I don't know why I've been thinking so much about Jake lately. It's been more than six years since he passed away. After his death, I wrote a lot in order to process what had happened, and to make sure I always remembered it. This is from shortly after he died.
August 17, 2013
It was time.
Earlier in the week he’d had two seizures less than 24 hours apart, which is how they were happening now. They’d started slowly, at the end of March, and were only occurring about every 4-6 weeks. Then in the last month, they were coming in pairs, and it was more and more difficult for him to right himself afterwards.
Back to back like that, he didn’t have enough time to recover. He needed a good 48 hours to get back to himself, and these clusters were leaving him no time. They left him with partial seizures too – not the full on grand mal he’d been having; but small tremors that made it difficult for him to eat, drink, walk, and sleep. They interrupted everything he tried to do, and I could see him getting frustrated.
Friday night, I had plans to have dinner with some friends. I didn’t want to go too far from him, so we ate nearby, and then walked back to my apartment to spend some time with the old man. He was happy to have company, as he always was, but I could see he was tired.
Later on, when I took him for his last walk of the night, he was struggling to stay upright. Every few steps, he’d just fall down. Jake had almost no control over his back end. This issue had been presenting itself after each seizure, but it was clearly getting worse each time. This was as bad as I’d seen it. He was so frustrated with himself. It was tough to watch.
I always gave him an option as to where he wanted to sleep – on the floor, or in the bed with me – and he almost always chose the bed. Friday was no different, and he asked politely for me to pick him up and put him in the bed. Lately, he’d been struggling to lie down – he would turn and turn and turn, looking for a good spot, and then slowly sink down. You didn’t need to be as in tune with him as I was to tell that it was painful. This night, he just flopped down where I set him.
He had to get up and go out one more time, and it was a struggle. At one point, he fell so hard all four feet went out from underneath him. I think that was the moment I knew we were done. He just looked up at me with a look that said “What the hell?” All of his life, he had great dignity, and this was about as undignified as it got. He was afraid to go to the bathroom because he didn’t think he couldn’t hold himself up. That’s no way to live.
When we got back into bed, I laid down next to him, face to face. I took his face in my hands and just talked.
“Buddy,” I said, “I know you’re tough. You are the toughest dog I know. You are so strong, and so stubborn, and I know you are a fighter. You have fought back from death twice now, and you’ve been fighting like hell through these seizures. But I want you to know, you don’t have to keep fighting. Not for me. Not if you don’t want to.
“If you do, if you choose to keep fighting, I will keep medicating you, taking you to the vet, and doing everything I can to help you. I will do that for you.
“But if you are tired, and you are ready for some peace, I can make that happen too. I know you are hurting, and I know it is hard to walk, and you can’t sleep. We can make that go away. I can take you to Dr. Kevin in the morning, and he can make it all stop.”
About this time I really started breaking down, but kept it inside so he couldn’t see it.
“Here’s the bad part – I can’t go with you. You have to leave me. You’ll go somewhere where there is no pain, and you can run and run and run. I will miss you terribly, and for me it will seem like forever before I see you again. But for you, it won’t seem that long at all. And Chloe will be there, and Lana, and Dakota, and Cruiser, and you can play with all of them. “
“Are you ready to do that? Is that what you want?” I asked. Jake looked me dead in the eye, and just started licking my face. He licked it over and over and over again, and I knew. We were done. He was ready.
I hadn’t been able to get any medicine down him earlier, which was an early sign we were at the end. He had always been good about taking his medication. I usually wrapped it in deli chicken and he pretended like he didn’t know there were pills in it.
I went and got him ½ a Valium, wrapped it in chicken, and begged him to take it. “This will help you relax and sleep some. Please sleep just a little bit.” He took it, and I lay down on the bed with him. I held him in my arms, so that he was partially on the bed, and partially on me, like he did as a young dog. He finally sighed and went to sleep.
In the morning, I got him out of my bed and put him in his bed on the floor, and went to McDonald’s. I ordered two sausage biscuits with egg and a medium Coke. I wasn’t supposed to be drinking it, but today all bets were off, and I was doing whatever it took to make it through. I brought them home with the idea of sharing with Jake, but he ended up eating almost all of the breakfast. It didn’t matter – I’d lost my appetite anyway.
After making the appointment with the vet, and calling Christy to come and go with us, I sat him on the couch next to me. We talked about all of the fun things we’d done. “Remember the first time we went to the beach with Vickie, Gregg, Lana and Jenkins? Do you remember how much you loved it? Running up and down the beach, swimming in the ocean, picking up drift wood, digging holes in the sand….”
“And all the times we went to Florida to see Grammy Beth? And the trail rides we went on with Wish, and all of the smells in the woods. What about playing with Callie? Remember the wrestling matches in the living room?”
We went on and on, remembering all of the good, until Christy arrived. I let him walk to the car on his own, and he moved better than he had in weeks. I could see it in his face, he was determined to make this last walk a good one; he knew it was important to go out with fight, and with style, and dignity, just as he’d lived his life.
Christy and I talked about nothing in particular on the way. She was good at distracting me. Jake was calm, lying down in the back seat in his spot. Normally car rides were torture for him, and I hated that we had to do this, but he didn’t fidget or pant.
At the vet, I carried him in, and set him on the bed they had prepared. I lay down next to him, and couldn’t keep it together any longer. I just lost it. He turned his head and started licking my chin and my cheek. In my head, I could hear “It’s ok, Mommy. It’s ok. Don’t worry. Don’t worry.”
I spoke quietly to him. It seemed somehow not right to talk in a normal tone. “I am going to miss you so much. You are the light of my life. You are my great love, my soul mate. I love you more than the sun, the moon, and the stars.” That last part was what I said to him every night. It was our thing.
Then I whispered, “When you get there, go find my mom. Go find my mom and tell her that I love her and I miss her, and to take care of you for me.”
When it was time, and all the papers were signed, the vet came in with the syringes. Jake had always been afraid of needles, and I realized I had neglected to tell him that needles were a part of this deal. He freaked out and fought like a tiger, which did not make anything easier on me. But it was very typical Jake, and in retrospect I am glad he went out fighting, just like he always did.
The vet tech held his back end, and I held the front, crying and asking him to please calm down please don’t do this please calm down IloveyouIloveyouIloveyou, and then I watched her push first the white stuff and then the pink stuff, and he was gone.
That’s it. He was gone.
There was maybe one beat, one breath of mine that existed without his, the first in sixteen years, and then all hell broke loose. I was keening and crying, my baby was gone, just gone. I rocked back and forth, Christy held me and I held Jake, or what was Jake. “He’s gone,” I said. “He’s just gone. Just like that. He’s gone.”
His body was still, so still, and so quiet. It hadn’t been either of those things in so long, I had forgotten what that was like. He was at peace, finally, for the first time in so many years. My fighter, my tough guy, my little man, was still and quiet.
I sat and petted him, stroking his fur, which was always so soft. I didn’t want to leave him. I knew he was gone, but I didn’t want to walk out on him. There wasn’t any Jake there anymore, not really, and yet I couldn’t be separated from him. Other than vacations, I hadn’t been apart from him in sixteen years. My life hadn’t existed without him in it for so long, I wasn’t sure what to do next. How do I breathe? How do I live?
Finally, the shock settled in and I could get up and leave him. Before I did that, I sat on a chair next to him, took his face in my hands and said, one more time, “I love you, more than the sun, and the moon, and the stars.”
And then I got up, took one more look at his still, soft, warm body, and left.