Sunday, July 19, 2009

JETT: JANUARY 1, 2000 — JULY 19, 2009

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A big piece of my heart died this morning.

Jett and I had only been together seven years, but she was my daily shadow, my nightly therapy, and my 24/7 soulmate.

I’ve chronicled our life together, and her sudden swift battle with leukemia, and now I’d like to find some closure by sharing her last 24 hours.

Yesterday was bittersweet. Jett’s farewell party was as great a sendoff as any dog could get. From 9 in the morning until 5:30 in the evening, the house and the yard were filled with a constant stream of people and dogs coming to say goodbye.

The menu was simple. Soft drinks and cookies. Water and biscuits.

Jett, who was on a prednisone driven diet to keep her strength up, got small meals throughout the day. It was a long, tiring, cathartic day for all of us, and despite the fact that Jett was waning, her primal instincts kept kicking in and she managed to soak up the event and venture out from time to time to play with her friends.

For dinner I grilled her a shell steak. My wife and I couldn’t eat.

She had a difficult night. On the bed, off the bed, with bouts of rapid panting. At 4:20 a.m. she barked once from downstairs. It’s not something she does often, especially in the middle of the night. But I know the code.

Wake up and open the door. I have to pee.

I did. And she did. Dignity to the very end.

Nobody slept very much and breakfast started with five biscuits instead of the usual one. Then ice cream — two cups of Frosty Paws. For dessert she had fresh roast beef, turkey and a bone stuffed with peanut butter.

No meds.

After breakfast we sat together, our eyes locked, our foreheads pressed together, and I repeated the message her trainer asked me tell her.

I put her leash on and we walked to as many of her favorite spots on the property as she could. I unplugged the electric fence, but it was strictly symbolic. She hasn’t needed the collar in ages.

Jett made it into the back seat of the car on her own and my wife sat beside her.

Normally, when we drive to the vet or the dog groomer I tell her we’re going to Disney World. She falls for it every time. But this time I told her the truth.

I have to warn you — these next few paragraphs will be difficult to read. I have to write them, but you certainly don’t have to read them.

The vet escorted us to the back room, told us what was going to happen, and my wife and I sat down on the floor. I held Jett in my arms and her head rested in my wife’s lap.

I sang her the song I had written for her, and then wailing and sobbing out of control, told her how much she meant to me.

First, the anesthetic, and a minute later, with my hand pressed to her heart, the vet gave her the final injection. A second later her heart stopped. My wife and I held her, and when the vet finally took her from my arms I looked at her face. It was, as it always has been, beautiful. But in death the stress and the discomfort that I had been staring at for two weeks were gone.

Jett was, after this valiant struggle, finally at peace.

My wife and I are not. But we’re working on it. Thank you to the many people who posted messages here and on Facebook offering us their prayers, their love, and their support. Thanks to the friends and family who called, wrote, or came to the house to say goodbye. Thanks to Dr. Howard Rothstein and the entire staff at Saugerties Animal Hospital for their dedication and understanding throughout the years, and most especially since that morning on July 4.

Thank you to Kyle Warren, our gifted trainer, whom I have known and trusted for seven years. Early on, Kyle taught me that the key to a successful human-canine relationship was not what he could teach Jett, but what he could teach me.

And finally, to my sweet girl, Jett. Thank you for letting me think I rescued you, when it was you who rescued me. Thank you for seven years of unparalleled joy and unconditional love. Thank you for teaching me so much about myself.

I will love you, cherish you, and hold you in my heart forever. And I know that when I take my final journey, you’ll be the first one to greet me, racing, as always, to welcome me home.