To those that know him, you know the word “rascal” is the most apt descriptor. He is known for barking at the neighbors for having the audacity to use their backyard, eating entire blankets, escaping into the woods behind our house, or stealing countless food items left unattended and sitting too close to the edge of the counter. He even stole our Christmas treats: the wedge of brie (2005); the three giant fudge brownies (2013). He rarely came when called, sat only when there was a tasty reward to be had (and even then, only long enough to get paid), and never learned to behave at the vet. He was basically useless as a fetch partner, refusing to de-mouth the ball, and he once peed on the Christmas tree in protest for the in-laws having the gall to bring their dog for a visit.
But for all his shortcomings (most of which can be traced back to his masters), Jackson was the best kind of rascal. Yeah, he’d steal your sandwich right off your plate without batting his big brown eyes. But after inhaling it, he’d nuzzle up to you with his tail all a’wag and melt you with those same, guilt-free eyes. Always playful, rarely grumpy, it was almost like he was winking at you as he walked past with that dirty sock in his mouth. “Chase me,” he would say.
The first six years in our house, he was Number One, getting lots of attention from Jen and me. When Lily arrived, he was demoted, but never jealous. When Henry came along three years later, I’m sure he felt his stature slip a little bit more. He didn’t get to come along on as many trips, he was banished to the outdoors more than he probably would have liked, and he lost being-on-the-furniture privileges. Still, he took it in stride, rarely acting out, and treating the kids like the older brother he was.
When I first noticed the hint of the lump about two years ago, I knew it was likely the beginning of the end. Not having the financial means to pay for a surgical procedure, we just had to watch as it grew larger and larger. Golf ball, baseball, softball, volleyball, and now, nearly basketball sized. Despite the growth, Jackson was barely phased at all. It wasn’t until very recently we noticed it effecting his mobility. He gets around nearly as spry as ever, just with a slight hitch in his step. He wasn’t in any pain and it did nothing to curb his napkin/paper towel/wipe thieving ways. He was still Jackson.
About three weeks ago, the sores started to appear. I’ll skip the grosser details, but a trip to the vet about two weeks ago confirmed what we already suspected: the decline had begun, and it would be rapid. We could probably put the inevitable off a little while longer–a month more, maybe–but it’s clear things are getting more difficult for him. He pants almost all the time, the sores are getting worse, and it can’t be comfortable to walk around with a basketball sized growth hanging from your side. The time has come.
Tomorrow will be a pretty terrible day. There’s already been quite a few tears, and I don’t think it’s really sunk in for the kids yet. I never look forward to taking Jackson to the vet, and this is one trip I especially would prefer to skip.
It’s easy to get attached to almost anything that’s been a part of your life for 12 years. But when it’s a living, breathing companion, it’s all the worse. Jackson has been with Jen and me for all but two years of your marriage. He’s the first dog I’ve ever had. He’s far from perfect, but he was my puppy and gave me a lifetime of stories and memories.
For the last three and a half years, I’ve worked jobs with weird hours, getting home sometimes at three or seven in the morning. Whenever I walked through the front door, Jackson would be walking down the hall from the bedroom to greet me. As much as I won’t miss the hair on the sofa and pooper-scooper duty, I will miss that every day.
Good bye, old friend.