After ten and a half years, Jake left us today.
The picture at right is the pic with which he was advertised at the New York Avenue dog shelter where we found him in early 1999. He was a thin, quiet adult dog, an anomaly in a very noisy place. Terrible, terrible place to be, and he'd been there three weeks.
I knew he was the dog for me when I took him out to the shelter's fenced in yard, found a tennis ball and threw it across the yard-- and he brought it right back to me.
Even when his legs were pretty rickety this past summer, he still wanted to play catch at the beach. And until quite recently, he'd keep fetching the ball until he could barely walk anymore.
For years, whenever we'd walk down to the beach for the first time each day, he'd give this little whimper of anticipation as I pulled out the tennis ball. Really loved to chase the ball.
As a younger dog, he was capable of Willie Mays-style over-the-shoulder catches. Sometimes, I suspect, he would intentionally bounce the ball off his nose to get the rebound instead of catching it on the fly.
As good as he was with the ball (he was also fairly handy with sticks, but generally would sit down and eat them after bringing it back the first couple of times), he just never could figure out what to do with frisbees.
He was like a yoyo. You never had to worry about him running away. Would always come back, no matter how enticing the beach smells.
He also had the uncanny ability, at irregular intervals prompted by nothing specific that I could ever figure out, to give off a stench that was best described as rotting fish in a garbage bag. We'd kick him out of the room sometimes for this sin, as we also sometimes did for his farts. You'd immediately feel bad about having done so, but wow. You had to be there.
When he was especially happy, usually because he was welcoming someone home, he'd wag his tail in a beautiful, slightly askew circular motion. The "circle wag"-- as distinguished from the regular old side-to-side wag you typically saw-- was about as welcoming a sight as you could see.
He gave us a circle wag the day before he died, even though he could hardly stand.
We'll never know how much pain he was in the last few months. It was bone cancer, and the vet told us that this was a fairly painful thing. But I never, ever, even at the end, heard him whimper or cry from the pain.
The only evidence we saw was that for the last few months, after a couple of blocks he'd be ready to stop walking, and that for the last week he simply wouldn't put any weight on his back right paw.
The last couple of nights I carried him up and down from the second floor so he could sleep with us-- the few nights previous he'd stopped coming up.
Pretty much the entire last week, the only times he got up were to welcome people coming in the house or to take a leak.
A couple of times this week, we sat out on the front stoop and watched the world go by. used to do that a lot when he was healthy.
This afternoon, I came home from work to meet the vet at our house, and held Jake's head in my hands as the vet gave him anesthetic, then sodium pentathol. He took a while to respond to the anesthetic, maybe 15 minutes. Alison was holding him when he finally lost consciousness.
We both know there are a lot of shelter dogs that need homes, and Jake was always exhibit A for me in trying to convince people not to get puppies when they wanted a dog. So a shelter visit may be in our very near future. But I really just want Jake back, and right now I have trouble imagining having a different dog.
Rest in peace, old brown dog.