I had to wait to write this post, I had to give myself time to find the right words through the tears. I wanted to make sure I had time to honour her and what she brought to our lives. I thought if I gave myself time that the words would come easily and without the tears….but I have come to realise that no amount of time will stop them, they may come less frequently, but they will still come……because ultimately her absence is a loss, her life though seemingly insignificant in the large scale of things still made ripples….even if it was only across our hearts.
In late February we said goodbye to our girl…..our Jassie….she was our Golden Labrador Retriever, our daughter’s best friend and our first baby. We bought Jassie during the time we were struggling to conceive, not because of that, but it just happened to be around that time. I didn’t know then what she would bring to our lives, we were just getting a dog…..because that is what you do after you get married and buy a house….you buy a dog. Little did I know we were buying the heart of our family.
She was an adorable puppy, like ridiculously cute! I know I am bias but seriously there is nothing cuter than Labrador puppies! She was cute & trouble……a lethal combination in both dogs and children….you just look at that adorable face and no matter what they have done you want to cuddle them.
When she was nine months old tragedy struck and we almost lost her then. We were living in town then and my hubby had knocked out part of the fence by accident so we had to send Jass to the farm (where we live now) until the fence was fixed. We got a call one day that Jassie had been run over by a car. One of the farm workers was driving down the driveway when she came running at the car to great him; she lost her footing on the wet ground and slide under the wheels of the car. The wheels had torn open one of her back legs to the bone and she was in shock from blood loss. We were told that if she survived the night she would live. She had major surgery on her leg and they managed to save it but she lost a toe. The wound ran the full length of her lower leg and needed application of creams and bandages daily…..this went on for 12 months….until she was finally healed. Her leg wasn’t really ever the same again; sometimes she would only walk on three legs. I still wonder if it would have been easier for her if we had told them to cut off the leg. We always got questions from people about the wound, as she had a shocking scar. Not that you would have known otherwise as she always wore a smile, you could see it in those big brown eyes. She didn’t care as long as she was by your side; there, she had everything she needed.
When our daughter came along I thought it would be hard to have Jassie and a little child tottering around, I worried that Jass would act negatively towards having a child disrupt her life. I had no idea how wrong I would be. Jassie was amazing with Rena, she had so much patience and would guard over her and let her hold onto her for balance, they were best friends instantly…..and Rena still calls her that now. I think when you are an only child your pets become your siblings and fill that place in your heart. I am so happy that Rena had her; if I could say one last thing to Jass right now it would be…..Thank you for loving Rena, thank you for giving to her what I couldn’t. Every kid needs a best friend and I couldn’t think of a better friend to entrust my daughters heart too. We all should be so lucky to be loved like that.
In the past couple of years we saw her slow down, she would sleep more and lay around….there was less running and more plodding, you could see the old age in her eyes. It was then we started to prepare our daughter for the day we knew would come, we talked about how old she was and that dogs don’t live as long as people. We talked about what we loved about her and what our favourite things to do with her were and we tried to do them as much as possible. We talked about saying goodbye and savouring the moments we had left. We prepared her heart for farewell.
Then last year we brought another being into our family, a puppy, a little Chihuahua our daughter called Coco. We weren’t trying to replace Jass; that never would have been possible. We had always talked about getting a second dog; we definitely had the room for more! We wanted Jass to have a friend in her last days and we wanted Jass to teach Coco all she knew about living on the farm, we don’t have fences here, Jass learnt to stay within the bounds of the farm, she was very smart. She did just that and Coco gave her something else unexpected in return….she gave her a bounce in her step again, as though being around a puppy made her feel young again. Coco adored Jass and just whispering her name now will get a reaction from Coco each and every time. I am not blind to the strangeness of the Labrador/Chihuahua combination….it doesn’t make sense to us either, but somehow it worked. I like to think Jass gave Coco a little of her heart in that year they had together……I am glad we could give Jass such a wonderful friend.
In February this year we started noticing something different in Jassie, she started losing a little weight and she didn’t finish her meals every night. If you know anything about Labs, you would know they have eyes bigger than their stomachs and will eat anything and everything in sight. When the weight loss became noticeable I knew I had to take her to the vet, but I confess I put it off….I knew what was coming and I wasn’t ready to face it. The night she didn’t eat her dinner I decided the next day I would take her in. The vet said he didn’t have to examine her, he knew she had a massive (potentially cancerous) tumour in her stomach and that, worst of all, she was in extraordinary pain. I broke down then and there, my heart shattered when I realised all my worst fears were true. He made a time to come to the farm that day and I went and got my daughter from school so she could spend one last day with her girl. We just sat with her that day, ideally I would have loved to taken her for that one last walk on the beach and sat with her in the sand as the sun set…..letting the silence envelop us, as no words would be enough. But, I was aware of her pain and I feared that walk would be more for me than her. So we just sat on the grass and I looked into those big brown eyes and I rubbed her beautiful soft ears and I stayed strong next to my girl as we whispered our goodbyes.
Even in her last moments she was full of love for us, through her pain that beautiful spirit still shined, I could see it there in her eyes, I knew for certain then, what I had known all along, that her love was faultless and pure and that we were blessed to have been loved by her……blessed to have been loved like that.
I wanted more for her….more cuddles and belly rubs, more treats, more bones, more licks, more walks on the beach and swims in the dam, more playing “keep away” (because she never grasped the concept of fetch…..apparently me running after her screaming “give me the ball Jass!” was way more fun) but mostly what I wanted was more time……because the time we had will never seem enough.
I managed to capture the last moments of her life with these images (except the ones with Rena, they were taken a year before), you wouldn’t know looking at her how sick she really was, she still managed to smile through her pain, it says more about who she was than I ever could……she will be remembered and loved……deeply.