You will live a lifetime during a dog’s life.
Since a dog’s life span doesn’t match that of ours, it must be nature’s way of making sure we understand how precious each day of our human life is.
15 years is a long time even for humans. In that time a person transforms.
By the time you read this, my almost 15-year-old puppy Jake will be gone. He is in his final day. It’s amazing how fast time has gone and how life and lives change and things mature.
Ironically, I didn’t set out to meet him that cloudy and cool December Saturday afternoon right before Christmas. But, there he was, with his brothers and sisters at Pet Smart in Eastgate (Ohio) hoping for a “forever home.” He looked like a purebred baby black Labrador Retriever. He was mutt though. I’ve always wondered who is parents were and what his mom and dad looked like. What happened to his siblings? Were they as great a companion as Jake? Where was he born?
When I met him he was just 10 weeks old.
My then 12-year old son Tony, as any 12-year old would, asked, “Can we get him Dad?” I agreed and he came home with us, much to the surprise of my wife Kathie, who upon seeing him said, “That’s a dog.” I said, “Meet Jake.”
Our journey together began that winter day.
Tony, who is 27, is now a college graduate – twice. He was always Jake’s best friend, probably because he held him as we drove home that day and slept with him the first few nights in our home. Tony lives in New York and went to college in California. It didn’t matter how long it was or what time of the day Tony would arrive in Cincinnati for a visit, Jake never barked and always loved up on him. He wasn’t much of a guard dog when Tony walked in at 4am on a road trip back from California.
But, over his lifetime Jake did guard Tony, Kathie and me. If one of us were home alone and upstairs, he’d lay across the third step. At night he’d sleep on the landing going to the upstairs bedrooms or in the doorways of my room or Tony’s room. We always joked he was getting his inner “wolf” on.
He’s been with us for many Memorial Day weekends, including the one 13 years ago when my wife had open-heart surgery. She was very ill and as the cardiologist said to me, “in a few months it will be too late.” He lay by her side as her heart and body mended. Dogs understand the healing process much better than her doctors could have made me understand.
Today is probably the most beautiful spring day of 2016. I’m sitting on our back patio tearing up as I write this. Jake won’t make this Memorial Day weekend. There’s a deep blue midwestern sky, not a cloud in sight and a slight cooling breeze. The grass and trees are all a lush green and flowers are blooming. You can smell spring everywhere. It’s a day created from the miserable winters we endure annually in this part of the country.
It’s fitting this beautiful day is Jake’s last. He loved spring and summer and loved being in his backyard rolling around and sun bathing in the warmth.
Jake’s been having a hard time walking and getting around the past few months, not uncommon for a 15-year old senior gentleman. His eyesight is not as good as it once was and he’s totally deaf. As the birds chirp their spring songs he doesn’t hear it.
It’s probably me, but as I took Jake on some slow walks yesterday and today, he’d just stop and look around at the neighborhood he grew up and lived in and loved. He’d then walk a little more and again turn around and glance at a world he is leaving. It’s like he was taking it in one last time and saying goodbye.
We walked past our home today, which was only a few years old when Jake became part of the family. We stood across the street and stared. We looked at trees that were just saplings when he was a puppy. Today some of those trees are 25 feet tall. Life around us, all life, matured during his time.
We all lived a lifetime with Jake. It was only too short.