Living on a farm for twenty years, I've had to say goodbye to many outside dogs. Today's experience was the hardest.
When I was little and lived in town we always had a dog in the house. Our family grew extremely attached to them as if they were a family member. Whenever one died it was so painful that we would have to buy a new one within a week just to cope and be able to function again.
After I met my husband and lived in the country for the first time, however, I was beginning to wonder if I should distance myself from the outside dogs since they seemed to have a rather short life-span on our gravel road. Most of them (rescued from abusive homes) were so incredibly sweet and trusting that they stole my heart. I couldn't help but love them anyway.
We finally managed to keep a dog without it getting run over for eight years in a row, and today we had to to put him down.
Jake was five when he came to live with us. A city boy himself, he was quick to adjust to life on the farm as well as life with our children who were two and four. He had quirks that included, but were not limited to, barking a little too aggressively at strangers, digging in the garbage, spewing his toxic urine on my new landscaping, leaving dead sacrifices in the front yard, doing his business right on the driveway, and running too far ahead when out on a walk to find some kind of mischief.
But don't get me wrong, Jake was a good boy. When you told him that, I swear to you, he smiled. And when we pulled into the driveway after being gone for a time, he would do a victory lap around the house.
Little by little, there were recent changes in Jake's behavior. He had a hard time climbing steps. He slept all the time. He growled at my girlfriends when he used to only growl at strange men. And then he bit my granddaughter. I was gone when it happened and my husband had his back turned for only a moment. Thankfully, the bite wasn't anything too serious and only left small scratches on her face. And thankfully my animal-loving granddaughter seemed
quite unfazed by the incident and was playing with other family's dogs right after it happened. It could have been so much worse. When I got home and was told what happened, I literally thought I was going to throw up. I still get sick to my stomach thinking of what could've happened.
Although we still think it was some kind of confusion and maybe even misunderstanding on Jake's part, we knew it was time to say goodbye before it happened again. Telling my now 10-year-old son with a heart the size of Texas was the most difficult part of this journey. I knew he would be upset. I knew he would be mad and I knew he would cry. What I wasn't expecting, however, was a major surge of maturity on his part when he told me, "I want to be the one to bury Jake. By myself."
[Insert knife to heart here]
So on Jake's last night with us, we gave him his last bone and took his last pictures. And this morning my faithful running partner was at my side one last time.
While I knew seeing a dog euthanized for the first time in my life would be difficult, it was his last ride that I was dreading. Did I mention Jake was terrified of car rides and usually got sick? That was probably one of his biggest failures—what kind of farm dog doesn't want to ride in a pickup with his owner? It killed me that in his last moments he cried and drooled and danced around in the car seat for the 40 minute ride to the vet's. Still, I knew it was the right thing to do, and thirteen years isn't too bad for a dog—especially a dog living next to our cursed gravel road.
As he was given his lethal injection and I told him a thousand times that he was a good boy, the vet said, "He has a great smile." And he did. There was comfort seeing my old buddy leave this world that way.
I'm not a fan of country music, but I do like that song that says, "If I die before I wake, feed Jake." Now whenever I'm held down against my will and forced to listen to country, that song will remind me of the dog who smiled when you told him he was a good boy. Because for the most part, he really was.