The Last of the Good Dogs

Jack was like a recalcitrant toddler who says "no" when you try to take a picture. He would turn his head away from the camera.  The most effective pose was to catch him while sleeping.  His uncommon black/grey/white brindle colors made for great black and white images. "Sleeping Jack" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015, Thurmont, MD.

Jack was like a recalcitrant toddler who says "no" when you try to take a picture. He would turn his head away from the camera.  The most effective pose was to catch him while sleeping.  His uncommon black/grey/white brindle colors made for great black and white images. "Sleeping Jack" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015, Thurmont, MD.

We are heartbroken.  Our beloved dog, Jack, left us this week.

It is the first time in 24 years I have been without a dog.  And it is the first time in 22 years of marriage that Frank and I have been “alone”.

Jack was a “momma’s boy”.

In the beginning…

Twenty five years ago, I came to Maryland at the behest of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. I was a broken spirit, trying to step forward into a new life, a new future.

As a birthday present to myself, I adopted a beautiful bird dog from the animal shelter.  He jumped his front paws onto my chest and stared at me with eyes that begged to go home with me.  He was due to be euthanized the next day.  No-brainer.

Our first night together, he launched himself from the doorway of my bedroom. He landed on my bed with his head gently on my chest.

I named him Phoenix because we were both rising from our respective ashes.

My next birthday, I went back to the shelter and adopted a German Shepherd-Something puppy with laughably huge ears.  I named her Isis because those ears reminded me of the headdress worn by the Egyptian goddess.

Phoenix and Isis were big dogs.

The wedding choice…

 As I acclimatized to my new life in Maryland, I met the future “Hubster”.  Acceptance into my life was determined by how he related to the dogs and how well the dogs accepted him.

The day before our wedding, my sons arrived - with the younger boy’s 105 pound massive Malamute - Cleo.  He begged me to keep the dog while he “was in college”.  (Yeah, you know how THAT goes.)

What does it say about me that I was willing to call off the wedding if the “soon to be Hubster” objected to our keeping Cleo?

Cleo became our third big dog.

Enter the greyhounds

Years passed, we all aged.  Phoenix was the first to leave.  And I wailed…wailed…wailed.  Then Cleo developed a strange neurologic disorder that paralyzed her hindquarters.  I wailed again.

Isis was alone and in deep mourning.  I think she became “doggy-depressed”.  We thought a new buddy may help her.

Enter Riff.  He was a beautiful, gentle greyhound.  At the rescue center, I sat on the floor to see how different dogs would respond.  Riff came up and gently laid the top of his head on my chest. Done!

He and Isis were great buddies until Isis became ill and left us. I wailed…

The Hubster and the girls felt I needed another dog and that Riff needed a buddy.  Enter Jack.  A young, rambunctious greyhound that couldn’t race because he would get too excited about running.  He would run half way around the track, stop, turn back and run into the pack of other dogs.  Riff and Jack wore a oval running track into our back yard.

Riff and Jack perfected the “canine hug”.  They would entwine heads and necks when one or both became anxious.

By this time, I had left the Army and had an alternative healing practice.  I took the dogs to work with me.  

Much to my surprise, Jack was intuitive about clients.  Any client who was in distress could expect Jack to lay his head across the client’s lap.  Almost unconsciously, the client would start stroking Jack and gradually relax.

And then Riff left us.  I wailed, wailed, wailed and Jack became deeply depressed.

Jack

Jack stood 29 inches tall at the shoulder.  This was his only path outdoors during the blizzard of 2016.  And, he served as a great "scale" against the depth of the snow we had received. "Jack in the snow" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2016, Thurmont, MD

Jack stood 29 inches tall at the shoulder.  This was his only path outdoors during the blizzard of 2016.  And, he served as a great "scale" against the depth of the snow we had received. "Jack in the snow" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2016, Thurmont, MD

Jack stopped running the back yard track.  He would no longer walk outside the boundaries of our yard. Since I was now working from home, he became a “momma’s boy”.  Wherever I went, Jack went.

He had a few strange health occurrences, including a stroke that left him totally flaccid and paralyzed.  After many hours, we carried him in a sling to the vet’s office - figuring this was not going to end well.  As we pulled into the parking lot, he shrugged off the blanket sling and stood up! 

Miracle dog!

But there was no miracle this time. And we had to make that terrible choice again.

Have you ever read the book “The Art of Racing in the Rain”?  It’s narrated by a dog named Enzo. At the end of Enzo’s life, as he’s dying, his mind regresses back through his energetic years - all the way back to puppyhood and then to the nothingness that is before.

As I stroked Jack during those last moments, I prayed that his memories were full of love, joy and energy. I wanted him to be happy with the life we had shared. I wanted him to feel safe and not afraid. I hoped he was regressing back through the good times.

I am wailing…

We are heartbroken.  Our beloved dog, Jack, left us this week.

It is the first time in 24 years I have been without a dog.  And it is the first time in 22 years of marriage that Frank and I have been “alone”.

Jack was a “momma’s boy”.

 

Rebecca

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