I cried today. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I’m not a dog person and I’m not emotional. But today, we said goodbye to our beloved old boy, TJ.
In 2002, when we moved house, the promise was made to our teenaged kids that we’d allow them a cat and a dog… so, the following Christmas they told us it was time to deliver. We went to a local SPCA to make our choices, not knowing much at all about dogs, except that we didn’t want one that was too big or too small, and when we went there was only one litter of puppies that had been brought in. TJ was the stumpy-legged one of the bunch and the cutest – all they knew was that his mum was a Jack Russell, and we have no idea of his paternal make-up.
Before bringing him home we ensured that he had a secure area behind our house, with a kennel etc and once home he very quickly sorted out what was what. The very first morning, we had a knock on our door with the neighbour handing back a squirming puppy – she told us it was the second time she’d brought him back – the first time she had just put him back into the kennel area, but 2nd time she thought we should know he was getting out. At that stage, we should have named him Harry (Houdini) as it began a pattern of his life. He was the most amazing escape artist – every time we thought we’d finally secured him, he proved us wrong, Sometimes it took a couple of weeks, but inevitably he’d find out how to get out of whatever we had tried to keep him in. The worst was in a storm, and he would absolutely freak out with thunder and lightning and just had to get out if he was inside or get away if he was outside. The locked cat door in the garage was no barrier, he would get through it if he had too, and if we put a barrier in front of it, he would break it down and still get out. Fireworks were another frightener for him, he absolutely hated them and again had to try to escape. Being a little dog, he was very fast and agile, and we have fond memories of him racing around, doing ever decreasing laps of the lawned area, his cornering was impressive as he was low to the ground.
TJ is not your typical dog – I always said he was more of a cat in personality than a dog, he didn’t like doing the doggy things like playing fetch – he got pretty bored of chasing balls and never brought them back, and hated water – so no swimming at the beach for him. He was, however, keen to climb on your knee, and is also very food motivated. His sense of smell is still his keenest – as his hearing has gone and his eyesight is fading, he can still sniff out potential food sources on our walks. And he has the most amazing memory of where he last sniffed out any potential food, often catching me unawares as we are walking by making a beeline to sometimes the most unsavoury offerings that I had skirted previously.
We didn’t realise at the time we got him (our son was almost 15) that 4 years later our son would leave home without the dog, so for the past 10 years we have been his “parents” – we refer to TJ as our “grand-dog” we don’t have grandchildren but we have our child’s dog. TJ has managed to train us into more and more lenient behaviours – and although he’s not allowed to sleep in our room (unless there’s a storm he can feel rather than hear when he crawls under our bed), he pretty much has free rein of the house.
Nowadays, he spends the majority of his time sleeping, often seeking us out as we work at home, but still enjoys his twice-daily walks and demands food more regularly. Woe betide me if we come home from his afternoon walk and don’t get his biscuits out for him – he certainly lets me know that I’m not meeting his expectations. And he comes and curls up on the floor beside the dining table at dinner time, to keep an eye on us, and is up as soon as we put our knives and forks down waiting for his after-dinner treat – no more bones for this old boy now, but certainly some soft diet dog food he enjoys.
Last year, he became quite ill, with a liver infection, and I thought we were going to lose him for sure, but he came right and was just as sprightly as ever. His diet has changed to a (more expensive) vet food, but even with that he still treats us to somewhat smelly gases as he sleeps….
Lately though, although he tried, age caught up with him more and more. He still loved to go out for walks but struggled with the coming home, so walks were shortened to allow him to reach home without distress. He became more needy and possibly a bit senile. But worryingly, he had a number of health issues including arthritis that became difficult to treat and a large skin tumour that kept growing and the vet was concerned about. It was becoming obvious that his days were numbered and that made us sad and was a bit of a reality check for us, especially as the plan had always been to try and re-home him before we went away this year. A long discussion with the vet last month meant that we’ve had to make this hard decision to let him go and relieve him of his current and future (probably worse) suffering. Once the decision was made, it took a bit of time to work through timing but today was the day. Sad for us, we will miss him – but now he won’t be fretting and I won’t worry about him either when we go away. We will keep good memories of a faithful and entertaining friend.