Note: This post has nothing to do with bikes, and might make you feel things. Continue at your own risk.
On June 18, 2015–two weeks ago–we said goodbye to Jade, our rednose pitbull. She was nearly 15 years old, and had been with us for nearly 14 of those years.
Many dog owners will tell you that even if they own many dogs over the years, there’s often one (or more, if you’re lucky) with whom they share a special bond, closer than any other. For me, that was Jade. And the feeling was clearly mutual.
How we met
Jade came to us as a rescue when she was a little over a year old, adopted from a married couple who both worked at the same company I did at the time. They’d just had a baby and couldn’t seem to cope with both being new parents and pet owners at the same time. When we went to see her, Jade was gated into a small entryway with little more than a piece of ratty carpet for a bed, food and water, and a small TV to keep her company.
I walked right up to the gate, stepped over, and sat down on the floor with her. Before I even finished sitting down, she was in my lap. I’d like to say that I decided to adopt her, but clearly the decision had already been made. There was no question that she’d be coming home with us, right then and there.
Love at first sight, you might say.
Of course, she needed training and socialization (our male pitbull Max was still in the prime of his life), but that only cemented the bond that we’d formed. That mostly went well, though she did have something of a stubborn streak about certain things. And I never could teach her to fetch properly–she just didn’t see the point of bringing anything back, if you were just going to throw it again.
The middle years
The next ten years were filled with all of the typical ups and downs of dog ownership. Walks and trips to the park to chase squirrels, minor illnesses and couple of surgeries, lots of laying around the house–for she was most definitely a dog of leisure–and the odd bout of misbehavior. But there wasn’t a day that went by without her making us laugh in some way or another–whether it was a goofy fascial expression, or the way she’d wedge herself into an improbably small and impossibly comfortable position on some piece of furniture or another, or the lengths she would go to avoid being photographed.
And then there was the way that her big, blocky head would get hot (not just warm) when she was petted or got excited about something–and then give off the pleasing aroma of either jasmine, sweet-tarts, or corn tortillas. No idea why.
About halfway through this period, Max passed on and Jade became an only dog (though she still had to put up with the cat for a while longer). And even though she and Max always got on well, it was clear that she really liked being an only dog, largely because she had us–and especially me–to herself.
She took her sweet time growing out of puppyhood–it always seemed in retrospect that she only spent a couple of years as a serious-minded adult dog before she started to get old. But as she reached about 12, it was clear that she was starting to age more quickly. She got even lazier, developed some small health problems, started to lose some muscle mass, and got a little hard of hearing.
Old lady dog
In the last year or so, she started to age much more quickly. She went fully deaf (it was prescient on my part to teach her hand signals as well as voice commands all those years ago), developed a low-grade but treatable digestive condition, and began to lose muscle mass more quickly than before. She also became more and more arthritic, which we also treated the best we could.
Because of these infirmities, she spent the bulk of the last year of her life relaxing or sleeping on one piece of furniture or another (remember: dog of leisure). She came to favor a chair that my wife had trash-picked and refurbished. Many of the photos of Jade from the last year of her life find her in what I’m confident will always be known as Jade’s chair–even though my wife refurbished this chair for me.
And as tottery as she became, she never lost the ability to quickly and quietly get herself from one end of the house to the other and onto our bed (and my pillow) in the space of time it took to get the mail or take a shower.
A few weeks ago, she began a more precipitous decline that we knew only had one outcome. On the morning of June 18, we scheduled a house call with our veterinarian and then bolted home from work to spend the rest of the day with our sweet girl. We spent some time letting her wander in the yard and gardens, sniffing whatever she liked–but for the most part she was content to spend the day–to no one’s surprise–laying on a comfortable cushion in the shade on a piece of patio furniture, dozing and watching the world go by.
The vet came at 3pm and a half-hour later Jade passed with one of my hands stroking her big, meaty head and the other on her heart. I felt her last breath, her last heartbeat, and saw her out of this world the best I could. Not that it could ever be good enough.
And I’ve been gutted ever since.
This one was special. For me, like none other. And because of that, I’m not sure whether there will be another dog, at all. We’ll take some time to let things settle, to mourn our sweet Jade’s passing, and to see which way we want to live.
RIP: Jade, 2000-2015.