Today marks the second month since my beloved Jack lost his short battle with malignant melanoma. He was my constant companion for nearly every day of his life, the past eight and a half years.
Jack’s story began in early 2004, when I found him alongside the road on a freezing cold day, on a back road outside Chicago, Illinois. He was so tiny I could cup him in the palms of my hands. He was near frozen to death.
I tucked him in the cleavage of my bra to warm him as I drove him to the vet. The vet believed he was barely four weeks old! Said he was a small mix breed and would not get over 12 lbs.
This was the beginning of many many visits to the vet for Jack. Sadly, Jack was a very sickly puppy and if there was something horrible a puppy could have, he had it.
Lots of TLC, and he began to grow, slowly but he grew. The vet changed her mind and said he was a Labrador, probably stolen by a fox or something from a breeders litter. I didn’t care what he was; I was totally in love with this tiny black baby and wanted him to only be healthy.
Jack and I became one. Where ever he was, I was. Where ever I was, he was. He slept in my bed from day one. Oh how he hated to go out in the snow. I had to shovel the yard to make him a potty pad. Who could blame the little guy after such a cold start?
Jack was so smart from the beginning. Within two weeks of rescuing him, he could sit, stay and shake.
I spent a lot of time with him and he was glued to me. He felt his place was right there, all the time. He had these huge round eyes, and they were always looking right at me. You could see the wisdom in those eyes.
Jack was an amazing companion. He was loved by everyone who ever met him and they all agreed he was a special dog. He was loved all over the world.
Jack was my protector. He came into my life when I was very vulnerable and hurt. He brought me back. I felt invincible around him. There were many times he put himself between me and a presumed threat. He sat beside me, usually touching my foot or leg, with his back to me. He was ever watchful of what was going on around me. Even when I took a bath, bless his heart, he sat outside the tub, watching the doorway. No “Psycho” bath moments for me! When he was outside, I could look out any window and he would usually be there staring at that same window, looking at me. He always knew where I was in the house. I miss that.
In 2008, Jack got a small pea sized lump on his left leg. I took him to the vet and was told it was nothing, probably just a BB pellet from someone shooting him. When I made it clear he was never shot, the vet said it was a bump and dogs get bumps.
In 2010, I moved and got a new vet. I asked the new vet about the small lump. It had not grown; it was just there, a small blemish on my boy. Again I was told it was nothing, just a bump.
Saturday March 10th, 2012 I noticed that the small lump had grown to the size of a dime. I called the vet and was told the office was closing in ten minutes.
Tuesday March 13th, 2012 I had a mobile vet come to my house to access Jack’s now golf ball sized, oozing lump. The vet took one look and said Jack needed it removed ASAP. He wouldn’t say it was cancer, but he said it was suspicious.
I was with Jack throughout his entire surgery, just two feet from him the whole time. Once shaved, it was obvious that the “lump” was spreading as there were four more tiny lumps higher up on his thigh.
It was all removed and sent off to determine just what it was. It was cancer; we just didn’t know what type.
Days later, it was diagnosed as malignant melanoma. The vet said since we had removed it all, we may have beaten it and he would be ok if it had not spread. But if it spread, the prognosis was poor… maybe a year.
Two weeks later, my hopes were dashed. Jack was rolling in the grass under his magnolia tree when I noticed a string of grape sized lumps in his groin area. It had spread and was in his lymph system and his other organs as well.
We carried on, Jack and I, as usual. Constantly together. Jack came to work with me every day. We did all the stuff we always did and he loved it. I made mental notes of all his antics, his mannerisms, his soft funny ears. I sat with him for hours under the magnolia tree.
I hoped for more time. It wasn’t to be.
Saturday June 23rd we went to the farmers market as we usually did every Saturday morning. When he jumped down from the car, he let out a loud groan when he landed. He made his rounds, greeted all his friends and sampled the goods. Back at home, we shared a treat under the magnolia and I took the photo on his ticker. He was watching me, he looked sad and uncomfortable. The tumors were very obvious in his abdomen and along his leg.
Monday June 25th, I prearranged his cremation. I knew when the time came; I would be in a very bad state. It was very hard to do, but I managed to tour the facility and I was aware of what was to come.
Wednesday June 27th, Jack was eating only Vienna sausages. He had lost a lot of weight and he was drooling a little now and then.
Thursday June 28th I made arrangements for a professional pet photographer to come to the house to capture my beloved boy forever. I called her that morning and she came right out that night at sunset.
It was a beautiful experience. Sarah got some wonderful shots of him.
Saturday June 30th was a tough day. I knew I had to let him go. He was in so much pain. It came on so quickly overnight. He paced most of the night. I can still hear the clicking of his toenails on the hardwoods. First thing in the morning, I called the mobile vet. I called the service for pick up.
2:10 PM My boy was gone. The young man from the service brought a small white coffin and he and the vet loaded Jack into my car. I was going to take Jack for our final Saturday outing. I followed the black van back to the service location. It was called Faithful Companion.
Jack had a private cremation and I was with him the whole time. I saw his coffin go in, and was in the room the entire time. As he watched over me his whole life, I now watched over him.
By 6 PM, Jack and I were home again. A mere four hours after his passing, I was curled up on the sofa with his small box. I slept with him that night.
Jack was and will forever be in my heart, he was my heart.
I love you my sweet boy!
Click the link below to see Jack’s final photo session.
Jack – Angel Session » McGraw Photography Blog
I am sitting here with tears just streaming down my face after reading Jack's story. I am so sorry you lost your special boy so young. He was the same age my Ozzy was when I lost him last year, I understand your grief all too well. ((((Hugs)))) to you. Run free Jack, RIP handsome boy.
Maxx & Emma Jean
Ozzy - 10/16/02 - 06/28/11 - Always in my heart.
Sometimes the hardest part isn't letting go - but learning to start over.
Oh man, that was a hard one to read. Sorry for the loss of your beloved boy.
I'm so sorry for your loss. It was a very special relationship between you and Jack.
I'm sorry for your loss.
Thanks for the sweet comments, I appreciate them all. Jack was an amazing guy. I re-read my post and realized I forgot to mention after his first birthday, his ears went from lab ears to little half perk bat ears as I called them. By then we knew he was a lab mix, but those ears were so funny. When he ran they flopped up and down. He finally reached 85 lbs by his 4th brithday and stayed there till the cancer got to him. The original vet got a good laugh when we visited her one day years later. She remembered him, how could she forget him... and said for a puppy with stunted growth, he grew quite big, way over 12 lbs. Amazing what love can overcome.
What a beautiful tribute to a very special handsome dog. I'm so sorry. I cried the whole time I read it and saw his pictures. I just lost my baby too from cancer. You'll meet again someday and he'll be along side you once more