I have recently come to terms with the day I will have to say goodbye to Jackson. I have done this many times over the 11 years that we have been blessed enough to share a home with this beautiful soul. He hasn’t had an easy life and it certainly hasn’t been easy being his mom. That’s a story for another day.
My boy is declining in physical body and, in fact, has been since the day we got him. He is a fighter, though, and he has defied the odds.
I love my dogs. That is no secret. Some might call it obsessed. Some people think that my judgement is clouded and that I can’t see the writing on the wall. I can feel the pity they feel for me when they think I am in denial of what is happening to my baby. Strangers give us the looks too. Like they feel for me, but, think I am being selfish for keeping this physically broken down hound on this earth. I assure you I am not selfishly or desperately hanging on.
I see something that you cannot see. You couldn’t possibly. You don’t know him like I do. You may know his physical body. I know his soul. Selfishness is the furthest thing from what I am when it comes to Jackson. The sadness that is felt when your buddy is deteriorating before your eyes can’t be compared to anything else. The fear of how he will pass, when he will pass and if it will be peaceful visits you when you least expect it. The well meaning words you play over and over in your head that came from people who love you can leave you questioning your own sanity. Watching their functionality dwindle is like having someone reach in and squeeze your heart and throat as hard as they can. All of that could be alleviated if I did the “humane” thing.
I used to pray every day that he would go in his sleep so that I would never have to make a decision for him. Now I pray every day that Jackson lives out his days on his own terms and that I have the strength and courage to make that happen for him. He calls the shots now. He will decide when the curtain closes. He will tell me when and if it is time to make a decision. My fear and pain will not dictate his fate.
The day I brought him into my life was the day I committed to providing what he needs until he leaves this earth. Doing the “humane” thing at this point would really just be about my pain, not his. That, for me, feels selfish. If you really think about the word “humane”, when talking about this topic, in this way, it is selfish. The word itself has the word human in it, not canine.
Part of having a dog is knowing that you are going to suffer. Parts of it are going to suck. They get old, smelly and incontinent. I have had human relatives who ended up the same, but, I would bet they wouldn’t tell you they wish we would do the “humane” thing. I am not talking about pain at the Kavorkian worthy level. I am talking about shit that comes with getting really old. Pain and suffering is just part of being alive.
I am not oblivious to people’s well meaning thoughts and concerns. They just don’t see what I see.
You see his bones that no longer carry muscle mass. You see a white face that is sunken in and eyes that are tired and always seem to have eye boogers. You see him lose his balance and have trouble navigating even flat terrain. You smell him coming from a mile away even when he has just been bathed. You see rotten teeth and growths on his body. You see patches where his hair has fallen out and his neck that has been shaved where the hair won’t grow back. You see dandruff and feel fur that is no longer soft by any stretch of the imagination. You hear his bark that is weak, but, takes all of his energy. You pat him on his head with only your finger tips because you don’t really want to touch him and I don’t blame you. You aren’t his person. You aren’t emotionally invested the way I am. He wasn’t purposefully put into your life. I am his person. He showed up in my life so that I could be his person.
What I see is the present being that he is. The soul that came to this earth to teach me. I see the dog whose physical body isn’t too far off from the condition he came to us in as he was starving, bloody and missing hair. I see the dog that has endured shitty health problems, and unknown and an obviously traumatic past and a stranger blasting him over the head with his cane in his very own backyard, yet he still loves unconditionally, hunts and protects relentlessly. I see past the clouds in his eyes and into his soul. He tells me he is not done. He is tired, but, his work here is not complete. He tells me his body struggles, but, he does not want to be preserved, he wants to live. He wants to see and do things. He tells me that even though he can’t physically do what he once could, he still has enjoyment in what he can do and though it might make me sad to see that he can’t participate in some things, he is coming to terms and finds joy in observing and reminiscing. He tells me that just because he falls down, doesn’t mean he wants to quit. He tells me that just because he gets out of breath doesn’t mean he wants to stay home. He assures me he is happy and tells me to be happy too.
Jackson is going to leave me. It is painful to say. My pain aside, I will uphold my commitment until he has finished teaching me what it really means to live in the moment and love without condition. I am grateful for every single moment I have with him. Rest assured, he is too.