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“The dog is a gentleman” – a goodbye to Jackson

Posted in Aging, Life & Love, and Relationships

A fine fellow that Jackson. Much loved, well lived.
Jackson: much-loved, well lived – a gentleman.

My friends had to take their dog to the vet today. The final journey. He has grown frailer over the past four or so months – regressing from stalwart friend and gentle enforcer of his small pack, to a frightened, blind, insulin-dependent outsider who tottered stiff-legged into walls, cried when left alone and had to be carried outside to do his business. “This is no way for our boy to live,” said R on Sunday.

Honey broke her hip and never quite recovered from it. She was our beloved family pet, who had been with us for 13 years.  A real character, as full of foibles, farts and mutters as any grumpy old lady. The vet had cut off the end of her bone and it jarred when she walked – but she kept going. My mom made her life as pleasant as possible with great food and an electric blanket. Warming her inside and out, letting our dog know she was loved. Then Honey developed cancer. It was hard – our sweet Boxer welcomed visits to the vet, understanding that this man was trying to ease her pain, even as he sometimes hurt her. But one day the doctor told my mother that it was time. Mom should take Honey home for a goodbye night on her blankie and a meal with her family. Then, the next morning, we should let her go. My mother cried so much that night: her ears were full of tears.

The next morning Glenis held Honey on her lap and spoke to her as the vet administered the sedative. My friend did the same today. Walking with his beloved pet to the end of this life.

While camparigirl was telling me about her adopted dog Rachel’s death: we both battled to breathe. Rachel had gone to lie down under a tree. Not one that had identified itself as being a favourite; but she chose to move away from the house to die. Claudia couldn’t let her do that, and carried her to her dog-bed. Nestling down beside her – as the other two dogs kept watch. Afterwards they buried Rachel in the garden. Kept her close.

I sit now and look at Jack and I can’t imagine holding him as he dies. This fellow is with me more constantly than any other creature – has been for the past two years. And (I hope) will be for at least another decade. Of course the time will come: I don’t fear much, but I do fear that.

My Jack – walks lightly, casts a long shadow.

But that loss is not mine to mourn now. This is Jackie’s time. Dogs live in the moment, and Jackie always had a wag of his tail and a welcome for us. My friends believe their boy is in dog-heaven with other departed members of his pack. And I like that image. So we will salute him and send him on his way.

And as for my Jack, I have just made him promise to stay alive for at least another 12 years. He cocked his head at me as he does when I am using unfamiliar words, licked my hand then turned to some intimate grooming that required his immediate attention.

Living, as ever, right in the moment.

(The quote in the headline is by Mark Twain, in full it reads: “The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven not man’s.” I couldn’t agree more. For a sweet and somewhat profane take on the life of a dog: read Oatmeal’s “My Dog: The Paradox here. Picture of Jackson aka “Jackie” copyright RvdH. Image of My Jack copyright campari&sofa)

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  1. It is one of the facts of having a dog sharing your life, that you will have them die as their life-span is so much shorter than ours. We have had the pleasure and priviledge of having several dogs in our life, and only one of them died naturally. The others had to be helped on their way, and that is one of the duties of a loving, responsible dog owner – no matter how painful it may be, we have to make the right decision when the time has come.
    Last summer we had to part with our beloved cairn terrier Callie (Caledonia) I agonised over what to do, but when it was done I knew it was the right thing. In the UK many vets will come to your home, so that your dog is in familiar surroundings to the very end.
    Jackson looks like a real lad-about-town, very sparky and bright…you were lucky to know him.

    April 25, 2014
  2. A nicely written piece. Article and comments refer however to ‘doggie heaven’ – what would doggie heaven be without their humans??? There are reports that people who’ve seen Heaven see loyal pets there, with their people. “Heaven Is For Real” is a good movie to see and mentions this, from the experiences of a 4 yr old boy.. Absent that, check out this site: and check out the article “Do Dogs Go To Heaven?” for answers in the affirmative. God loves ALL His creation, and I believe that if YOU will be in Heaven, your past dogs will be there to greet you.! Scriptural references are given in that article that will bring comfort to you that your faithful and loving pets will be in the same Heaven you will be – if you make it there; and for that check out the longer article at the same site, with Scripture “Are We All Children of God?”, which states that we can BECOME children of God, with all simple requirements listed. Be assured, your faithful pets will be in God’s Heaven, not a doggie heaven…. Thanks for reading!

    April 23, 2014
    • I think the beauty of heaven is that it reflects what YOUR idea of heaven is – no formula.

      April 30, 2014
  3. We have a friend who is a vet who insists the family stays with their pets when they are taking their final journey. Her view is that the dog was with the humans through their difficult times and this dedication should be repaid in kind. I don’t remember much detail of my youth but I do remember when Honey took that journey (and interestingly also when we lost Cindy).

    Our pets are our family and we should respect them and grief accordingly.

    April 23, 2014
    • I would never leave Jack to do that alone. Would be unthinkable.

      April 30, 2014
  4. This must have been very hard for your friends, but they made the kindest decision. I hope they are comforted by the good memories of the time they had with Jackson.

    April 23, 2014
  5. I bargain on a weekly basis with Ottie that he needs to keep going another couple of years. “And where am I going to go?” his eyes seem to say, a bit puzzled.
    May Jackie meet Rachel and Carl and Lacy and Honey and party up in dog heaven.

    April 22, 2014

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