I’m way behind on my posts. I still have about a half dozen from our time in the US and right now we are in Croatia but this post takes priority over all others. We seem to have some bad luck when it comes to summer vacations and our beloved pets. Three years ago when we were on vacation in the Costa Brava, our Sailor became incredibly sick and upon our return, we had to make the decision to put her down at only 8 ½ years old.
This vacation unfortunately seems no different. Jake has been ill for a number of months now with struggles with his breathing. He took a turn for the worse around April and since then, we’ve known his time with us was limited and that likely he would not see his 13th birthday in November. I had a dream the night before we left for Croatia that he died when we left – who knew that that would be a premonition of what was to come.
Within 2 hours of landing in Split, Croatia on Thursday morning, as we made the 3 ½ hour trek down to Dubrovnik via car, we had a call from our dog sitter, Linda. She was concerned about Jake’s breathing and he had vomited a number of times. We weren’t sure what to make of it. Was she blowing things out of proportion or was it worse than the times he had done this for us? And yes, this is what we had progressed to with him. We knew he wasn’t healthy but we assumed much of this was related to old age and our vet had not indicated otherwise. He never seemed to be in pain and he never had the "look" in his eyes that others had told us about where we would just know that his time had come - so we had just continued on, knowing the inevitable was not so far away, appreciating just each day that we got with him.
Linda pressed us to have him brought to the vet and we eventually agreed knowing the moment was likely upon us. We were hesitant at first only because we figured that the breathing issues and vomiting he had already been doing was no different than what he did with us and that the vet wasn’t going to be able to fix it. It turns out that his condition was worse than we realized and it’s not for lack of good veterinary care because we have a great vet – it’s just that the medical care is different here than in the States and in order to avoid invasive procedures we just took our vet’s word that the problem was his trachea.
What we weren’t aware of is that the flap of skin covering his trachea was no longer opening and that he was unable to breathe properly. This flap of skin closes to prevent food from going down your trachea – however, when not eating, this flap needs to open to allow air to enter the trachea and into your lungs. He had been struggling to breathe before and we’d had an ultra sound done on his heart and his lungs and eventually the diagnosis was related to his thyroid (which was already an issue for him) and that because his thyroid was malfunctioning, he was then having issues with his breathing. We’d been working on regulating his meds to find a happy balance for him.
Linda brought him to the vet (not ours as he is away on vacation) and he was immediately given a sedative and an oxygen mask. His being alone without his family was torture to me and the thought will haunt me for a long time. He stayed overnight and I received a call from Linda Friday morning that Jake did not have a good night and that things seemed to be progressing quickly and that we could not wait until we are back in Barcelona in 9 days – we had 3 options – 1. Surgery that he would likely not live thru or could have potentially fatal side effects, 2. Return to Barcelona immediately to put him down or 3. Stay put and have the vet put him down.
None of these options are / were appealing in any way. We found a compromise that still doesn’t truly work for us but hopefully would help us make peace with our decision. We decided to skype with Jake (what would we do without technology?) – we knew he wouldn't get it but hopefully just hearing our voices and if he can, see our faces, would help him to know that we were there with him, even if we weren't physically there and that we love him so very much.
For the kids, it would hopefully give them closure to see him alive one last time. Aidan was distraught because in our rush to leave at 4:45AM Thursday morning, he did not kiss Jake or say goodbye to him. He was very emotional knowing that he had not said goodbye and that he missed what would be his last opportunity to do so.
Unfortunately neither of us had a good enough internet connection to make the skype work. But we had reached the point of no return and at this point we had to do what was right for him, not about us. Linda said he did not look good and his breathing was very labored and that it might not be good for the kids to see him that way. As it was, hearing Aidan's voice crack as he said good-bye and I love you to Jake was enough to break my heart in a million pieces. We just couldn't stop crying as we said good bye to our sweet sweet boy.
It pains me to know that I couldn’t hold him like I did with Sailor as he passed away. But knowing that he is no longer suffering or in any pain will have to make up for that. We couldn’t possibly make him hold off until we got back – it would have been selfish to do so and would have only tortured him.
We have been so fortunate to have a dog like Jake. He was our first “baby” and until our actual babies came along, he lived the high life. Though I can’t say he lived a bad life even after the babies came along, just perhaps a more mellow life though - but not to shabby seeing he made a transcontinental move and went on a few trips to France. I don't know many dogs that have done that.
Aidan, Liam and Jake in Arles, France - Oct 2010
He loved the beach and loved swimming. He would swim in the Atlantic in the middle of February if you let him. Back in November, when we got a car, the first thing we did was take him to the beach since he had not been in 3 years. While he couldn’t swim like he used to, you could see the happiness on his face.
Aidan and Jake in November 2012 at the beach
Jake and Sailor at the Knob in Falmouth - before kids
Jake the reindeer in Barcelona 2012
Aidan, Liam and Jake - 2008
Liam and Jake - 2009
Josh, Aidan and Jake - 2004
Liam and Jake on the Cape - 2008
Jake and Sailor - I think this was 2002
My favorite picture of my boy - also in 2002 I believe... so handsome :)
Aidan and Jake - 2004
Aidan, Josh and Jake - 2004
He was the most patient, loving and kind dog you could ask for. Back before we had kids, the neighbor kids used to come over to ask if Jake could come out to play. He was so gentle with them. He never would nip or jump on kids, it was like he understood they were too little. I wish I had some pictures of him back then but they were all pre digital camera and are in storage right now.
Whenever someone would arrive at the house, no matter what country we were in, he would always rush to find a toy to bring to show them, as if to welcome them into our home with something of his.
He loved to snuggle and though he seemed to want to have his own space in the last year with little desire to be on our bed (which in all fairness is a lot smaller than what we had at home, thereby making it so much hotter as well), he always loved to lay right on top of your legs, despite being a hefty 80 lbs. He needed to touch you, to be right up close. I will miss those snuggles every day.
And while he didn’t snuggle us a lot these days, Liam was constantly snuggling him. The entire time we were in the US, Liam kept telling me how much he missed his Jakie. And we all did. When we would call Josh, we’d have him put the phone up to Jake’s ear so we could say hi to him. And while he was close with both boys, he was especially close to Liam who has a way with dogs that is just so peaceful and calming to them. He would lay with him constantly just rubbing him.
Aidan is differently emotional than Liam. He tends to hold things in internally. He has been taking Jake’s health very seriously and of course, at 9, has a much better understanding of what is happening than Liam.
Josh and I, of course, are distraught. It was a horrible day when we had to put Sailor down 3 years ago. And having to do it again was not something either of us were looking forward to. But she was a different dog than Jake – she didn’t bond with us in the same way - she was more of a dog's dog than a people's dog and that bond is what makes this day with Jake that much more difficult. Because to us, he was practically human – I know that sounds weird and strange, but I feel that he understood us in a way that another dog would not, and there were days I swear he understood English.
As Liam says a lot lately, I wish Jake could be a puppy again so we could have more time with him. 12 ½ years was not enough with this amazing dog. But we are lucky to have had that time being his family. We love you Jake and will miss you now and forever.
Jake and Liam - 2013
Jake and Liam - 2011
Jake and Liam - 2011
Jake and Liam - 2008
At his favorite place - Mashnee Island beach ...