Good Night, Good Dog

Today was pretty much the Mondayest Monday in the history of Mondays. Today, we put our thirteen-year-old Brittany, Jester, down.

Mr. Man and I put a lot of research into choosing what would be our family dog after having lived with Jack, pretty much the perfect cocker spaniel. We wanted something a little bigger, with a similar happy disposition, good looks, smarts, and just a bit different from what everyone else had. So we packed up the kids and checked out a litter of teeny squirming puppies too young to leave their mama and promised we’d be back. I made the second trip myself, stood on a back porch amidst slightly larger squirming puppies, and made my choice. Or rather, he made his. He ambled over and headbutted my ankle. Given that the stripe of white on his head resembled a question mark, he was the perfect choice.

We ended up bringing him home on what would have been Jack’s fifteenth birthday—a sign from dog heaven that we’d made a good choice. And we were right. Jester was an amazing dog, too smart for his own good, adventurous and quirky. He loved to perch himself along the backs of furniture like a mountain goat almost as much as he liked curling up in a laundry basket for a nap. He was gentlemanly, knew how to bark on command, and took to the rescue Britt we brought home as if he and Sophie had known each other since puppyhood.

Mr. Man didn’t grow up with pets. After Jester, he’s declared he can never be without one. There’s something about their sixth sense that keeps you balanced. Petting a dog after a crap day makes things less crappy. Watching them grow old is a privilege and, ultimately, a responsibility.

A couple of years ago, Jester managed to herniate his spine. A midnight trip to the specialty vet at the University of Florida ended in strict crate rest, a pill bottle full of high-test steroids, and only a slim chance that he’d walk properly again without hideously expensive surgery. But he pulled through and six weeks later was back to his old counter-surfing tricks.

We knew we were on borrowed time. At the end of last year, Jester developed an oral tumor that grew faster than we or the vet could manage. Today the clock ran out. The children who grew up with him were, sadly, in their college homes grieving from afar. We told him we loved him and watched him go and brought him home. He’s resting in the yard, just where we can see him from the kitchen window.

The heartbreaking thing about loving an animal is that their lifespans are so much shorter than our own. The relationship can only ever end in pain. And yet the love in between is enough to make the pain both just and correct. The pain is the least we can do to repay them for the joy

Sleep well, Jester. You were a very good dog.


1 Comment

  1. David Gillespie

    Beautiful, sad, and I am so sorry for your loss.

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