by Laura Crum
We said goodbye to our old dog, Jojo last week. I can’t really find words for how sad we all were, but those of you who have lost a loved animal already know without my telling you. I can find some comfort in the fact that Jojo was 16 years old, a good long life for a dog. Jojo’s 16th birthday was Superbowl Sunday. She was born on Superbowl Sunday sixteen years ago—the Broncos were in it that year, too. And this year, on her 16th birthday, Jojo began to fail.
She had been living with a host of old animal problems—congestive heart failure, kidney issues, vertigo, poor hearing and sight, a mild dementia. But overall, she seemed happy, her appetite was good, she would play a bit with our young dog and hopped on the bed every night to sleep. She did the chores with me and could still go on short beach walks. All this was true right up until a week ago Saturday.
That night Jojo was very uncomfortable and got us up many times. And on Sunday she would not eat and was clearly very down. We gave it a couple of days, because Jojo had come through several setbacks and been OK a few days later. I did not take her to the vet. I will not ever again put a very old animal through diagnostic work in an attempt to prolong its life. In my experience (and I have gone this route when I was younger), the animal merely goes through some unnecessary grief before it is euthanised. And so we kept Jojo as comfortable as we could and waited to see if she would improve.
By Tuesday I knew that she was failing. Her eyes and gums had a yellowish cast, which indicates liver failure. She would drink water, she could totter around—barely. She would not eat. She lay on the couch all day and I petted her and told her what a good dog she was. She seemed weak, but peaceful. She took a couple of short strolls and lay in the sun while we did chores. But her breathing was a little labored. I made the appointment for my vet to come out the next day.
I have to admit, I really hoped that Jojo would pass on her own that night. I have friends whose dogs died quietly in their sleep. I always think this would be such a blessing. But it never happens for me. And so again, I held my loved animal while the vet administered the kill shot.
Jojo died very peacefully, here at home, on the couch. The vet has known her since she was a puppy. I stroked her and told her I loved her. And her spirit went free.
I am so sad. But I am also accepting. This is what it is to love an animal. This is life. Jojo was sixteen years old. If I had a wish, when she was a sweet little blue-eyed puppy, it might have been that she would live to be sixteen and have a happy life. That wish has come true.
Jojo was our dog before we had a child. My little boy has never known one moment of life when she was not his companion. She crossed the country with us on our camper trips to Michigan seven different times. She camped with us in the Sierras and hiked with us through the coastal hills and on the beach so many, many times. She raised our little dog, Star, with good grace, just as she raised my little boy. Jojo has always been a very sweet dog. Those of you who have read my mystery novels will realize that she is the model for “Freckles.”
We buried Jojo under the apple tree and we cried for her. One more sad thing. But not an entirely sad thing. Jojo, our sweet dog, had a good long life and we loved her and did our best for her right up until the end. She had a peaceful passing after one not-good morning. This is pretty much the best outcome life has to offer.
Good-bye Jojo. We love you.