A Dog’s (Short) Life and Purpose

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

  22 comments for “A Dog’s (Short) Life and Purpose

  1. May 23, 2016 at 11:34 pm

    I lost my 17 year old Jack Russell a couple years ago. He was incredible. I feel your pain and joy at the same time.

  2. Mike Hamersly
    May 24, 2016 at 12:29 am

    Daryl,

    Thanks for the beautifully written piece.

    My condolences – tough to lose the family pet.

  3. May 24, 2016 at 1:33 am

    Darryl, Kathie and Tony, I’m so sorry. Your story brought back memories of when my 15 year old puppy was in his final hours around this same time of year. Bryan Crabtree in his posted comments captured the mix of emotions we all go through, one of pain and joy.

    While we would all be loved to be spared this time of great loss, we wouldn’t trade it for the years of great joy.

    • spotmagicsolis
      August 16, 2016 at 2:36 am

      Try loving a Fancy Rat like I do. Lifespan? 2 yrs. Only the strong survive.

  4. May 24, 2016 at 2:20 am

    You’ll cherish the bond, forever. Thanks for sharing, Darryl.

  5. Carol
    May 24, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    Beautifully written Darryl. Thank you for your memories and prayers for healing your heart.

  6. Kevin McHale
    May 24, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    Darryl,
    Great post. You probably saw our yellow lab Rudy in our front yard on several occasions. Just the perfect companion for my 3 boys as they were growing up.
    For the last 6 months of his life, we had to lift up his hips so that he could get back inside the house. It will be 2 years this August 17th and we all still miss him dearly.

  7. Don Beinke
    May 24, 2016 at 9:47 pm

    Sorry for your loss Daryl I’ve had to do that more times than I’d like to remember and it never gets any easier. Remember all the good times with Jake and he’ll always be there with you

  8. Sondra Briggs
    May 24, 2016 at 10:41 pm

    Sorry for your loss. Just remember all the fun times and the wonderful memories you and your family made. Thank you for giving him a good home and loving him till the end.

  9. Rocco Stellatano
    May 25, 2016 at 12:15 am

    According to Norse Legend, the sacred Rainbow Bridge called Bifrost connects Midgard (the realm of humankind) with Asgard (the realm of the Gods). Also known as Asabru (“Bridge of Gods”), Bifrost was magically constructed from fire, water and air…whose quivering and changing hues it has retained. Not only do the Gods use this Bridge to travel to and from the Earth, it also leads to the Urdar Well, situated at the foot of the great ash Yggdrasil, where they assemble daily in council.

    Of all the Gods onlyThor, God of Thunder, never passes over the Bridge for fear it might be demolished by his heavy tread and lightning bolts. The Watchman God Heimdall stands guard over over Bifrost night and day. Armed with a trenchant sword, he carries a trumpet called Giallar-horn, upon which he generally blows a soft note to announce the coming or going of the Gods. However, Heimdell is destined to sound a terrible trump at the dawn of Ragnarok…the time the Frost Giants will unite with Surtr to destroy the world. During Ragnarok…the end of the cosmos…it is said that Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge, will collapse and shatter beneath the weight of the monsters

    The following poem is inspired by this Norse Legend

    By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill,
    Is a lush, green meadow where time stands still.
    Where the friends of man and woman do run,
    When their time on earth is over and done.

    For here, between this world and the next,
    Is a place where each beloved creature finds rest.
    On this golden land, they wait and they play,
    Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day.

    No more do they suffer, in pain or in sadness,
    For here they are whole, their lives filled with gladness.
    Their limbs are restored, their health renewed,
    Their bodies have healed, with strength imbued.

    They romp through the grass, without even a care,
    Until one day they start, and sniff at the air.
    All ears prick forward, eyes dart front and back,
    Then all of a sudden, one breaks from the pack.

    For just at that instant, their eyes have met;
    Together again, both person and pet.
    So they run to each other, these friends from long past,
    The time of their parting is over at last.

    The sadness they felt while they were apart,
    Has turned into joy once more in each heart.
    They embrace with a love that will last forever,
    And then, side-by-side, they cross over… together.

  10. Curt St. John
    May 25, 2016 at 12:59 am

    So sorry for your loss. It’s never easy; we went through the same thing with our senior dog last summer. Thanks for sharing a wonderful tribute to your faithful companion.

  11. Tom Jones
    May 25, 2016 at 1:33 am

    Sure sorry to read of your loss. A pet seems to hurt worse somehow than the loss of a human sometimes. Because of you and your family he had a truly wonderful life.

  12. May 25, 2016 at 1:50 am

    In my opinion, God’s only mistake ( besides the aardvark ) was not allowing dogs to live as long as we do. Imagine when you were born being given a dog that would be with you for your entire life. But then again, had he done so we would only have had an opportunity to love one dog during our lives…..instead I have had 4…..thus far….and each time one has passed I have sworn that was the last one as I could not bear the pain of losing another
    someday….and then some little mutt shows up and looks at me and it happens all over again.

  13. Gregg Fitzgerald
    May 25, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    God bless

  14. Jim Hernandez
    May 25, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    Darryl, Kathie, Tony,

    Thank you so much for sharing Jake’s story. As you can see from the comments many people know the feelings of pain, loss and joy you are experiencing. I found my dog, Ranger, at a high school baseball game where girls were throwing rocks at him to get him away; he was a stray, dirty and hungry. He was with us 16 and a half years, had many of the old age afflictions Jake endured. He was my dog and I miss him. I do take solice in knowing God spelled backward is “dog” and believe Jake and Ranger are well cared for waiting for us.

    Best,

    Jim Hernandez
    Glendora CA

  15. May 26, 2016 at 12:38 am

    I just lost my Jack Russell on May 4th after 11 years with us, she was 13…I feel your pain.

  16. Willis Damalt
    May 26, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    Darryl,
    Great piece, wonderful sentiments about a true member of your family.
    God Bless and Be Well

  17. Len
    May 26, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    Hey Darryl
    Most people have a predictable agenda on their wedding night. Mine was far more enjoyable. My wife and I found out that her son had taken a sweet young dog that he had and put it in his van for the night so it wouldn’t be barking in his apartment all night. I had met this dog once before and wasn’t going to let it spend the night alone and frightened in a cold (February) van. Unfortunately (I was hoping for an excuse to break the window) the door was open and I reached in and picked up a trembling little dog. We’ve been best friends for over 11 years now. He now has heart problems and kidney failure and 2 months ago was given 2 weeks to 2 months to live. Like you I think about countless miles walked and good times and laughs too numerous to count. We’re very fortunate in that he’s sluggish and infirm but not suffering. I’ve promised myself (and him) that he’ll never suffer even if the pain of letting him go is almost unbearable which it will be. I hope that God makes the decision to call him home without my intervention. If it is left to me, he’ll die at home surrounded by all who love him and I’ll mourn like I would the passing of any family member.

    Not that you need my advice but I’ll offer you some anyway. Please do yourself a big favor and read Mark Lavin’s book Rescuing Sprite. It will mean a lot to you. Take care of yourself and your family.

  18. May 27, 2016 at 2:16 am

    Thanks for sharing Jake with us! Love never dies…just takes on a different form.

  19. Tom Langmyer
    May 27, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    Jake made the world a better place…. Your story about Jake leaves us all in a better place….

    • May 27, 2016 at 4:10 pm

      Tom, thank you so much for the kind thoughts and words. Have a great weekend. Darryl

  20. Paul Bell
    June 1, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    “He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.” (Unknown)

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