I had to say goodbye to Jenny – JDog – yesterday.
She was abused before I met her – enough that, when I met her, she would run away if you gently tossed a bit of bacon in her direction. She was always scared of loud noises – even if it was just her tail thumping against the stove. My ex-wife, who originally brought JDog home from the rescue shelter, moved out of state, leaving the dogs and unexpectedly thrusting Jenny into my life. But despite that abuse and abandonment, she got better.
She made friends with other dogs easily, and would teach them bad habits as fast as she learned bad habits from them. Looking at you here, Dag. And later, she would finally learn how to play again – not from me, but from Jake, another dog she grew to consider part of her pack.
She often looked mopey and sad, even when she wasn’t. Even when there was literally half a dozen people petting her at the same time. She was friendly to everybody. She loved to run fast loops around the yard. Not big areas – she didn’t like being far from me. But the yard was just big enough for her to run like crazy and still be nearby. Maybe that’s why she liked car rides more than walks – she liked to sit next to me in the front seat, or if she was in the back seat, she’d lean forward and rest the full weight of her head on your shoulder.
She’d started panting more a few weeks ago, which turned into heavy breathing about the time she started getting really picky with her food. In retrospect, she was losing weight then, but it was really noticeable last weekend. We fed her chicken breasts until, yesterday, she wouldn’t even eat those. Her thyroid gland was, suddenly, huge.
We took her to the vet. I already suspected it would be bad. I’d done enough research to know that even if it was just hyperthyroidism, that in dogs that prognosis is far far worse than it is in humans. Both my amours came to the vet, as did the Nuclear Kid – as many people she was important to as I could get there.
At first, I was professional – speaking medical to another medical professional. So I had no problem saying “lymphoma” or “cancer” back to the vet. Besides, while sad, I remembered the weeks I had with Leakey after that diagnosis. Maybe I’d overreacted bringing everyone there.
And then we looked at the x-rays. At all the fluid in and out of her lungs. Of the highly probable metastasis that was hiding behind all the other problems. At how she still didn’t want to eat. How the steroids probably weren’t going to help. I could hear the tone in the vet’s voice – her willingness to do anything we wanted, but knowing that it wouldn’t really help.
I knew I wanted to be selfish. That I wanted to keep her around, whether it would be the best for JDog or not. I asked everyone what they thought. To make this a forum vote instead of just my decision.
And one said “Why don’t you ask her?”
And I looked into those huge brown eyes, and I saw how much JDog hurt just laying there. I could see the pain she was in just trying to breathe. But that wasn’t really the thought I saw in JDog’s eyes. I just saw how JDog was worried about us, and how much she just wanted to be a good girl and for us to be okay.
Later, when I posted a picture of Jenny from only a month ago, I realized how fast and hard the disease had taken her. How much skinnier she looked at the end, how much frailer.
So I made the decision. The vet came back, and Jenny – JDog – she went to sleep, released from pain and worry and fear, surrounded by most of her pack.
It was the one and only time she was at the vet and not terrified.
She was a good girl.
Run fast, baby. Run fast.