Yesterday, March 10, 2010, I lost my best friend of more than eleven years. His name was "Uintah's Foxy Jake," and he was my dog. He was an Alaskan Malamute and I adopted him when he was just 4 months old. We were nearly inseparable. He was such a good dog, so happy, fiercely loyal. He was my only friend, during a time in my life I don't wish to relive. But he was always there, giving me those eyes that said, "I'm here friend. Tell me what I can do to help." He was definitely an alpha dog; always posturing around other dogs, letting everyone know that he was boss. He was smart as a puppy and easy to train, though he didn't always steer clear of trouble.
When he was just 7 months old, he chased down and killed a sheep. I think he was just testing himself, rather than following an instinct to kill. He was a pretty gentle giant, a 100+ lb. teddy bear.
He hated the hot sun, but tolerated it, always happy. He loved the Winter and would perk up so much as the temperature started to cool each Fall. I used to have a sled that he would pull me in. One regret I have is that I never got to take him with me to Alaska, land of his own heritage. Perhaps now your spirit is in Alaska Jakey.
From the time he was with me, he liked to "give me five." This was his way of telling you that he considered you his friend. Another habit of his was to come up to you and bury his head between your legs while you petted and massaged him. He was kind and gentle, in a way that only he had. Such a good dog. Such an even better friend.
Jake was a dog with a few lives, if not nine. Several years ago, while I was on a 4 wheeler ride, Jake running out in front of me, we went up by an old gravel pit, where the landowner had been burning trees and trash. The flames were out, and it was the middle of the day which is, perhaps, why Jake walked right out in the hot ash. It started to burn his poor paws so he laid down on his side, cooking his hair. I jumped off the 4 wheeler and ran into the ash to grab him and pulled him to safety. He was fine, but the pads on his feet were burned. A couple of weeks of bandages and living inside my house and he was better.
During the past few years, as old age began to show its face, he began to be less active which, in turn, made him gain weight. I never considered him a fat dog. He still looked somewhat athletic, but the extra weight began to wear at his joints. He was getting pretty arthritic. I was feeding him glucosamine, MSM, and fish oil with his food, which seemed to slow the arthritis substantially, though not entirely. He was showing signs of being sore and that he was losing some range of motion in his hips. Still, he remained a happy dog, making the best out of his days.
A month ago, he blew out a ligament in his right rear knee. We decided not to do surgery, fearing that the recovery would prove too difficult, and knowing that this sort of injury can heal on its own. We put him on a prescription anti-inflammatory which seemed to help immensely with pain. Then, maybe 10 days ago, he broke a toenail off from the same leg, which led to a severe infection. He was put on an anti-biotic and sent home with bandages, which he pulled off that night. (He couldn't help himself from wanting to lick that very sore paw.) I re-bandaged it only to have him remove that one too. I did his bandages again and put a "buster collar" on him so he couldn't get to the bandages which seemed to help some, though he was determined to get at it again. When I took him in for a check up 2 days later I was faced with the harshest reality; My bandage was too tight and had begun to cut circulation off to his foot. This is hard for me to deal with; a painful regret I hope won't eat at me for the rest of my life. The previous infection had begun to do some bad things to his foot. Wounds were opening up in a few places where the infection could drain out. But now he also had skin starting to die. The prognosis after a couple of days of living at the vet clinic was that it was likely he would lose one or maybe two toes. My heart sank. A big dog, with arthritis, blown knee ligaments, and missing toes--all from the same leg--would have a very drawn out, horrible time recovering. He would likely be recovering for the rest of his natural life. To top all of this off, they found a suspicious mass at the hip of that same leg. There were no easy fixes, no miracles offered. The vet was very good at her job, and just as good at informing me of everything. She spent a good 30 minutes on the phone with me, explaining everything, after hours. Her advice to me--having a 12 year old dog herself--was that full amputation was the 2nd best option. At the clinic last night, full of sorrow and confusion, I listened to her talk about Jake's possible future. The last thing I'd ever want to do is to put my best friend through his final days as a dog which could only lie there and dream of running. As he has had trouble getting up from a lying position for the past couple of years, and progressively more so that last 6 months, I knew that amputation would only be for me not having to say good bye to him. Maybe if he didn't have arthritis in his "good" back leg it would have changed something. The young DVM welled up with tears, telling me about how hard it is to even think of her 12 year old dog getting closer to life's end, answered my plea for advice with, "If he were mine, I would euthanize him." I had been painstakingly thinking about that possibility for days, hoping for some miracle which never came. I can't even type about it now, let alone tell someone about it in person, without sobbing. After my wife and I discussed things, we both felt the best decision for our happy, elderly friend, was to let him go.
And so, hoping his happy spirit has found it's eternal resting/playing place, I write this to tell you how much I loved my friend, and how intensely I miss him. And also, to maybe finish telling Jake how much his friendship has meant to me; how much his loyalty through the ugliest times in my life got me to the better place I now find myself. I love you Jakey. I'll never stop missing you.
Last night, after he passed, I drove him up to some family property, where I placed his body, now painless and carefree, next to his old mate, Kita. I will visit the two of them from time to time. I will not forget them for one day. And I believe I'll see them one day when I pass on from this world.