Love & Loss

12/13/14 is a day that I will never forget.  The day I had to say goodbye to Jack-Jack, best known as Blind Dog Jack.  He was my heart dog, the love of my life, the reason I started micro blogging and ultimately the reason I am blogging here today.

Jack-Jack came into my life shortly before my 24th birthday, only a few weeks after the sudden loss of my father.  First a foster, it became apparent to me quickly that he was meant to be mine.  On my 24th birthday we made it official, he joined Parker and my little family.

Everywhere I went, Jack went also.  He was the epitome of bombproof.  He was an excellent traveler, workmate and my best friend.  Anywhere I went, Jack went as well. We knew what each other was thinking before we even thought it.  Even after he lost his sight to PRA (Progressive Renal Atrophy) he continued to go everywhere I went- just this time in a stroller, which he was fine with anyways because he loved to nap!

Five years ago, on a day like any other, Jack stole a chew from a bin at work.  A few minutes later I noticed blood coming from his mouth.  Strange as he had a dental a month prior, and eye surgery the month before.  I opened his mouth and found a lima bean-sized tumor on the left side of his palate. I rushed him to the vet and was set up to see Oncology at Purdue on his gotcha day- and my birthday- a few days later.

After weeks of testing we found out it was a Maxillary Plasmacytoma.  It extended from behind his left eye through his cheek, down through his palate.  We decided on a month of radiation which would conclude right before Christmas that year.

Jack sailed through the radiation.  He only had one day of mild discomfort the whole time.  After a week I could see that the tumor had shrunk so much I couldn’t see it in his mouth anymore!  On every check up after his Radiation Oncologists couldn’t believe how well he was doing.

photo-1On the first anniversary check up I had a shirt made that said ‘Suck it, Cancer!’.  It went viral, and we started producing them to sell to benefit other dogs with cancer.  We sponsored a dog named Edward Carter at Motley Zoo Rescue in Seattle.  He was a shelter dog with terminal cancer, and the rescue found him an amazing hospice foster home.

Jack had always had a funny stomach.  He had occasional bouts of what was best described as pancreatitis but not quite the same, despite eating an extremely low fat diet, but always bounced back with fluids, some meds and rest.  So, when he vomited a few times at the beginning of December of 2014 the emergency vets we took him to assumed that was why he was vomiting and treated him for pancreatitis.  This time he didn’t perk up quite as easily.  He wasn’t eating, which he had never done before.  He just looked like he didn’t feel well.  I pushed for further testing, but the internal medicine doctor wanted to just stay the course.

A few days in, the course wasn’t working.  He still wasn’t eating and just didn’t look like he felt well.  I rushed him to Purdue.  They threw every. single. thing. they had available at him.  He was a rock star there- everyone knew Jack-Jack.  I knew they would do everything possible to save him.

They had so many doctors looking at him.  Pretty much every specialty.  They were doing testing, med changes, an NG tube for feedings.  They threw every trick in the book into saving him.  I don’t think I realized until we got there how bad off he was until we got there.  That this was something he may not come back from.  Jack was invincible in my eyes. He survived a puppy mill and cancer, a tummy ache wasn’t going to get him down, right?

I knew the night of the 12th that things were critical.  They had a new potential diagnosis- Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis. But, what was happening to him didn’t quite fit that, either.  The doctors were amazing.  We had a clear vision of what was ‘too much.’  I kept asking if we were doing too much.

The morning of the 13th he was stable and happy.  They were going to do another test, but as long as I didn’t hear from them before we went to visit things were fine.  Great!  I made an appointment with his student to go in at 5 pm to visit him.

Two hours later the phone rang.  I looked down at my phone and it was Purdue.  My heart sank.  I knew it was the call that I had been dreading.  He wasn’t stable anymore.  He was starting to bruise wherever they touched him.  It was time. Anything else would be too much.

The 45 minute trip to Purdue seemed to fly by.  On the back seat of my Mom’s car was the issue of American Dog Magazine that had just been released, the one with the full page article about Jack-Jack that I had written.

By the time we had gotten there he had been transferred to an oxygen cage.  They put us in a room, and brought him in a few minutes later.  They held an oxygen mask to his face, and even then he was struggling to breathe.  My heart was broken but we knew we were making the right decision.

Jack may have been blind, but he always looked people in the eyes.  He looked me in the eyes at that moment and I knew he was telling me it would be okay.  That he would bring us another dog to help fill the hole he was leaving in our family. Most importantly, I knew he was telling me that he would be okay.

And then we said goodbye, for now.

 

 


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