Thursday, November 18, 2010

Farewell Jack d. 17th November 2010

When we picked Jack up at the Westmoreland Animal Shelter in 2003 he was out of time. However, the shelter staff was so keen to save this dog that they stayed open an extra couple of hours so that we could get across and pick him up. Jorg and I had been doing dog transport runs for some time, meeting other transporters at different rendezvous points on I-95 and I-81 and driving a leg or two on the rescued dogs' journey from kill shelters to the northern rescues that would take them. The plan for Jack was that we would hand him off to another transporter in northern Virginia, then he would be delivered to a rescuer friend of ours in Pennsyvlania and she would find him a home. The best laid plans.........

Jack was a brindle Amstaff (polite name for a pitbull mix). We reached the shelter, then duly signed and took possession of him. The shelter told us he was about 2 years old and that he was a really sweet dog. Well the latter part was true, but it wasn't many years before we realized that he was nearer 6 or 7 years old when we picked him up.

We had two hours to kill before we were to link up with his transporter, so we spent a little time by the Chesapeake Bay walking Jack along the sand. At first sight he was a mess. He was very thin. His toenails were worn to the quick, his elbows rubbed raw and the smell was indescribable (even though the shelter had bathed him twice). He had obviously come a long way and had a really bad time. When we reached Arlington, the time had come to pass him on, but the transporter arrived in a standard car with the back seat already taken up by some puppies. That put Jack in the front seat. I duly coaxed him in, only to receive a paw on the arm, and a look that reached right into my soul.

Now, we had been doing transport for over a year and had seen the sad and confused faces of dozens of puppies, old dogs and scared dogs. We had resisted taking them all home. Indeed it was a serious breach of the transport rules to do so, as these dogs were destined for new and better homes, one way or another. Back to Jack, who now looked so perplexed at being parted with that I just couldn't do anything except say "Jack, let's go home." Fortunately, our rescue friend in Pennsylvania was only too happy with this arrangement.

On the way home, we realized that a new dog meant a new bed, so we duly stopped to buy one. As we put it into the back of the SUV, Jack's eyes opened wide. He shot over to the back and spent the rest of the journey happily snuggling into his floofy bed! For the rest of his life, Jack's bed was his own, special place in the world.
Shandy, Jack and Sally
Jack took a long time to bond fully with us and he often he seemed far away. We always felt that he had had a good home, probably with children to play with, and that some bad event had befallen him that led to his finishing up in the shelter. A nice boy he certainly was, accepting Sally as "boss" and treating Shandy (another shelter dog formerly on death row) to regular ear cleaning, a service he provided later on for Bridgette as well. The shelter had named him Jack, and as he seemed to be happy with the name, it stuck. When we jokingly called him "Fuzzy Butt", it never failed to exact a wiggle of his minuscule stump of a tail, even when he was failing at the end. He seemed to know this tease from days long past. His only problem was a strong prey drive (but only for critturs!) that caused him to view an open outside door as an invitation to "bolt". He'd then arrive back at the door a while later covered in swamp mud and soaking wet, wagging his stump of a tail to let us know how much he had enjoyed himself. He did come unglued on one such episode, when running alongside a nearby fence, me following his tracks in the fresh snow, the llama who guarded our neighbor's goats suddenly appeared over the fence and did what llamas do. Jack bolted once more, but this time straight to me, pleased to be back on the leash and going home!

It became obvious a few years later, as his muzzle started to gray out, that Jack was a lot older than we had initially thought. His hearing also started to go, although it was remarkable that the chink of the cookie jar lid, or a spoon on an ice cream bowl, could bring him running from the furthest reaches of the house. Up to this year though, his health had been pretty good. A benign tumor on his butt was easily removed, but he had some bone spurs on his backbone, which started to affect his back legs, and the formation of cataracts was progressively reducing his sight. The neurological effect of the bone spurs was treatable with prednisone, but as we had experienced with Sally, it was difficult to get a dosage that helped keep him walking without the poisonous aftereffect.

Finally two days ago, his legs gave out completely. Along with a loss of appetite, it was obvious that there were a number of other things going wrong, too many for us to help him. That last night and day he did not move from the comfy bed that we had made up downstairs for him and we made the hard decision to let him go. Our thanks to our vet Dr Gates, who did a home visit so that we didn't have to take Jack out of his home environment.
Farewell Fuzzy Butt. Enjoy your reunion with Sally, Shandy and Bridgette. You really were a "good boy" and will be sorely missed. There is a big hole in the house that will never be filled.