Brace yourself. This is a sad post. I write this for the people who are going to ask. That way I can direct them to this post because I’m not sure I can get through telling them what happened without crying.
My longest relationship with a male is and always will be with my dad. That father-daughter bond in which I’ll always be his little girl and he’ll always be the guy I look up to. My second longest relationship with a male is with my dog, Jake – 16 (very close to 17) years together. I know there are those who don’t understand the pet-human relationship but I love animals and I’m one of those crazy people who can fall hard and fast especially for animals. Jake was a loyal friend and companion to me since I was a teen. On Friday, March 22nd, 2013 just before noon my little, furry companion passed away quietly at home in his doggy bed. It both was and wasn’t a shock. Over the past couple of years his health had been declining. He lost quite a bit of weight despite maintaining a good appetite. His bones weren’t as strong as they once were and he began having dental problems. He had also become quite deaf and was quite blind but oh boy was his sense of smell sharp till the day my relationship ended with him. It didn’t matter how quietly I tried to sneak food past him, he’d always find me and sit next to me until I gave up a piece of bread or a morsel of meat. Despite his health problems he still acted like a puppy. He was a little mischief-maker which earned him the nickname “Banana-Nut.” He was also full of energy up till his passing; heck, I’d get tired on walks before him. The morning of the 22nd he was walking around the house and ate his breakfast like he always did. Then something terrible happened. Maybe it was a heart attack, I don’t know. He went limp and my mom laid him in his bed in the family room as she and Dad got ready to take Jake to the vet. I just happened to be off from work and with my parents. I went to see Jake and immediately knew that this was the last time he’d be with me. His breathing was laboured and I sat on the floor with him for 30 seconds before bending down to kiss his silver little head and as my tears dripped on him, I whispered in his floppy ear how much I loved him while petting his back. Two breaths later he stopped breathing almost as if he just wanted to hear the words before he slipped away from us.
For the first year of his life with us, I swear he thought his name was “Bad Boy!” He never learned the meaning of the words “no,” “stay,” or “fetch” but he knew exactly what we meant when we said, “Dinner time!” He had the stomachs of a cow. He was a 7 pound lap dog but ate like a goldfish; if you didn’t stop him he’d just keep on eating. And if you left your meatball unattended, it’d be gone by the time you got back but Jake would be sitting by the bowl angelically. He was a sun-worshipper. He was secretly known in the neighbourhood as “The Mean Dog” because he barked at everyone. When we took him for walks he always peed on this huge rock that was on our route. He was very much like a man in the way that when he farted and it was a particularly smelly one, he’d look at you as if you’d dealt it. And he was smart. Jake was with me through a lot. He knew the typical dog tricks like shake hands and beg but, like I said, he was always on his A-game when there was food involved. He watched me leave every morning and greeted me when I got home. Sometimes I’d see him at the window watching and waiting for me. He was there when I graduated high school and university. He tolerated my 2 year-old nephew with great patience despite my nephew’s constant calling (“Jaaaay?” instead of Jake) and occasional chucking of things in his direction. Jake slept in my bed on winter nights when he wanted to curl up with someone and he sat on my laps when he napped. He cuddled with me when I was in bed for two weeks with a bad case of labyrinthitis. He sat with me when my grandparents passed away. The first time a boy broke my heart he licked my tears away (although I’m pretty sure he liked the salty taste). When I came home from work crying one day he looked at me and blinked his eyes as if to say, “You daft human. If you’re not happy, just quit.” I handed in notice 3 days later (it remains one of the greatest piece of advice I ever got from a dog!).
Tonight we left his food and water bowl as it would have been if he were still here. Fresh water, his doggy food and some bits of pizza bread because that was his favourite. I haven’t been able to look at any pictures of him and I keep staring at the space where his bed used to be. I couldn’t bear for my last image of him to be at the vet’s so my sisters took him in the bed he loved so much with an orange blanket I bought for him one Halloween to keep him warm on cold nights. I can’t help but wonder if he’s lonely where he is because I sure as hell feel lonely and unbearably sad without him here. There’s a little poem that I remember reading before we got Jake called Waiting At The Gate and it’s going through my mind now:
I got to the gates of Heaven yesterday,
After we said good-bye.
I began to miss you terribly,
Because I heard you cry.
Suddenly there was an Angel and she asked me
to enter Heaven’s gate.
I asked her if I could stay outside
for someone who’d be late.
I wouldn’t make much noise you see,
I wouldn’t bark or howl.
I’ll only wait here patiently
and play with my tennis ball.
The Angel said I could stay right here
and wait for you to come.
Because Heaven just wouldn’t be Heaven
if I went in alone.
I like this poem but I hope Jake isn’t waiting at the gates for us. For one I’m not a terribly good person and I don’t know if I’ll get to heaven. And two I’d be horribly unhappy if he were by himself. He needs someone to hug him and let him sleep on their laps when he needs a nap. So whoever’s up there looking after my little guy, please take care of him. He’s a good boy and will love you if you have a hand full of yummy dog treats.