There it is. I knew it was coming and thought I was prepared to handle it, but the text came in a few minutes ago that my dog had “passed peacefully.” Although the words themselves are designed to say it softer, the reality of it hit me like a semi and after a few brief minutes of staring at the screen, blinking in disbelief, it started to sink in.
I picked JJ (short for Jesse James) out when he was just three days old. He was the first dog of my adult life and the only one I had owned full-time all to myself. My only other experiences were friend’s houses and when I’d visit my Dad’s house during Summer Break.
He was a stubborn PITA but I loved him nonetheless. He was originally a gift for my ex but when we broke up, he left the dog to starve in the back yard (I had moved out first). Being the animal lover that I am, I took him in and loved him like he deserved to be loved. He was a loveable little troublemaker like Marley in Marley and Me, except he was a Black Lab mixed with German Shepherd and Chesapeake Bay Retriever; hyper, smart, stubborn, strong & sweet. He was also great with cats, babies and small children but feared the wind, plastic bags, shadows and moving boxes, lol!
Anyways, fast-forward a few years and I met my husband. They hated each other at first sight and while my husband tried & tried to convince me to get rid of the dog, I always replied with, “No, he’s been around longer than you have!” (That always won the argument, lol). Well, eventually he finally talked me into having JJ move to the in-law’s house because my FIL is retired, my BIL is always home and they have a yard; we live in an upstairs condo with exterior stairs that ice up in the winter and at the time, I had just given birth to our first child. The idea of navigating icy stairs with a newborn in my hands while an 80lb dog tows me along was a little too frightening to bear and leaving a newborn unattended while I take the dog out for piddle breaks and walks just didn’t sound like a bright idea so eventually, he won- JJ moved in with the in-laws.
They spoiled the snot out of him. I watched every ounce of training fly out the door and eventually, the high-strung dog gave way to a dog that resembled more of a bear rug than an 80lb bouncy ball. He was living “the life” with 24/7 companionship, Milk Bones galore and the occasional table scrap.
In more recent years, he was starting to have issues with arthritis, as large breed dogs tend to late in life. He would struggle to get up or lay down on the hardwood floors and was slow about moving about if the weather didn’t agree with him. They had put him on anti-inflammatory drugs to help with the pain, but it still seemed like he had lots of life left in him; my loveable nanny dog.
Right around the turn of the New Year, the in-laws informed me that JJ had a rare, inoperable cancer on the roof of his mouth and radiation was not certain although expensive and chemo would kill him. They said it would probably progress quickly and that it would either grow up into his brain or block his airway because of where it is. In the last week, it had grown quite a bit and you could tell he was suffering more and more. He was also starting to waste away, as people do with cancer. He was dropping weight daily and had stopped drinking water. When I saw him on Sunday, they were saying it wouldn’t be long now.
Well, *the* text just came in. In a haze, I headed to the bathroom to blow dry my hair because I was supposed to go to the store for groceries but as I turned on the drier, the hot tears began to flow. At least I was alone in my sorrow for a minute because the kids scatter when the dryer turns on. A few tears at first but then the floodgates opened and it was unstoppable. I was full-on ugly crying in the bathroom mirror and could do nothing to stop it.
I miss him. I’m not as prepared for this as I thought I would be and at some point, I have to pony up and tell my son (he LOVED JJ and was crying when we told him on Sunday to say his goodbyes).
My son learned about death just two months ago when one of our cats died of intestinal cancer. He wasn’t too fond of that particular pet so it didn’t really phase him except the vivid image of what pets really look like when they die. He was more concerned about MY grief but this time *I know* it’s going to hurt him and I am not looking forward to it, but at least we can grieve together and I can show him that grieving is healthy, appropriate and okay.
Now, to strategically find a time/way to tell him…..