“Whenever you’re ready, you can just knock on this door.”
The veterinarian slowly closed the door and left me alone with my dog, Jack.
Jack was my dog. A Siberian Husky rescue I only had for two years and four and a half months. It’s an interesting story how I came to get him.
Six months prior, on Dec. 9, 2013, my dog of 14 years, Jasmine (a Lab/Chow mix), passed away. For several months I was not interested in getting another dog. I wanted to wait a good while till I was able to emotionally recover. I was very close to her, as anyone who knew me at the time could attest.
Six months after she died, I attended a going away party for one of the writers in my writers group. During conversation, I was asked if I was planning to get another dog. I told them I was just then starting to consider it. I told them I would like another Labrador. But I followed up by saying that ever since I was a little kid, I had wanted a Husky. All those Jack London books and movies, The Call of the Wild and White Fang, had rubbed off.
Two days later, Sam, my friend and the leader of our writers group, texted me a photo of a beautiful Golden Siberian Husky with an inquiry of my interest. It was a miracle of some sort. Sam had not even heard my conversation during the party. It was just opportunity knocking.
The next two-plus years, Jack and I became fast friends. The first four months were a struggle. A power struggle of who was going to be the man of the house. I eventually won.
I didn’t know how old Jack was. I suspected a certain age that was younger than what the first vet assistant told me during our first veterinarian visit. She said five. I thought two. She said, “OK. Two to five.” I took it comically, but stuck with the number closer to my guess. After two more vets told me their age assessments, it appeared that VA was right.
Jack loved attention. Everyone’s attention. In a lot of ways, he was just like his owner. Blue eyes and handsome. Like I said.
He loved to lean against my legs when people were around, as if proving that he belonged to me—and that I belonged to him. He wouldn’t bark. He would talk, as Huskies do (watch a YouTube clip of them). He would let me know, undoubtedly, when he was ready for a walk. If I was reading or writing and he was annoyed with my inattention to him, then he would stand up in my lap and put his face in mine, or push his nose between the crevice of my back and the couch, or, if I had one leg propped on the other, he would shove his face through that little leg-made hole, and stare at me. It was so I would pet him, or push him, or play with him. He was fine with just contact. That’s all he needed. Of course, there were so many times I would give him more than contact. We would wrestle and push against each other. I would grab his face and we would stare at each other. Even when he would stop to hack due to his heartworms, a condition I inherited with the rescue, he would get back to playing. The reason I thought he was so much younger than he was, was because he acted so young. Like a puppy, in many ways. Especially when he would lie down like a complete nutjob.
He was also pretty calm, which isn’t exactly indicative of the average Husky. He didn’t mind lying around the house and taking it easy. With Houston’s hot weather, that was often for the best.
Whenever I opened the pantry door to get a plastic bag, he knew what was coming next: a walk. We walked three times a day. Each time he acted like McGruff, as if he was sniffing out a crime.
In the morning and then at night, he would sit, staring at me, with just a little bit of saliva around his lips, in anticipation for his treat: a Milk Bone.
He loved crackers and my dad loved to give them to him. If the bedroom door wasn’t shut, he would not hesitate to wake you up. He loved riding in the car, leaning his head out of the window no matter how fast we were going. He would dance around the car when he knew he was going to go with me.
He loved the compliments too. People would stop us while we walked just to look at him. There was one night in The Woodlands several people from another country asked to take pictures with him. He ate all of it up.
He was good with people and other animals, although he wasn’t afraid to eat squirrels—head first. Like I said, all that Jack London wolf stuff.
He was hilarious and sweet. Handsome and curious—always wanting to know where I was. Many times, he would be staring out the window when I got home. And definitely when I would leave.
In the very short amount of time, I fell in love with this dog. My parents fell in love with this dog. Most people who met him did. He was just loveable.
And now I was asked to be ready to let all of that go. Just knock on the door and the next steps would be taken.
Over the past month, Jack began to show signs of fatigue that I contributed to his bad heart. I anticipated cutting back on our walks, whether their length or amount. We began to cut back considerably, as he continued to sit, and at times nearly collapse, in order to regain his strength and composure. He would then get up and we would continue. Three weeks ago, I renewed his annual heartworm medicine at BARC, the rescue and adoption facility. I was told that the heartworms were probably going to be gone by the end of the 12 months, but that the damage was already done.
He continued to get worse, more tired, fewer walks, until he no longer went for walks. He would sit in the front yard and watch me write, or go to the backyard to walk around. He began to worsen considerably this past weekend, but I won’t go into detail about that.
So I sat on the tile floor of the vet’s office and talked to Jack, rubbed his belly and his face. Held his paws. He looked at me, obviously unknowing what was going to take place. I was left with a choice. Stop his suffering now, take him home and continue praying for a miracle, or spends thousands of dollars trying to make him better, which according to the vet, had a good chance of not working in the long- or short-term.
I like to think I gave Jack the best 28 months of his life. I like to think that he was never loved and cared for more than he was by me. I know he made my life more enjoyable. He made my wish come true about having a Husky. It was like we were supposed to be with each other, even if just for a little while. Sometimes a little is OK. Sometimes it’s all right. It hurts, sure. But the memories we made outweigh this past month. They outweigh that moment when he began to fall asleep on the vet’s table. They outweigh that moment when the vet put his stethoscope around his neck and said, “He’s passed.” They outweigh the moment I buried him in the backyard. They outweigh the tears I’ve been crying throughout the day.
All of those memories far outweigh that moment when I followed the instructions of the veterinarian. The moment I knocked on the door.
Goodbye, Jack London Bass. I am going to miss you so very much. I love you.