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.

We miss you Jack.


My Obi

Dogs are filthy, disgusting animals.    So why do humans keep them around?

About a week ago, I came home from work to an unwelcoming aroma that penetrated through the walls, through the garage and out into the driveway.  I knew that smell instantly and dreaded going into the house. My beloved 95 lb. puppy…yes he is only two so technically still a puppy…was sick.  Because he is a puppy, we keep him in a large kennel in our kitchen while we aren’t home.  If we didn’t, we would come home to the aftermath of his playtime adventures alone.  Usually this equates to bits of paper that may have once been something important, like a bill or a library book.  One time it was my husband’s cell phone.  Another time it was a stereo remote that cost $80 to replace.  And unfortunately one time it was a nice hole in the family room carpet.  We learned after several expensive losses that our big baby needed the security of a little home when he is alone.  Welcome the kennel.

Wanting to be good “parents”, and feeling guilty for the time we leave him alone , we shared a little of our steak dinner with him.  His delicate system is still like that of a puppy and does not usually do so well with our rich diet, but it had been a while since he had been “sick”, so it seemed that perhaps his little tummy was toughening up.  Enter steak. So now I have to enter the house the day after his delicious meal, knowing full well that the steak was a bad idea.  The kids refused to go in.  Daddy was working late.  It was all up to me.  I held my breath as I walked up the stairs and into the house.  There he stood, almost as if on tippy toe, if that were possible.  Whining, “please help me, please let me out out.”  But I was not prepared for what lay before me.  He tried so hard to keep the filth away from himself.  So hard, that it seems he has learned the talent of projectile diarrhea.  Yes, diarrhea lay three feet away from the kennel.  It was on the floor.  It was on the walls.  It was on my curtains.  As far as the smell was concerned, it was everywhere.

He wanted out of his kennel as badly as I wanted it all to disappear.  I had to grab a hold of him and usher him out the door to keep him from tracking more of this disgusting film through the house.  The kennel had to leave the house as well.  It sits right next to the back door, but when put together, it will not fit through the back door.  I had to get it out the front door.  Did I mention my puppy weighs 95 lbs.?  That’s a large kennel.  I needed help.  It was going to cost me money — even a 10-year-old has a price.  I put on rubber gloves, giving Virginia the “clean side”.  Was there a clean side?  Hmmm, I really don’t know.  We did manage to get the kennel out the front door.  Virginia then proceeded to hose it down while I went back in to tackle the kitchen.

God only knows how long “it” lay on the floor and the walls, because under the gooey, watery, slimy yuck, there was a dried layer.  Of course this couldn’t be easy.  I had to clean up the mushy stuff.  Then I had to scrub the hard stuff. Then I had to mop.  Then I had to mop again.  Repeat same on the walls.  Curtains had to come down.  Dry clean only?!  Go figure.  Kitchen cleaning accomplished.  Wait, I think I need to mop a third time, after all, God only knows how many invisible germs are still there.  Oh, but I have to clean the dog first.  Then I can tackle the kitchen again.

The dog was traumatized with the hose.  That wasn’t good enough.  I could still see it.  I could still smell it.  He needed a bath.  Could I think at the time to wash the dog with shampoo and the works outside?  Of course not!  Instead, with two little helpers, he was escorted to the bathroom.  Now how do you get a stinky, poo-covered, 95 lb. dog to voluntarily get into the tub?  Still I am so exhausted I can’t think of the obvious, which I can so clearly see in hindsight…bribe him with food.  No, at the time, someone had to pick him up to get him in the tub.  I’m the only one big enough.  Uuuggghh.  I don’t want to touch THAT.  Eeeeewwww.  Once he was in the tub, the rest was smooth sailing.  Unfortunately, his face stinks.  I can’t use shampoo on a dog’s face!  So I scrubbed his face with a washcloth.  Still smells.  Scrubbed again.  Still smells.  Scrubbed a third time.  Still smells.  Maybe it’s just my imagination.  Mission complete I guess.  Time to give him some Imodium AD and let him relax.

Oh now the bathroom is trashed.  Dog hair is coating the tub, clogging the drain, and all over the floor.  Did I mention I just walked in the door from work?  I’m tired and hungry.  I wasn’t planning on cleaning my entire house this evening.  Oh, and we did walk through the living room to the front door and to the bathroom.  Guess I’d better run a quick mop over that floor as well.

Two hours after I walked in the door.  The house is clean.  The dog is clean.  His face still smells, so I scrub it one last time.  Now it doesn’t smell any longer.  I can relax.  Then guess who walks through the door — my dear loving spouse, and he has BEER!  BUT wait…I DON’T DRINK BEER!  Thanks to my little text messages keeping him up to date, he knew what terrible endeavor I had before me, and he came home with beer.  Where’s my drink?  You don’t drink he tells me?  WHAATTT?!  Since when?  I love a good margarita; and if I didn’t drink, tonight would have been a great time to start!

Like I said, dogs are disgusting and filthy.  But I love my dog.  If I didn’t, I don’t think I could have been able to make it through the horrendous ordeal I just tackled.  Who else gives me unconditional love; listens to me without complaining or telling me I’m an idiot.  Who is there for me when I need to snuggle, or when the bed is cold at night when my hubby is working late?  My goofy, smart, gentle and oh so lovable dog.  My Obi.