that it was time, but it hurts. He wasn’t ours as a puppy, but we knew him from that time; and he’d become a part of our lives, over the last four years, and there’s a big old empty space in my heart tonight.
Beth is going to miss him the most, I think; she’d formed an instant attachment that only deepened as she grew to love him, and to think of him as her own special dog; when we initially spoke of having Dad take Jake home, after Mom died, it was really Beth that kept him with us; Dad was worried that she’d miss her pal too much, so he chose to leave Jake with us until the end.
So I’m sitting here, in the middle of the night, missing his snores and grunts, because he’s not on the couch over there <<<<<, or at my feet, and I don’t have to get up every hour and take him outside. I have tears pouring down my cheeks, so I think I have to stop this now, before I can’t see what I’m typing anymore.
Rest well Jake, you’ve earned it, and I love you.