Thursday, March 11, 2010

Losing my best friend

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.


Joel said...

I am so sorry about Jake. My strongest memories of him are riding with you in your Toyota and Jake in the back and him at our apartment in Spanish Fork with Kenny. I am so sorry. We love you.

Brynn said...

Jake was the most awesome dog in the whole wide world. He was so happy. I remember when I first met him he came right up and put his big ol' head right between my legs. Kinda made me a little nervous and self conscious. Then, I found out that he did this to everyone he met. It was his way of letting you know he liked you and he got some good petting/lovin from it. It became one of my favorite signature things about him. When we brought Jericho home from the hospital, he was introduced to Jake. Jake smelled him and knew he was part of our family. From then on he was his protector. If Jericho was outside, Jake was right by him and never left his side. He was a big dog and a little intimidating to strangers. But all you had to do was look at his face and see his smile. I will miss cuddling with him on the couch when he was sick in our tiny little basement apartment. I will miss his adorable face and how he absolutely lit up when you looked at him. I will miss his howl. I will miss his "high fives". I will miss seeing him in the backyard and knowing that everything was ok, just because he was there. Oh, how I loved that dog and still worship him. I never thought I could cherish or respect an animal so much. I know he is with many wonderful family members and friends right now. He is getting lots of love, ear and back rubs and is greeting everyone with his "head between the legs". I'm sure his lady, Kita, was so happy to see him and I can just see her doing her silly little happy jump with just her front legs. They will definitely be watching over us. I love you Jake, more than I can express.

P.S. Puka misses you terribly. Please watch over her too. :)

Marie said...

My heart goes out to you and your family.
I understand the loss of a 4-legged family member.
I drove 12 hours to my parents home to see my childhood dog before she passed on..She got me through 14 years of good times and bad times, she was always there for me.. whenever I see a golden Lab, I still get a lump in my throat.
Nothing can ever replace them..I've never had another dog that I felt the same way about or had the same connection.
Never blame yourself for trying your best to take care of Jake...
We can only do what we can do...we are only, in fact ...Human.
Best wishes, Marie

Kari said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your family's loss Wade. You can definitely tell the love you guys had for him, and the love he had for you. Try and picture that he is able to run and jump again and that all you did was try your best to help him. I'm sure he would love to cuddle up to you and tell you its gonna be ok. So hard to loose such a great friend. I hope you guys are all comforted with your memories of him.

Wade The Rascal said...

Thanks for your comments, Joel, Brynn, Marie, and Kari. They mean a lot. It was a very hard week, to say the least. But thanks to your compassion, it was made a little easier. Love you all.

Johnsons said...

Wade, I am just catching up on your blog, and am so sad to hear about the loss of your dog. That is so hard to go through. I had a dog growing up that was the only thing that got me through the hard part of my teenage years. When I felt like nobody else understood what I was going through, I would go down in my room and he would come down and put his head in my lap and stay there with my for hours. He used to do back flips each time that we would leave the house, and in his old years he got arthritis so bad in his hind legs. One day we came home and he couldn't even walk any more. He would just scoot around pulling himself with his front legs. We had to put him to sleep too, and I remember that being one of the hardest things I have been through. It is amazing how they become more than just animals. They are definitely part of the family. I hope things get easier as time passes.

Wade The Rascal said...

Thanks Amy. Yep. They truly become members of the family. I still get a little sad when I think about him. But yeah, time is healing my wounds. And we still have a husky to love in our backyard.