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.
It's never easy. Hugs.
What a beautiful tribute. I'm so sorry for your loss, it hurts so much to have to make that final decision for them, even when its the kind thing to do.
You & your family are in my thoughts.
jenj--I know you have been through this recently, too. Thank you. Yeah...just sad.
Horseyhabit--Thank you. I appreciate the kind thoughts.
It's never easy, but it is the right thing to do when our companions let us know it's their time.
Peacefully, and at home in the arms of a loved is a good way to go.
You were blessed to have such a wonderful family member like Jojo. Chosing her feelings over your own was the right thing to do and the hardest. When the time is right, JoJo is going to make sure that another dog finds you and loves you the way she did.
Hang in there.
CFS--Yes, its always been very important to me that my animals are euthanised at home and I am with them.
horsegenes--Thank you. It wasn't actually a difficult choice in one sense. I knew she was dying and would die either way. I just chose to take away her last bit of struggle. In that sense it was a clear and easy choice. It's just always hard to lose a loved animal--any way that it happens. I know you know. We are all taking a lot of comfort in Star right now. My son said, "Every time I think about how much I loved Jojo, I show some extra love to Star." I think we are all doing that.
I'm so sorry for your loss, Laura. It's never easy.
Thanks Funder. No, it's never easy. It's the price we pay for loving our animals. I guess we're all willing to pay that price...those that interact on this blog, anyway.
I'm so sorry. She really had a great life, and some day you won't cry when you remember.
What a lovely tribute to your dog, Laura. And what a sweet picture of her, too.
Thinking of you!
What a beautiful girl, and what a happy life she had.
redhorse--Thank you. I know you're right. That day is not today, though. Or tomorrow or the next day. It's just been too many sad things in a short time.
Thank you so much, Linda and Grace. Jojo was very unique--half Jack Russell, half Aussie Shepherd. The result of an accidental cross of my neighbor's two purebred dogs. Jojo was the smallest pup in the litter--a blue-eyed red merle. We miss her.
Oh, Laura, I'm so sorry... I am crying for your sadness, but happy that you did have Jojo for so long. She really was beautiful. I'm glad you were able to hold her in her last moments and it was a peaceful end.
I hope with all my heart that my sweet girl makes it to 16. She's turning 11 this month and it's very much on my mind. I just try to treasure every day, every minute, really, with her and be glad that I have her, and I know you did the same with Jojo.
(Hugs) to your family...
RiderWriter-Yes, it's all about treasuring the time we have. Thank you so much for your kind comment.
I am so sorry. RIP, sweet girl.
Such a wonderful tribute to JoJo. Sharing her story makes all of us with aging dogs treasure them even more while they are here. Overall the happiness/pain ratio is 100/1 until the end, but man that end hurts like hell.
I am sorry for the loss of your dear friend. She was a beautiful girl. I love the last picture of her. There seems to be a whole story in her gaze. The story of a great life with a family she loved very much.
Did your horse vet come out? I am not familiar with traveling small animal vets. I am glad she was able to be at home. My sweet cat of 15 years died in my arms at the vet's office. We knew he had cancer due to a growth on his shoulder. So we gave him a wonderful week of his favorite foods and activities before saying goodbye. We also did not pursue any diagnostics or medicine and let him go before he could really suffer. It felt right.
Sorry for the delete--I should proofread before I send. A story that always gives me a great deal of comfort is the tale of Belker. Google "Belker the dog" and it will show up.
I too believe that an animal passing on its own is giving you one final gift. The decision to make that final call is taken from us. I also believe that the lessons our animals teach us must be practiced. That means another little critter is waiting for us to find them and bring them into our family. Many hugs, Laura.
February 13, 2014 at 5:35 AM
Thank you Dom, Jan, Val and TB Dancer. I appreciate the kind thoughts.
Val--My small animal vet has been my friend for years and comes out on these errands as a favor. He also does this for others besides me. In our area there are several mobile small animal vets, as well as large animal vets who will also do small animals. So there are options. Of course, I don't know about your area. But many vets are sympathetic to the wish to put a loved animal down at home.
Ok, you had me crying and I am sure I am not the only one.
How is your son taking it? And your other dogs?
I am glad you had Jojo for such a long and happy time!
Alison--My son was very, very sad on the day. But after many tears and much expression of sadness he was able to move on, which I was glad about. The other dog seemed quite lost at first, but like my son, has now adjusted. We're trying to take Star with us everywhere we go so she doesn't feel lonely. Thanks for asking.
I'm sorry for your loss. You gave her a good home and life-any dog would be lucky for you to be their person.
Thank you Anon. I'm not a perfect dog owner by any means, but I try to do my best for them.
Lots of love to you, Laura. It's always such a difficult moment. Big hugs.
Thank you, Cesca. I know you understand.
Well done, Laura, you've managed to put into words everything I feel about helping our old friends on their way. Sure, it's heartbreaking; sure, we miss them; but it's the last kindness we can do for them to thank them for sharing their lives with us. If I was allowed to choose how I leave this world, I would leave it while sitting on the couch with my family around me.
There'll be a Jojo shaped hole in your life for a while, but the edges will start to soften and fill in after a while so it doesn't hurt so much every time you notice it.
Until then, hugs.
Thank you so much, Martine. Having lost other loved dogs previously, I am a little better prepared for the process than I was with the first one. It does help that she was very old. And, though this may sound strange, right after she died I had a very clear vision that she was running free, filled with joy, telling me it was OK. Still makes me cry, but in a good way.
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