About five years ago, after a heartfelt, written request by my middle child, we piled into our vehicle and drove to the Perry rescue shelter to look at a dog. The dog we went to see was a reddish colored Golden Retriever, who looked more like an Irish Setter than any Golden I had ever seen. Once he was free from his kennel, he ran round and round the fenced area as though he’d never been free.
Then there was a second Golden. He wasn’t on the website, the woman explained, because he’d just been seized by the local police department after several complaints from neighbors. This one simply came over and sat in front of us. As we deliberated over which one to pick, the dog picked up his paw and put it on my daughter’s leg, a habit we would come to adore, and I said, “I think this one has picked us.” After more conversation and $100 changed hands, we loaded the dog into the car and headed home. By loaded I mean literally. He wouldn’t get into the car and we had to lift him in.
As we drove home we discussed possible names. I’ve always thought dogs needed goofy names, and we went back and forth, no one willing to give an inch. When we got home my son walked through the living room. He was the one dissenting vote on getting a dog, reasoning that the energy and expense would be great. Hearing our conversation, my son simply said, “His name is Jackson.” And so it was.
Those early days were exhausting for sure. Within a couple of weeks he had destroyed two pieces of furniture and, if memory serves correctly, at least one pair of shoes. He was scared of his own shadow, refusing to go down that dark, dangerous hallway that led to the bedrooms or down the long, steep set of stairs that led to the basement. It would be months before he would jump into the back seat of a car without being hoisted in. Most of those fears would diminish over time. Though he still barked at any non family member that came into our home, he would would go down the hall, down the stairs, or jump into the back of the car.
Today Jackson took his last car ride. Jackson was dealt a crummy hand, and when we got him we had no idea how hard his life had been. He was blind in one eye from blunt force trauma. He had Addison’s Disease from being beaten across his back. His anxiety was so profound he took Prednisone to help calm him down. In December he was diagnosed with severe diabetes, and our Vet even suspected cancer of the liver, due to the increased enzymes in his blood system. Last night we agreed enough was enough.
Its funny the way memories flood back as you wait in the exam room…things you’ll never forget…like the way he carried my wife’s shoes through the house when he wanted attention or how no steel kennel cage could hold him. We’ll never forget the long night of force feeding him canned spinach after he ate razor blades or how he could hear a jar of peanut butter being opened from across the house. I’ll miss him following me around the house and lying about needing to go outside at night so he could get a treat.
Even more, I’ll miss the things he taught me about unconditional love. That’s one of the great things about a good dog. They love because they love. No strings attached and no performance standards to be met. And I’ll miss that the most. No matter what kind of day I had, Jackson was always Jackson. Though we didn’t have him all that long, I am comforted that we gave him the kind of life he deserved all along.
I would like to thank and acknowledge Dr. Robert Foss of Ashworth Road Animal Hospital for five years of great care and for his compassionate counsel regarding our pet’s health and well being. I would also like to thank Dr. Jessica Merk, whose compassion and care for Jackson this morning was exemplary. Those of you who knew Jackson know the stories I’ve alluded to in this post. And what stories they are.