Yesterday we had to put our Saint Bernard of 6 years down. We got him from a breeder in Texas when he was only 7 weeks old. We committed to buy him and put down our deposit and then found out a couple of weeks later that we were going to have to PCS (that means move for you non-military folks) less than one month after bringing him home. Turned out that was the best thing that could’ve happened–he became the most well-socialized dog ever! We stayed in a hotel for a week while house hunting in Philadelphia. There was a volleyball tournament going on nearby so there were approximately 100 teenage girls staying in our hotel. Who adored our 10 pound fluffball! Up until the day he passed away, 12-14 year old girls were his absolute favorite for that very reason.
He was also a strong little sucker. We had another dog at the time, a chocolate Lab mix named Dutch. We had rescued Dutch from a shelter about a year before getting Jack. He was the best dog ever–completely loyal, calm, obedient, absolutely awesome. And, as it turned out, not a big fan of other dogs. We didn’t learn this until it was too late and we brought Jack home. Dutch attacked him on several occasions. One of the times was nearly fatal; a quarter of an inch over and he would’ve pierced Jack’s heart. But Jack survived and become the toughest dog ever after that. And a complete baby; it didn’t matter how big (or how small) a dog was, the first time meeting it he would roll right over onto his back into a position of submission. Nothing more hilarious than seeing a St Bernard exposing his belly to a Chihuahua!
Life was good for Jacky up until 2 weeks ago. He started off just fine and then got progressively worse and worse. After 2 trips to our vet in one week they still had no idea what was wrong with him and sent us up to Richmond to have some tests done. He was hospitalized on Monday. Tuesday night his breathing was so bad they had to intubate him. By Wednesday morning the swelling in his lymph nodes had barely gone down even after receiving steroids treatments all night. His new vet said we had 2 choices: we could keep him intubated (which would cost at least $5000 a day) or he could have a tracheotomy instead (which was slightly less expensive than intubation but still very costly). There was no telling how long it was going to take for the swelling to go down, but by judging how little it had progressed in the last 12 hours it was going to be at least a week. And once the swelling finally managed to go down, he only had a 50/50 chance of survival from the infection that caused the swelling to begin with.
Or we could just stop treatment.
We had no choice. If Jack had only been a couple of years old and still had his entire life ahead of him we could’ve talked about treatment. Or even if the infection was 100% curable. Or if the vet could tell us exactly how long until the swelling would go down enough that he wouldn’t need machines to help him breathe. But none of that was true. So we had to stop treatment.
Hubby was teaching classes all day and was unable to get away. I tried to find someone to watch the kids for me, but was unable to. So I picked J up from Pre-K early, threw both kids in the car and made the 45 minute trek to Richmond so we could say goodbye to our dog.
The vet hospital staff couldn’t have been better. They were kind and compassionate. They stroked his fur. They made an impression of his gigantic paw in clay for me to take home. He was still sedated and intubated when we got there so that made saying goodbye slightly easier. His breathing was awful, reinforcing that we had made the right decision. It was horrible. But I’m so glad that I was there when he went. That he was with someone who loved him more than anything else in the world, even if he had no idea I was there.
Having the kids with me turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I held C in my arms the entire time and just kept cuddling and kissing him. And J, who kept proclaiming “Jack isn’t my dog” (“her” dog was Moody–a greyhound we’d had for about 2 years) didn’t care what was happening. She was my distraction.
Over the last year I’ve found her indifference towards Jack hilarious. As a baby she adored him. He was her first word. Her favorite activity was first me carrying her as we chased him around the house, and then her crawling, and then walking, and finally running after him. He was her best friend. And then about a year ago she decided she didn’t like him anymore. He was too dirty, too smelly, too noisy. AKA she discovered she was a girly-girl, haha! That was also the same time she got jealous of him too. She hated when I paid attention to him instead of her. Or when he would lay on the couch in “her” spot. Or sit next to me. Or do anything at all that wasn’t laying on his dog bed, sleeping.
But having J there with me helped as well. She just kept on asking “Can we go yet?” over and over and over again so I was able to leave without feeling like I hadn’t stayed long enough. I’m sorry, maybe it’s insensitive, but 10 minutes of petting a dog who was no longer breathing was more than enough for me. I needed to get out and grieve.
That all happened yesterday morning. I’m still in shock. And mourning. Even though he had gotten incredibly lazy the last few months and pretty much did nothing but sleep, I hate not having him here. I miss him. And I hate not having a dog…but at the same time I don’t want to start all over again. I don’t want a puppy that I have to train. I don’t want an older dog that has a different personality from Jack. I want something familiar. The plan was always to get a second dog when Jack started to seriously deteriorate so the transition wouldn’t be as awful and I really wish that we had been able to do that. This is the first time in almost 10 years we haven’t had a dog in the house and it’s beyond depressing. And yet I just don’t want a brand new dog right now. I don’t even want to think about getting another dog. I just want Jack.
This is a tribute I wrote on my personal Facebook page last night:
RIP Jackson “The Dude” Delp. You definitely weren’t going to win Best Behaved dog, but you took first place for Best Personality.
As a puppy you loved eating glass Christmas balls, electronics and sunglasses. Water bottles were your favorite. And you would actually eat the sticks you drug home after walks. You would pee on the couch every time you tried to climb on it. You failed obedience class the first time you went through and didn’t do much better the next two times. I loved watching you tumble head over heels when you tripped over your giant feet. Dutch tried to kill you 2 times and you somehow you pulled through. You used to bark at your huge water bowl. You pounced on things like a cat.
In your too-short life you lived in 4 states and 2 countries. You were the best traveller and mover–when you got stressed you just laid down and slept until it was over. Canada was your favorite (for obvious reasons). Although you loved that doggie door in Kansas…even tried to take a birthday cake through it once! You were Jordan’s first word and probably would have been Carter’s. Nothing gave me more joy than watching you run–you always thought you were going so fast but you looked like you were running in slow motion. I loved how you would prance when you found a gigantic stick (aka small tree branch) on walks and insisted on playing tug with it and carrying it home. I don’t even know how many baby pools you put holes into by digging at the bottom trying to kill the hose. You were never happier than when you were outside, especially in the middle of a blizzard. Except at doggie day care. Going sled riding was awesome with you. You would do anything for a hot dog. Getting you to howl was too easy. 12-14 year old girls were your favorite, but you loved anyone who would pay attention to you. If there was water within 200 yards you were going to be in it (just ask Grandma!). When you got excited you would bounce up and down on your front legs as if you were on a trampoline. When you did something bad you would go straight to Jordan and give her kisses, knowing I couldn’t yell at you anymore.
You didn’t like when we put J & C on you to ride you but you were the best sport ever about it. Ditto for being a pillow. We always knew where the “freight train” was in the house due to your obnoxiously loud breathing. Your tail of destruction knocked over and broke more than one thing from the coffee table. We’ll be finding Jackson hair in our stuff for years to come. Thunderstorms, fireworks and gunshots scared the crap out of you. You were scared of the dark sometimes. You would slink away to your bed anytime anyone raised their voice, even if it wasn’t directed at you. You were a 165 pound baby.
Yep, you were a shithead through and through. 6 years of your shenanigans weren’t nearly enough. My heart hurts. I love you buddy.