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Jakey 10/31/1999-1/20/2009


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Two days ago my golden retriever, my best friend, and my constant companion died after a short but traumatic fight. For months the vets had suspected that he had multiple myeloma but all of the tests were inconclusive. Even now, though they are strongly suspicious he had it, they still don't have a definitive diagnosis. It does not matter now. Up until a month or two ago, Jakey was acting like his normal happy, wonderful self. He followed me wherever I went throughout the house, he barked when his buddy Scarlett barked or the doorbell rang, he ate his rawhides and generally loved life they way only goldens can. A couple of months ago he began slowing down. Jakey had serious hip dysplasia as a puppy and the rescue organization from which we got him generously paid to have a hip replacement surgery. So a couple of months ago when he didn't want to sit when we let him out, or had trouble getting up I attributed it to him being an older dog and did not think too much about it. Sadly, unbeknownst to anyone his bones were being weakened. Friday, we took him to the vet so he could have his hips x-ray'ed to help diagnose his disease. Like the good boy he was happily sat patiently while we put on his lease and excitedly ran down the stairs to go for a car ride. That was the last time I saw my best friend happy and without pain. In order to do the x-rays the vets had to stretch him in uncomfortable positions, something of which I was totally unaware beforehand. I believe it was at that time that his spine was broken. When I picked him up that night he was not the same dog. When they brought him out to me he wasn't excited to see me. We walked past another dog and he was completely uninterested. When I tried to get him to get into the SUV he wouldn't jump up (it's a small SUV that is not high off the ground and he only needed to step up about 10" to get on the floor of the backseat,) so I tried to pick him up to put him in through the back. He growled at me when I tried to pick him up. He has never, ever, ever in his entire life growled at me. I finally got him in the car. When we got home even though he hadn't eaten in more than 24 hours he was not interested in eating. So I went to the store and bought him some tasty wet food. I got him to eat that. But later that night when we let him out his hind legs gave out on him. He tried to stand up but he couldn't. My wife and I rushed him into the ER. They attributed his weak hips to the x-ray and sent him home. The vet was wrong, his L6 and L7 vertebra had essentially crumbled. After two painful, sleepless nights and incontinence we brought him to his vet where they did all kinds of tests. He was later transferred to the ER vet, where they did all kinds of tests. At first it became apparent that he would never walk on his own again, and then it was obvious he would need to be put down.

I planned to pick him up and bring him home so he could be euthanized on his own bed, in his own house, surrounded by his family. The vet told me to wait an hour or so for them to get the paperwork ready for me. Because of that I never got to see him alive again (I had been allowed to visit with him the day before though.) Shortly before were going to leave the vet called and told us that they were trying to revive him but his heart had given out on him. He asked if he could stop compressions. I sadly agreed. We brought our other dog Scarlett with us to see his body in an attempt to get her to understand why she wouldn't ever see her soulmate again (they were extremely close) but I don't think she understood. It's been two days now (almost to the minute as I write this) and I am still so sad. I know everyone says their dog is the best and I'm sure them they are but to me Jakey was truly an exception being. I will never get over his loss. He was a huge golden retriever with an even bigger heart. I miss him so much that I feel physical pain. There are reminders of him all over the house and I feel as though I will never be whole again. I am trying to take good care of Scarlett, though we've never been as close as I was with Jake. I am so sad that I can't think of anything else and I can hardly function. I've never mourned the loss of anyone as deeply as I am mourning his loss. I work from home and he used to follow me wherever I went and his absence is incredibly noticeable. I can't let Scarlett out without crying.

I wanted to share this with everyone because it helps me to talk about him. Also, I'm hoping someone has some suggestions on how I can begin to cope and heal. His loss was so sudden it has been devastating for me. The thought that I will never see him run to me, or devour a rawhide bone, or be able to pet him ever again is unbearable. I am going to try to attach a picture of him so you all can see how beautiful a boy he was on the outside. Nothing I can say, do, or post can express how much more beautiful he was on the inside.


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Dear Jakey's Dad,

How awful this moment is to find out such a loving pet has passed away... I am so very sorry for your loss and that I know things are rough for you right now and please keep coming and reading and know that the family here holds you in our prayers... Take care of yourself Shelley...

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My dear friend,

I'm so sorry to learn of the death of your beloved Golden, Jakey. What a handsome fellow! I know that no one can fill that Jakey-sized hole in your heart or take away the pain that you are feeling right now, but I can assure you that you don't have to endure it all alone. If you've not already done so, I hope you will take the time to explore the pages of my Grief Healing Web site, which offers lots of useful information, comfort, and support. Doing so will help you to better understand what you are feeling right now. See especially the links I've listed on the Pet Loss Articles page.

You say that Jakey died two days ago. I don't know what, if any, sort of ceremony you held, but as a bereavement counselor, I can tell you that planning and participating in a memorial service can bring great satisfaction to those who mourn the loss of a cherished companion animal. Such a service makes the fact of the death more real, gives family members the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings about the lost pet, and enables everyone to reflect on and acknowledge the important role the animal played in their lives. A memorial service may be held at any time after the pet's death, and its function is to remember and to celebrate the loved one's life. Oftentimes the mood is positive and uplifting. A service for a much loved pet can be as small and private or as open and elaborate as a person or family wishes, and a memorial service can be delayed as long as its planning requires.

There is a passage from Robert Fulghum's book, Uh-Oh that I just love -- it's about his first experience holding a funeral for a friend's dog. It's posted on my Web site's Comfort for Grieving Animal Lovers page, but I've cut and pasted it here for you:

. . . We did indeed gather on that Sunday morning in August — thirty of us — and told stories that were as much about us as Gyda [the dog]. Mostly about the attachments possible between living creatures when they are patient with one another. We buried her ashes under a rhododendron bush that’s planted in a barrel on her owners’ back porch. I always nod in her direction when I pass by. Gyda. The grand old virgin aunt in the dog suit. My seminary training didn’t cover how to perform a dog funeral. It takes a real dog to teach that. And when the pupil is ready, the teacher appears. — Robert Fulghum, in Uh-Oh

And there is this, which I have posted on my Comfort for Grieving Hearts page, also by Robert Fulghum:

On Wednesday morning, the family stayed home from work and school. Snowball was driven to the vet and put to sleep painlessly. Placed in her favorite sleeping place— an old brown-leather house slipper, which was put in a small, lidded basket lined with straw and placed in the front seat between Lucy and her dad. The family car became a hearse for the ride home.

Snowball, the tiny wonder dog from South America, living under an assumed name and disguised as a Guinea pig, was laid to rest in a grave dug underneath the willow tree in the backyard. Lucy and her mom and dad thanked Snowball for all the good times and filled in the grave. And marked it with a large flat stone on which Lucy had written in paint: “Happy Days, Snowball.”

This story, of course, is not about pets.

It’s about any life and death. It’s about the deep attachments we make to other living things. It’s about the obligatory rituals of hello and good-bye when we become attached to the life around us. And it’s about how we help children understand the basic lessons of existence.

To an outsider, Snowball was just a Guinea pig.

But Snowball was also a teacher from whom Lucy learned about responsibility, affection, reproduction, imagination, sorrow, and death. Lucy’s grandmother is dying now, and Snowball made dealing with that easier for everyone in the family. Snowball, Grandma, Mother, Father, and someday Lucy. It is the way of living things. All of them. Now Lucy knows. — Robert Fulghum, in From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Lives

See also the resources listed on my site's Memorializing a Pet page.

The suggestions I've included below are adapted from one of the lessons contained in an online e-mail course I've written; you can get a sense of it at Course Overview: Pet Loss, A Different Grief. Any one of these ideas may spark your own imagination as you think of ways to memorialize Jakey:

- Reminisce with family members or friends who knew Jakey. Talk about the funny or silly (or annoying!) habits he had. Such reflections will help you plan your own unique ceremony of remembrance, and will help you express and work through your grief as well.

- Make a special place in your home, yard or workplace that acknowledges and honors Jakey's life — a place where you can go (or be) and remember your lost friend.

- Involve the whole family in the planning of the memorial service for Jakey. Make it as simple or as elaborate as you like and invite whomever you choose, as long as it meets your need to express and share your sorrow, pay tribute to your deceased pet and support one another as you say goodbye.

- Write an article, an anecdote, a story, a poem, a song, a farewell letter, an obituary or a eulogy for Jakey. (See, for example, the story about my dad writing an obituary for his beloved dog, Moose: Memorializing a Cherished Pet.) If you don't want to write for someone else, you can keep a private journal and write about your feelings as you journey through your grief. Say what you are feeling, what you will miss most, what you will always remember with fondness. Say what the relationship gave you and tell how your life will be influenced by having known and loved Jakey.

- Share anecdotes and favorite stories about Jakey. Sometimes others need permission to talk about your deceased pet. Better to keep the memory of your beloved pet alive than pretend that nothing has changed.

- Decorate a candle and light it in memory of your cherished pet.

- Purchase a book — perhaps a children's book — on coping with the loss of a pet, and donate it to your local library or school. Ask the librarian to place a label inside the front cover inscribed "In memory of Jakey."

- Make a memorial shadow box or scrapbook.

- Save something that belonged to Jakey (collar, tags, food and water dishes; bed or blanket; toys; a clipping of fur or baby teeth.)

- Carry a clipping of fur in a tiny container or locket.

- Collect all the snapshots of Jakey in a memory box, an album or a collage. Frame a favorite picture of him and display it in a special place. Give a copy as a gift to another grieving family member. Have a professional portrait of him painted or drawn by an artist from a favorite photograph. Have a favorite picture of him imprinted on a watch, mug, stein, T-shirt or sweatshirt.

- Buy a statue or a stuffed animal that reminds you of Jakey, and put his collar around its neck.

If ever Jakey's grave must be left behind because of a move, take a picture of the grave site before you move, and keep that in a special place that can be visited instead. Plant a tree, bush, shrub, garden or flower bed as a permanent growing memorial to him. Mark the site with a memorial plaque, marker or statue.

- If enough combings, wool or fur clippings from your pet have been saved, they can be cleaned, spun into yarn, and made into an afghan, garment or rug.

- Inscribe a plaque or nameplate with Jakey's name, years of birth and death, and whatever else you choose to write in tribute. Put the plaque on a framed photograph or wooden memory box, hang it on the wall, attach it to a garden bench or other piece of furniture, or display it near his grave.

- Make a donation in Jakey's honor to a pet grief support service, to a favorite animal charity or organization, to a special service organization or to a research foundation. (The cause of your dog's death may guide you in this choice.)

- Volunteer for work in a pet grief support service, an animal shelter, humane organization, or other "people helping animals / animals helping people" program. Become an active member of the local Humane Society. Join or help start a pet grief support helpline, group or service in the community.

See also these resources:

"Funerals for Pets?" at http://www.griefhealing.com/article-funerals-for-pets.htm

"Pet Loss Support, Monday Candle Ceremony and Rainbow Bridge" at http://www.petloss.com

I hope these suggestions help, my friend. Obviously I think there is great benefit in learning all you can about the grief that accompanies pet loss and how to manage it, as well as memorializing a cherished pet, and I hope you'll share with us your plans to remember your faithful friend.

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Dear Jakey's Dad,

How awful this moment is to find out such a loving pet has passed away... I am so very sorry for your loss and that I know things are rough for you right now and please keep coming and reading and know that the family here holds you in our prayers... Take care of yourself Shelley...

Thank you for your prayers. I forgot to add on the original post that Jakey was only 9. Not that that is all that young but still I hoped for 11 or 12 years with him. I feel cheated. I knew it would be hard when I lost him but I had no way of understanding how hard this would be. I am angry with myself because I feel like I didn't spend enough time letting him know how much I loved him. I didn't spend the last night he was at home just hugging him. Though several times I did tell him how much I love him, and that if it is his time that I understand. But I cannot help feeling that I didn't do enough. I have no interest in the things I normally love. All I can do is think of him and how much I want him back with me. Right now is just doesn't feel like I'll ever be the same person again. When he was in the hospital, even though my family was optimistic, I somehow knew that he would die soon. The last time I saw him alive, the day before he died I was petting him and he put his paw on my arm like he always did. I like to think that he was saying "it's ok Daddy, I know you love me."



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Dear Jakey's Dad,

He is certainly a beautiful dog and by what you've said, a truly wonderful companion. I am sad that it had to end so soon. Who else but our pets lie waiting for the sound of our voice? The reaction we get just walking in the door is incomparable. The are so happy to see us, to be by our side, so eager to please. I had a really amazing dog for 15 years. Like Jakey, he was a very cherished companion. I had to put him down a month after my husband died. My daughter keeps begging for a new dog and I want one, I miss the interaction and the play, but I know Zeus (my blue-eyed husky) can't be replaced. He looked intimidating to a lot of people, but I could reach in his mouth and take out his favorite bone if I had to. He wouldn't have hurt a fly. He got to a point to where lifting him up the steps caused him to growl or bark suddenly. He watched over us for a long time, now he's free again.

Hold tight to Jakey's memories. Have you seen the poem the "Rainbow Bridge?" It's sad but hopeful. I know someday I'll play with Zeus again, but for now, I know how hurt and lost you feel. I read somewhere (probably on Marty's site as that's where I spend my free time) that "it isn't time that heals all wounds, it's love."


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