Twelve years ago, I lost my beloved German Shepherd mix, Scruffy, at 16 years old.
I stayed dogless for for a little while. While I missed my sweet baby, I knew that getting another dog would be the cure for what ailed me. I'm a dog person through and through, and I didn't feel right not having a dog.
I started researching breeds and fell in love with the herders. Their quick brains and abilities were so intriguing to me, and I quickly became obsessed with getting one. I started looking at Australian Shepherd rescues and breeders. I knew I'd get an Aussie. I went to the local Humane Society to let them know that I was looking for an Australian Shepherd, and if they were to hear of any coming in, would they call me first. "We have one right now," they said, and before I knew it, I had my Aussie, a beautiful 3-year-old black tri that I named Jack.
We were inseparable. I trained him and took him on long hikes in Griffith Park. He needed extensive training and I was up for the challenge. I took him to a party 10 days after I got him; there I met DG, who was immediately smitten with Jack, I think, much more than he was with me. DG's love for Jack was part of what made me fall in love with him. You know, love me, love my dog.... I knew DG would be a good father.
One day, when I was pregnant, we took Jack for a herding instinct test. Put in a ring with Jack and a dozen sheep, it was truly a marvel to see him move them around, to do what he was bred to do. I got choked up, just like I do now watching T1 master a complicated karate kata, or T2 on stage at any dance performance. Jack was my first baby.
Things were pretty hard for Jack and me when the babies came home. Have you ever seen that scene in "Marley and Me" where Jennifer Aniston, playing a mother with a newborn and a toddler, is home all day and her husband comes home and the dog goes nuts, knocking over the toddler, and she screams, with escalating intensity, "just get rid of the dog, GET RID OF THE DOG!!"? We had a very similar beginning with Jack and the twins.
On the night we brought T2 home from the hospital, Jack jumped in the crib with all four feet, all 60 pounds of him, dangerously close to the 5 pound twin. It was more than I could manage; I was ready to call the Aussie rescue to find him a nice farm to run on forever. DG was not ready to give him up. We sent him doggie boot camp, and he came back a different dog, a dog that could be a part of our family, one that the babies could jump on and try to ride, and who would sleep outside their door while they were napping, and bark at any passing dogs, for fear they would try to get his "babies." I'd strap him to the double stroller and trudge through the neighborhood. One time, a driver stopped me and said, "Wow, if you can get out and walk with all that, what's my excuse?" For me, Jack was the original recipient of my mothering. He needed me just as much as I needed him.
Jack was almost 15 when we had to put him to sleep four weeks ago. The vet said, after Jack had had 6 seizures in 12 hours, that he probably had a brain tumor, and he was fading fast. I wasn't ready, although I knew it was coming. I held him on that table, cradling all the bigness of him, as if he were an infant I was holding in my lap. I thanked him for all he'd given me, how he changed my life.
So today's word is "sorrow."
I have days when I won't remember him, and I think that his memory will fade eventually, and this fills me with sadness. The sorrow that comes from coming home to the house with no dog will probably be with me for a while. Until the sorrow of doglessness passes.