No birthday ice cream today, eh, Jack?
A small bowl of vanilla ice cream singled out Jack’s special day for 13 birthdays.
Just 4 days short of this one, his 14th, he left this planet and crossed Rainbow Bridge. I bet he’d tell me he’d rather play tog-of-war with Gus over there than eat vanilla ice cream here.
From the moment I laid eyes on the stocky, confident, 9 week old youngster, he ‘had’ me. He walked straight into my heart and took up permanent unshakeable residence.
Was he the epitome of the perfect dog? Not one bit!
On a leash walk he pulled like an ox. When we lived in Newfoundland, they were all leash walks after the day he ran off while walking the back side of Signal Hill, following an irresistible female scent. A lovely lady took him home and phoned me.
You’d think I’d have corrected the pulling. I knew how, even then, but no… It wasn’t until he was about 8 that I discovered the front-attachment harness. We had more leisurely walks after that!
In his prime, daylight meant a drive to the soccer field with his bro and buddy, Gus, where many dogs and their people gathered for off-leash fun. The precursor of a dog-park, I suppose. The people walked the perimeter either by themselves or in groups. Some threw Frisbees™ or balls for their dogs. Others practiced recalls. The dogs ran, played together and explored… so many enticing smells.
Jack always enjoyed chasing a ball but was breed handicapped when in the company of Labs, Goldens and the like. Undeterred, he developed his own method… when the ball thrower, usually a tall man, drew back his arm to throw the ball for the attentive gathering of retrievers, Jack jumped up from behind and, on at least one occasion, successfully ‘retrieved’ the ball from the thrower’s hand.
Same setting, different toy – this time a Kong™ with rope attached. The owner was ready to leave but Jack had possession. “Jack, leave it!” I repeated many times in ever- increasing tones of frustration.
Jack looked at me and took off. The owner got a grip on the rope. “Ah”, says Jack, “my favourite game – tug-of-war.” As I headed to the car to get treats to trade, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, the Kong™ owner walking across the field in possession of his Kong™ with a 55 pound dog attached to it. Frustrating? Oh yes. Funny? You bet!
Bulldogs can’t swim, I’m told. Swimming against the current in Rennie’s River to reclaim his prized tennis ball, Jack demonstrated otherwise. Must have been the Boxer in him!
“Wiggle-bum”, Neil called him. Lacking a tail to wag (even his Bulldog corkscrew was too short to qualify), when he was pleased to see someone, and that included the world, Jack’s entire back end would hula in pleasure.
His athleticism belied his build and until aging joints hindered his mobility and flexibility. His ability to run and jump, especially jump, was always a delightful surprise.
Bulldogs were bred to focus (on the bull). Nowadays this ability seems to emerge as a form of OCD. Water, moving water, brought out the crazies in Jack – a hose, a sprinkler (he ate three of those) and one time a tapped and spigotted underground spring that dripped constantly, elicited his dark, potentially dangerous and hysterically funny side. I used to wonder what was going on in his brain?
He needed Gus. I don’t know how I knew that but prior to Gus’s arrival, Jack spent most of the day home alone in his favourite corner of ‘his’ couch (I had my own), dozing, listening to CBC and I think, worrying, (yes, of course, I’m making that up!)
“He needs a buddy,” I thought. Once wee Gus arrived, Jack suffered no more stress-induced outbreaks of mange. Gus’s boisterous Boxer energy (he, too, was Bulldog/Boxer cross but so different in attitude) evoked a whole new life-loving, fun side of Jack. What buddies they were! Anything that had two ends was fair game for tug-of-war. Jack’s peculiar bubbly gurgles indicated his pleasure.
They shared toys; they stole toys from one another, but always in the spirit of play.
I euthanized Gus in 2007. He had developed congestive heart failure and could no longer breathe. I thought Jack would be very sad. He seemed to lay low for a day or two. Then, it was as though he realized he was an only dog again. Hee haw! Mom’s all mine!
About two weeks ago, I considered euthanizing Jack when it was apparent that the end was near. Gus had told me I wouldn’t need to and my friend and vet concurred.
Nonetheless, I called said vet and asked him to come for a consultation. “Look at him,” he said. “He follows you with his eyes everywhere you go.” Indeed I saw that he did.
Up until then, I had downplayed my role in Jack’s life. I had no idea that I mattered to him.
From then until his passing 16 days later, I made his care, comfort and safety (he fell down a lot) my primary focus.
I am so glad I did.
What a small gift to give to one who gave me unstinting loyalty and devotion for 14 years.
Mom’s Boy…The Best of the Best
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