We used to have a puppy named Jack. For some reason I feel compelled to write about him today, even though as I write this I can feel all the sad emotions coming back.
Jack was a lovable doberman puppy that we received free from a friend who got him from an acquaintance. This acquaintance was supposedly a breeder, who was leaving the country so he had to give this four or five-month-old puppy up. We received Jack not knowing his exact age, either because my friend didn’t ask specific enough questions or because the breeder wasn’t a very good breeder. I am going with the latter. Why? Because we were told Jack was neutered, had all his shots and was dewormed. When we got poor, frightened little Jack, not only did we find out he wasn’t neutered or dewormed (and probably didn’t have all his shots), but he was afraid of people. Not a good sign. A well loved puppy should be playful and love people. He also did not look very healthy.
We cared for Jack and fell in love with him. He remained people shy, but my girls could lay on him and do whatever they wanted to dear lovable Jack and he would let them. He loved them back. Dobermans have been mislabeled as viscous dogs due to inaccurate portrayals in film and TV. In fact, Virginia was so obsessed with Jack that she read book after book on Dobermans and we learned the true loyal, faithful, tolerant nature that these magnificent creatures have for “their pack” (us). They are true “Family” dogs. They would lay down their life for their family. Perhaps this is where their bad reputation stems from.
We had a little over a wonderful year with Jack. However, we did notice that as he lay in bed with my husband and I at night that he would let out tiny, little whimpers.
The last week in March, 2008, Jack started throwing up. He couldn’t keep down any food or water. On April 1, 2008, my husband took Jack to the vet. After x-rays, we were told he had a blockage and they had to operate. My husband had to take an exam, and I had to work, so we left Jack at the vet. Sometime around mid-morning I received a phone call from the vet. Jack did not have a blockage at all. When they opened him up, they discovered that what appeared on the x-rays as a blockage were really cancerous lesions that ran throughout his intestines. Most likely pancreatic cancer, we were told. Like cancer in children, it is rare for a puppy to have it, but it can still happen. As tears welled in my eyes and I tried to maintain my composure sitting in my office, I listened as the vet told me that they could not, in good conscience, bring him out of anesthesia and let him live what they feel would be a very painful, and still relatively short life. They asked for permission to put him down. Facing this question, I realized just how much Jack meant to me. I couldn’t make that choice without speaking with my husband first. I asked them to hold on until we could get there. I left message after message for my husband to call me. He finally finished his exam and called, and I had him pick me up immediately.
We drove as quickly as we could to the vet’s office – as a person may if they were rushing to the ER for a loved one. We were rushing for a loved one. When we got to the vet’s office, there lay my sweet adorable puppy on the operating table. The vet offered to show us the lesions. I could not look, but for peace of mind, my husband did. He agreed – they were too bad for any operation. We had to let him go. At that moment, I cried like I’ve never cried before. This was the hardest day of my life. But it was about to get harder. I had to go home and tell my two young children that the dog they loved so dearly wasn’t coming home from the vet.
At this point, Virginia and Klara didn’t even know that Jack needed an operation. They only knew he went to the vet because he kept throwing up. We picked them up from school without saying anything. When we got home, we were immediately confronted with their curiosity on Jack’s whereabouts. As we broke the news, I watched as Virginia’s world caved in around her. Klara understood, and did cry, but in a somber tone, she said “April Fool”. It was April Fool’s Day – how ironic. Sadly, she knew it wasn’t an April fool. “Baby, I wish it were an April Fool,” I said as we all cried together.
It was a hard day for all of us, but the hardest on Virginia, whose tears went well into the night. But, as the saying goes, life goes on. We participated in regular little rituals…..every time we went out to a restaurant that offered the kids balloons, they would take the balloon outside and release it up to Heaven for Jack. We slowly were able to let Jack go. The biggest healing moment came the following following school year, when Virginia had the opportunity to publish a book in the 3rd Grade. In her book she wrote about Jack and his final days. Great, I was destined to relive one of the hardest moments of my life forever, immortalized through a book. But she used a wonderfully creative outlet to finally let go of her pain.