Saturday, May 18, 2013


This is so hard to write.
I'm not sure where to begin.

My beloved Jack Russell Terrier Jackson, Jackjack, is dead. We had to euthanize him yesterday.

The choice to do so was the easy part. It's actually dealing with his death that is not. Never mind that I had thought for months now that I'd find him curled up in the sun on the floor, or next to me in bed, never to wake again. Expecting the end, and even choosing it does nothing to help make it easier to bear.

Jackjack came to Jamie and I through a friend of ours who worked at a kennel. His old lady owner had boarded him and his sister while she went on vacation. She suffered a heart attack and never came back for them. And so, we said yes when a phone call came to ask if we'd like to rescue a fat old Jack Russell.

Boy was he fat! He came out coughing at the end of a leash, one size around from chest to tail, and so hyper. He was so excited, he would pull against the leash and collar constantly, making him hack-cough, and snuffle. His little nub tail moved side to side. He was so fat! He went home with us, this stranger dog who was so heavy to hold in my lap. I think they said he was anywhere from 10 to 12 years old.

I remember worrying what sort of sleeping arrangements he might be used to with his old lady- did she make him sleep on the floor in a little dog bed? We didn't have anything like that- Grunt slept with us in bed. We needn't have worried- he jumped right up into bed when I laid down and found a comfy place next to me. He's been my teddy bear ever since. That was sometime in 2005 I think.

Jackjack has been through a lot with us. He lost all that extra weight, turning into a triangle shape- still with that broad chest, but with a tiny skinny butt end. He also quickly developed an allergy that caused him to need protective clothing. I remember that night fairly clearly. Jamie and I took a shower together, and when we came out, Jackjack suddenly had a large pink gooey spot on his lower back or butt. A vet told us it was a hot spot, but it turned out to only be the beginning of his horrible itchy allergic reaction to something. We tried everything to fix it- special baths and oatmeal soaps, different foods, oil pills, all kinds of things. In desperation to keep him from chewing bloody holes in his backside, I hastily cobbled together a suit of sorts from a worn out pair of Jamie's work slacks.

Jackjack wore clothing ever since. It was the most useful solution we had, and one that worked from that day for the next 6 years. The first suits were sorry things to look at- almost always made in a hurry when Jackjack finally chewed a hole in the one he had, or the fabric weakened and tore. Gradually I got really good at making him not look stupid, though.
His last overalls were the best, even embroidered with his name and my phone number, with belt loops, back pockets, and everything. Those back pockets were SUCH a bad idea. They were adorable, but silly. Jackjack would still flop over on his back and wiggle, kicking his feet into the air to scratch. At Grandad's house, this resulted in those pockets filling up with sand, and then Jackjack would come inside and want to sit in a lap... and dump sand all over that person.

That was Jackjack's goal in life- to lay on something soft, preferably someone's lap. In the sunshine was even better. In a car in the sunshine on a lap was the best. And he would sleep contentedly. We would work on cars in the shop with Grandad all day, and you could always find Jackjack inside the car if the doors had been open for even a second. Otherwise, the truck bench in the shop was his favorite spot. Sometimes he would nap in the warm soft sand next to the house. He would sit with me for hours at a time in my computer chair, wrapped up in my quilt with me while I played Warcraft.

When we were at Grandad's. he successfully hunted and dug up and killed two little tiny moles or shrews that I know of. Some sort of little burrowing critter, with a pointed face, tiny little splayed spade feet, about the size of a big mouse or a rat. There were trenches all over the yard from Jackjack's determined pursuit of these critters. But eventually he always got them. At least that was more useful than our Beagle Grunt, who would dig a hole just to howl into it and reverberate his brain.

Jackjack got older.

We moved to Oregon the summer before last. Jackjack's allergies disappeared, and he could run around naked! His bald behind even grew back most of it's fur. His spine always looked sunken in at his butt end, though, because he got such good kicking muscles developed trying to scratch. Our vet friend in Oregon said he was arthritic, and senile. During Spring Break we retrieved Jamie's mom, and Jackjack did not seem to recognize her, even though we lived with her for most of Jackjack's time with us. Jackjack showed that he did not appreciate the antics of a 1.5-year-old. To my knowledge, she had never done anything to antagonize him, but Jackjack did not like her. We called him a grumpy old man, because he would grumble all the time. He would even grumble half-heartedly if he'd already curled up in a comfy spot in the bed and I was settling in next to him, hehe.

Last summer, we moved to Colorado. Jackjack was a close to completely deaf as we can figure, and his eyesight was failing. Perhaps he was only very nearsighted, like me. He learned a little bit of sign language, which basically means I could get his attention by waving, and then gesturing for him to "come here", and he would usually obey. Stairs were his enemy. I think because of his eyes, he would take a flying leap off the first one. I got pretty good at catching him. When we got our apartment, he did not appreciate being able to see through the concrete slab stairs, and it took a lot of convincing to get him to realize he could go up and down them just like other stairs.

Jackjack has always paced. For his whole life, if he was not laying still napping, he was walking around. In the apartment, pacing became the signal that he wanted something. If Jackjack got up and started walking around, he wanted food, or water, or to go outside. Sometimes he would get up too quietly for anyone to notice, and his need for a bathroom trip was so urgent that he'd go wherever he happened to be standing. There were many accidents, but again, after a while of this new quirk, I got the hang of it, and so did he.

Recently, Jackjack hadn't had much regularity to his needs to potty. Accidents happened more often, but he's an old doggy, and things like that happen. His pacing happened more and more for no apparent reason. He would walk up to the boys and stare at them. Jokes about mindless zombies and mummification were made, but still, Jackjack was Jackjack. It was obvious that he still loved treats, he just needed help finding them. He still liked to sit with you, but he'd need to be picked up to be able to. He liked to go outside and sniff at the breeze. I'd have loved it if we had a yard here- he wasn't too interested in the balcony. Jackjack did NOT like snow, either. Winter just recently ended here.

Jamie did some research, and we thought making him special food might be a good idea. There was barley in it, and liver and eggs, and broccoli  all kinds of good things. Jackjack loved it, and Grunt thought he was being extremely spoiled. Jackjack did much better. The timing of his needs to go potty became regular again, and he could get up and come to you to go outside. His pacing was less aimless, he slept longer and in the sunshine again. I think he saw better. The change was drastic and extremely satisfying to see.

Suddenly, Jackjack didn't want to eat. For a couple days, he refused his regular food, the third batch that had been cooked. We fed him meat scraps from whatever we were eating to make sure he got something, but he wouldn't touch his bowls. I tried pain pills, thinking maybe his teeth were bothering him. Jackjack has had really yucky bad teeth for as long as we've owned him. We thought maybe he'd just gotten picky, since he would eat almost anything else you offered him.

Finally I called my vet friend in Oregon, worried. She said that if he'd gotten sick on his homemade food, it could be that he'd developed a really strong fear aversion to it- this would be strong enough even to override the basic survival instinct- he would choose to starve rather than eat that food again. We should make another batch. So, Jackjack got some kibble again. He had to eat something, and at that point he was even refusing to eat a whole egg- half of one was being good. He ate kibble again for two days.

Wednesday night, three nights ago, I woke up with my alarm like normal. When I went to pick up Jackjack to take him outside before I left for work, I thought it a little odd that his rear end was a little bit cool to the touch. He'd been under blankets with me- the rest of him was very warm. He stumbled when I set him down at the door to put his leash on, which is normal for a sleepy Jackjack. I carried him downstairs as usual and set him in the grass. That was when I realized that he couldn't walk properly. He stumbled around and nearly fell when he tried to pee. I wondered if his leg was asleep from him laying on it funny, but it didn't particularly worry me. A half-asleep Jackjack is generally an ungraceful creature. I helped stabilize him with the leash on his harness. He would have sat in his poop without my help. I carried him upstairs, wiped off his wet foot, and set him back in bed. Our normal routine is for me to take the puppies out at 5am before I go to work, so that they can sleep soundly until 9:30 or so when I get back for another morning pee.

When I got home, Jackjack was still sleeping in bed along with Grunt. I greeted them and woke them up, and repeated the process. I didn't notice any coolness this time, but it was obvious outside in better light that something was wrong with Jackjack. It seemed as if his balance might be wonky, but it was hard to tell because his rear end was not functioning properly. He didn't seem to have much control over it, and would fall sideways. He could not properly squat for either bathroom function. He had a lot of difficulty trying to stand once he did fall over. I went upstairs and showed Jamie. He did a lot of research before work, and none of it looked good for his symptoms. Spinal injury, tumor, reading the internet is at once entirely vague and specifically scary. Jackjack did not seem to be in any sort of pain. I helped him eat first a little tiny bit of pork, egg, and bread mixture soaked in the pork drippings (he ate a few bites, then wanted only the pork bits) and then some kibble. He leaked a little bit of red-brown blood at the corners of his mouth, likely from the kibble against his bad teeth. I don't know exactly when his mouth became so dark- his teeth and gums were brownish black now.

Jamie and I both had to go to work. I put Jackjack in the bathroom with his doggy bed and a towel for the gap between a round bed set in a corner, because I didn't want him ambling around into things while we were gone, and something we read said that rest was also the best thing if there was some sort of slipped disc or spinal injury. I went to work. I found Jackjack sleeping in the dog bed when I got home, but he wasn't any better. He had peed on himself at some point. I gave him a bath. He doesn't like baths anymore, but he still loves the toweling part. He completely refused an offer of egg for dinner, and ate kibble. We went to bed.

When I came home after route Friday morning, yesterday, I found Jamie in a strange mood, watching Jackjack stumble around. For the morning pee, we took the puppies slightly further than their regular patch of grass to the yard-sized doggy area of the apartment complex. We sat on a bench and watched Jackjack. He managed not to fall over while peeing, but he sat back when trying to poop. It wasn't hard to guess what Jamie was thinking, because I'd had the same thoughts already. Without even really saying much, we both agreed. We went inside and Jamie started making phone calls. The Humane Society sounded like they needed a diagnosis from a vet. Another place couldn't do anything for a few days. Then, we had an appointment for 3pm. Because Jackjack was not a regular patient, the vet would have to give him an exam first. We had a slim hope that maybe there would be some good news, but our appointment was for euthanasia. It was 11am. I called my dispatcher.

Waiting around is awful. I put laundry away. I put Jackjack in bed so he'd nap instead of trying to walk around. Jamie tried to play his video game like usual, but he said that just felt wrong. He got a call from his mom about cell phones, so he ended up going to the Sprint store. I finished my basket and laid down on the bed with Jackjack and we both passed the time napping.

I woke up randomly at 2:20pm. I put my shoes on, slipped my arm out from beneath Jackjack's head, and used the bathroom. I used a baby wipe on my arm where he'd drooled bloody drool on me. I took Grunt outside. Then it was time to go.

I carried Jackjack downstairs and set him in the grass. We walked slowly to the car and he peed on the way, with support. I carried him the rest of the way. Jamie had the Beetle parked in a different spot than usual- so it had been in the shade and my leather seat wasn't scorching. I held Jackjack the whole way. He didn't see well, so he wasn't as interested as he used to be in a car ride, but his little nose was sniffing breeze. It was his second ride in my new car.

A Pet's Place is not the clinic I had thought it was, the one on the corner with a house-like building that always decorates for whatever little holiday is coming up. This one was crammed into the strip with other downtown stores, but it was nice. We were shown to a room quickly. The doctor was seeing another patient which should probably have been gone by now, the way they kept apologizing to us, but it was ok. Once in the room, Jackjack was tired of being held, so he set him down to sniff around and we'd have to help him out of a corner every so often. The tile floor didn't do him any favors. Our nurse took him out briefly to weigh him. 18lbs. She watched him stumble about and asked us questions and we explained what had been going on with Jackjack. We guessed his age at 19.

After a longish wait (probably not that long, but when Jackjack is walking around like that, it's hard to watch) the vet came in. We'd picked Jackjack up shortly before that point and he was on the table, which was nicely covered with a soft fluffy comforter. She looked and sounded very nice, and was very gentle with Jackjack. She did the normal feeling all over and inspecting, looked in his mouth, at his eyes, and she did some sort of knuckle test with Jackjack's legs. She said we were right in thinking that he was not in pain, but she wasn't sure if he ever would feel any. She said it seemed as if his issues were neurological. He was doing dog things, kind of like on autopilot, because that's what he'd always done. He was trying to walk to the food bowl, and then stumbling around and probably wondering why he didn't end up there, that kind of thing. I honestly don't remember most of what she said. I remember that I had to ask the question of whether his poor teeth had anything to do with his issues. I felt bad because they were really the only problem he had that we couldn't do anything to fix. She said no. I remember she said that there probably were some medications that could affect him, but at this point it was really a quality of life situation, and she was certain that we were making the right choice for him today. She asked if either of us had any experience with euthanasia, and Jamie told her about working for a bit at our friend's clinic. She let us know that afterward we could have as much time as we needed with him, and she seemed surprised when Jamie told her that would be alright, afterwards it wouldn't be Jackjack.

And so, she left to go get the solution, which was basically just anesthetic that was an overdose amount, she said.  I took Jackjack's harness off. He seemed happy not to be prodded anymore when she left, and laid down on the soft comforter against my arm with his back to us. When the vet came back she remarked about good he was or something, to be laying down and so relaxed. I pet him until he laid his head down on my arm like he usually does. Jamie was standing right next to me petting his body. Jackjack looked up when the vet rubbed his leg with the little swab, but he put his head right back down when she was done.

He didn't even flinch when she put the needle in. I watched the syringe slowly go down. The solution was clear with a blue tint, it was pretty. I smelled it, and Jackjack smacked his mouth a couple times. He was just laying there, and then I realized he wasn't blinking anymore. The vet took away the syringe and I was starting to cry. I remember a tear pooling on my glasses lens because I was looking down at Jackjack. She listened to his heart. I remember trying very hard to keep silent so she could hear, but I couldn't help a gaspy breath every now and then while my eyes just leaked. Then she quietly said "He's gone" and I finally sobbed. I petted his soft neck a bit and kissed him. The vet had stepped out, and a blanket was over Jackjack's bottom half like he was laying in bed.

We pet him a minute more, then gathered up his leash and harness. I walked around to the other side of the table and gave him one last kiss on his soft little neck. He'd just had a bath. I leaked tears off and on the whole way home. Jamie managed to wait until then.

We told our roommate. Jamie brought in Jackjack's doggy bed from the porch where it had been drying in the sun after washing, and picked up his dog bowl. I don't know what he was planning to do with them. After a minute I took the bowl in the kitchen with the tiny bathroom water bowl and washed them while Jamie called his mom. I texted my family. After that we all kind of felt like a distraction was in order, so we went to have dinner, and we watched Star Trek in the theater, which is an activity we had planned previously this week to happen that night. I no longer leaked uncontrollably, but every now and then a random thought would cross my mind while we drove down there and make me tear up. I was especially worrying about trying to go to bed, having to lay down without Jackjack to cuddle.

Well, the food and movie were delicious.  I got home and wrote on Facebook to let everyone else know, with a picture of Jackjack napping. While that made me cry, like writing everything that happened Friday, yesterday, has made me cry now, I think I'm starting to feel a little better. He was an old doggy after all, and that was just about the gentlest end I can think of. I laid down on Jamie's side of the bed last night, and Grunt was happy to claim my squishy pillow. Tired cry-sore eyes will go right to sleep, apparently. I remember I woke up a few times, right up against Jamie. I don't think I touched the other half of the bed once, but Jamie said he hadn't noticed or minded.

And so, we've lost our dog, our child, my teddy bear. It was sudden in how it had to happen, and at the same time, it wasn't- because you know you're on limited time with an old dog anyway. It's strange. It's not exactly how I wanted to break my long blog silence, but I wanted to be able to explain what happened, since no one had a clue this was coming and I'm sure some details for them would be appreciated. Doing it this way, typing out the story, I don't have to say it more than once, for which I'm glad.

After a few days, I would still like to share the happy news and events that occurred this week. Those were originally going to be posted to end my blogging break. You'll just have to give me a minute, ok?

Goodbye Jackjack, I love you.