Hey-I Have My Own Problems
Well, back on Thursday I woke up and Jumpin’ Jack was not moving and pretty much completely unresponsive. I was sure Jumpin’ Jack would be moving on that day and thought I might murder him in mercy. But he was sleeping and not in pain so I just swaddled him up and gave him lots of loving. I sat with him and thought about our life together. The number of things I’ve learned from this dog–When I got JJ, I already had Chickendog, a competition frisbee dog that had made it onto Letterman. And then I couldn’t get JJ to even sit on command….he was the dog that got me into clicker training and he developed into a dog that had as many tricks as Chickendog and was a rock solid, totally dependable performer with just a great temperament. This from a dog that I, at one point, would have awarded myself “Greatest Dog Trainer Of All Time” if I could train him to simply sit on command. He was a project for sure and in many ways the opposite of Chickendog.
He made it through the day and I went to bed and woke up to him in pretty much the same condition. I made sure he was in a comfortable position and sat with him some more through the morning.
Jumpin’ Jack grew up out at a house that I’ve had renters at over the last 10+ years and they’ve moved out, leaving holes in half the walls, not a single interior door, 69 bags of trash tied up and deposited in a back room before they stopped bagging stuff–there was probably that much more trash left loose, but I digress.
My point is that I have work to do out there and couldn’t keep my death vigil at home-life goes on. I also want to bury him out with the rest of his crew who are out there, so I loaded him up, got him comfortable in the mud room that he spent much of his time in as a puppy, and got to work expecting to be able to bury a still-warm body.
Then he lived through that day and I got him back home and comfortable again, sat with him reading for awhile and fell asleep. He woke me up barking around 1 am on Saturday and I started regretting not putting him down earlier. I spent the entire night sitting with him, petting him, thinking about his life and reading.
The book I was reading is, “What is the What?” by Dave Eggers and there is lots of meaningless death in the book. It chronicles stories of The Lost Boys from Sudan and the incredibly complicated situation in the region. Sitting with JJ and seeing how hard it is to actually die makes the stories quite poignant. The kids, according to this account, would be walking, sit down, and literally be dead in minutes.
One of the things I remembered about JJ is how tricky he is. He could always watch for a moment of inattentiveness and make a break for freedom. Even in his old age, as slow as he has been. I left him with a friend overnight recently and she tried to get him out the door after waking, but he wasn’t moving yet so she sat down for liquid elimination, saw him walk by, and by the the time she got outside he was nowhere to be seen. Score one for the 105+ (dog) year old codger! He had a good hour of freedom and was found belly deep in a creek a hundred yards from the house. A great adventure that I’m really glad that he had. I often feel bad for my dogs that I am so on top of their activities. At one point I realized that dogs aren’t as smart as humans and we manage to keep some of the most creative and adrenaline junkies confined–I could at least be as competent as a prison guard, right? That’s my line of thinking when someone says their dog gets loose regularly.
For what it’s worth, I surmised where he would be based on knowing how hard it was for him to walk combined with the general sloping of the ground from the door. “Keep going downhill,” I said. “He likes to go in the wooded areas.” I guessed he’d be down at the creek.
Well, turns out he seems to have just been punking me again….I cooked some eggs around noon on Saturday before needing to get back out to the house to work again-I would have gone earlier, but I really couldn’t believe he was still hanging on. JJ perked up a bit, so I gave him a bit and loaded him into the van and we went back out to do more work on his puppy home. While there, he barked intermittently and after a few hours, just as I was ready to head home, he started barking and flailing in his swaddling so I unwrapped him and he started trying to get up. So I helped him up and used my hands under his belly to act as a sling so he wouldn’t fall and he went to the door, down the steps, and pooped! Then he explored his surroundings a bit–of course it’s impossible to know what even your best partner is thinking, let alone a dog, but I like to think he recognized the play area right outside his primary door from puppyhood and enjoyed being there again.
Another JJ story: I had an old dog, Hefty Hefty Hefty Peterson, when I first got Jumpin’ Jack, and Hefty would go explore in the quarter acre lot that I had and be slow to come when it was time for meals or bed. Jumpin’ Jack learned to go harass Hefty and herd him back to the house when it was time to come in.
A little joke I played on JJ: After Hefty died I would still cue JJ to go find Hefty. JJ would go searching for a good 15 minutes before coming back disappointed. HA HA!
Anyway, with JJ perking up and ambulatory I didn’t feel too bad accepting a dinner invitation for homemade burgers. I loaded JJ up and headed over and he ate most of a burger patty, five slices of Kraft singles cheese slices (hey-you can’t live forever), delicious homemade ranch dressing with buns, and assorted other stuff.
Another super funny story, for me anyway: A girl I was going to marry was really into dogs and had 12 or so before we split up…..she HATED JJ. It was visceral. That’s how insanely wily JJ is. Most dogs are smart enough to be trained, some are smart enough to be super well trained. JJ was so smart that he knew how to ride the wave of getting what he wanted by doing what you asked and then getting what he REALLY wanted at an opportune moment. This female made the point that JJ was old and would eventually die-she could wait him out. That must have been five years ago. A lot of misery saved from that break.
We got home from that culinary delight and I washed and dried his bedding, put him to bed, and woke up this morning, Sunday, to him waiting at the door to go out to do his business. He went out and mostly walked around unaided-I was there “just in case” but he seems back to 70% of where he was on Wednesday before his death vigil started-and honestly, I’ve expected he could go at anytime for six months or so. He’s been slowing down for awhile and he’s slower now than back on Wednesday but don’t feel bad for JJ—he might yet outlive all of us. Ok, actually that might be a reason to feel bad for him. How ‘bout: Don’t feel bad for JJ-you have your own problems.