Monday, 10 September 2012
Words cannot express how much we miss him, and to come home to a house with no Jack to greet us is hard to take. He has been our dog, and the family pet, for about 13 years now since we collected him from a private house in Clydach after responding to an advert. He was such a good looking, intelligent dog who would push his plate around if he wanted something to eat and who quickly learnt some doggy 'tricks' at the hand of Hannah, one of our daughters.
We will miss his wagging tail and his bounding around when he was excited. We will even miss the occasional mess on the carpet and the hair that built up in the place he would sleep. He was there when we went to bed and there when we got up. He loved his treats and the biggest treat of all was left over Sunday dinner which he would wolf down in no time.
I think he knew things were bad towards the end as he would look at us and then back at his useless back legs as if to say "its not going to get better is it?" and his usual sad-dog look seemed sadder than ever. In the end when we took the decision to take him to the vet, he went with us without any fuss sitting quietly in the back of the car on his sleeping mat - unusual for him - as we drove down the short distance to the vet. He sat at our feet in the waiting room glancing up occasionally and then allowed himself to be carried into the surgery while the vet spoke about how bad he was. As she left to get her needle and the anaesthetic that would stop his heart, he responded to my wife's words as she desperately tried to stem the tears by talking to him with words like "alright Jack?" and "good boy Jack" as he looked up and tried to stand up a little on his shaky front legs.
Then as I stroked him with tears stinging my eyes, the vet administered a sedative and after a short yelp as the needle went in, gradually over the next few minutes he got sleepier and more relaxed. Next the receptionist came in to hold him a little more upright as the vet shaved his front leg, found a vein and administered the anaesthetic using first one syringe and then half of a second one. His breathing changed, his body became more limp as his eyes lost focus and and as the second needle emptied he slipped away from us, the vet checking his pulse and his vital signs before leaving us alone with him for a few last minutes.
It was dignified, gentle, with strokes and reassuring words but it left in so many pieces that I think that it will take a very long time to put them all together again. Reflecting on the outpouring of grief later I think several things seemed to compound it for us and cause the floods of almost uncontrollable tears:
First Jack has been with us the longest out of all our animals and so his absence will be more significant than any of our other dogs. His daily presence was a constant in our lives and looking at the place where he slept and the few remaining hairs moulted onto the carpet it is hard to think he won't be there.
Second, as Jack died all our old griefs came in a flood tide of tears as the deaths of both our parents compounded our sense of loss amplifying it's intensity.
Third, it was Jack's inability to communicate with us other than through his characteristically sad eyes and his upward glances that left us unable to know what he was thinking or experiencing. Was he suffering psychologically? How was he interpreting what was happening? What were his thoughts? Did he feel betrayed?
Fourth, there is something very child-like and trusting about animals - dogs especially - and its that sense that you have somehow betrayed their deeply held trust, or let him down, that bites hard at the conscience and tugs at the heart.
We have loved having Jack as our pet. He has much enriched our lives in all kinds of ways and he will never be forgotten by any of us. Do dogs go to heaven? The answer has to be a question. Why did God create them then? Were they just meant to be dispensable and disposable adjuncts to merely decorate our existence? I find that difficult to square with a loving Creator who looked down on his creation and declared it all to be good (see Genesis 1). I am looking forward - God willing -to some interesting surprises come the new creation. Who knows we may well see Jack again.
In her book "The Word on the Wind" Alison Morgan makes reference to a young woman Sharon who was a respondent to a survey about ...