Jackson Towell, also known as Jack to those who loved him, took his very last ride last night.
Jack came into my life five years ago, when my soulmate, my husband, the love of my life, reentered my world, and I thought Jack was an absolutely amazing dog.
Dumped off 10 years ago, a tiny puppy with a torn ear, he was adopted by my husband, who fell immediately in love with him.
Like most angels (and that’s exactly what Jack is), he came into my husband’s life during a very bleak season for him, and I like to think that Jack was a shining light during a dark and depressing storm.
This abandoned little puppy grew into a massive dog. He was the largest German Shepherd I have ever seen, and his favorite toy was not a rubber ball, or a chew toy, but a real life pick-up truck. Jack would tell you that this truck belonged to him, and nobody had the heart to tell him that the red truck actually belonged to my father-in-law. It was, and always will be known as, Jack’s truck.
He could leap through the air and end up in the back of that truck unassisted, where he would guard it with his life from passing cars, passing humans, and passing birds. My husband would spend hours throwing a ball as far as he could throw it, and Jack would run like lightning, fetch the ball, and return at a gallop to soar like a bird into the back of that truck. His bark was loud and intimidating, and I don’t think there’s a man alive who would have had the courage to separate that dog from that pick-up truck.
As large and as intimidating as he was, he had a heart of pure gold, a loving spirit, was as loyal as they come, and I swear that dog would smile, especially when he was in the back of his truck.
Like many dog owners will tell you, a dog doesn’t live nearly as long as they deserve to. Jack graced this world for 10 years only, a decade full of love, sloppy dog kisses, and snuggles at your feet. The years flew by, and the fluffy puppy with the tattered ear grew into an athletic dog, and slowly into an older dog who possessed a quick brain, but also an aging arthritic body that could no longer keep up with his sharp mind.
Maybe last night would have been easier if Jack’s mind had gone the way of his body. If he no longer had that intelligent spark in his eyes, maybe it wouldn’t have been so difficult. His eyes were still so alert, but his body was failing, and failing fast.
The very thing that he loved so much, his favorite toy, the flying jumps into the bed of that truck, was the very thing that contributed to the end. Last night, Jack could no longer get up. Not to drink, not to eat, not to go outside to pee. His legs, once so strong, once able to jump so high, could no longer lift him. The pain was too much, and even with assistance, the whines and whimpering were so loud, they were heartbreaking. My family, the people most important to me, made a decision, together united in their pain, that it was time to let Jack go. It was an extremely difficult decision to make. Anybody who has ever had to make the choice between the quality and quantity of life for their dog understands the torment that we were feeling.
My mother-in-law called the vet, and we pulled the van around back to load him up. Jack loved to go for rides, and even through the pain, that fire of excitement began to appear in his eyes. As my husband and father-in-law maneuvered him into the back of the van, Jack surprised me. He got up on his own as we drove down the road. He half stood, half sat through the pain, hind legs shaking, quivering with weakness.
Jack was back, he was in his element. He stood guard in the back of that van all the way down the freeway. He barked and snapped at every passing car, and for that brief ride, in his heart, Jack was young and strong again. In his mind, as his head flew from side to side, as he barked like an excited puppy at everything that moved, Jack was too happy to feel any pain. This was his favorite thing, and the only thing that could possibly have made it better, is if we would have been able to take him in his red truck. I wish we could have, but it was a chilly forty-five degrees, there was a cold rain, and I don’t think Jack would have been able to keep his balance for his last ride.
Nevertheless, the ride in the back of the van, with my husband and I holding him steady, my mother-in-law driving, was a blessing. We got to see that fighting spirit in Jack’s eyes again, and hear the puppyish barks of excitement. Jack was truly happy. I smiled through my tears. To watch him was to celebrate life, and though way too brief, Jack had a life worth living.
When we arrived at the vet, an old school, country veterinarian, Jack was given a shot to calm him, so that he could more easily be carried inside. Once inside, Jack’s leg was shaved and the vet attempted to euthanize him. Repeatedly. In all four legs. The elderly vet couldn’t find a vein that hadn’t collapsed, and poor Jack was dehydrated, which further complicated things. I watched my family, my husband with tears in his eyes, my father-in-law looking worried, my mother-in-law looking sick, all through tears of my own as I cried. Repeatedly Jack was stuck with a needle, and repeatedly no vein could be found. My husband and his father stepped outside. Next, the vet tried to inject the medication into Jack’s heart. Nothing. Jack’s heart continued to beat, and he continued to breathe. My mother-in-law now stepped out. It was just too much. Jack was asleep at this point from the sedative, and I was grateful that he couldn’t feel these injections. I rubbed his ears and whispered to him about what a good dog he was. We were there for an hour. Five vials later, and Jack’s heart was still going, his breathing still strong.
The tiny old man who had probably euthanized hundreds, if not thousands of animals in his career, was growing flustered.
“I don’t understand,” he said, “I’ve given him enough to kill three dogs.” He looked slightly uneasy.
“He’s tough,” was my simple reply. And I meant it. Jack was a survivor, a fighter, and he was strong. He wasn’t giving up that easy.
I’m ashamed to say that the childish part of me began to hope that the medicine wouldn’t work. That Jack would survive this euthanization attempt, that maybe this was God’s way of saying that this wasn’t Jack’s time yet. I clung to this hope, until horrified, I realized how selfish I was being. This wasn’t about me, or my husband, or my family. This was about Jackson. What if Jack woke up from the sedative and then began to suffer from such a massive dose of those injections? Why was I wanting him to survive this and continue living with the excruciating pain that was progressively getting worse every day? To continue life with unbearable pain? What was wrong with me?
I then began to pray, asking God to take Jack home, to stop his heart and his pain. The time had come.
The vet told us that we could load Jack up in the back of the van, though the dog was still breathing. He told us that it wouldn’t be long, he had given Jack more than enough medication. I could sense the veterinarian’s uneasiness, and I could tell he didn’t understand why Jack was still breathing. I reluctantly agreed, part of me fearful that Jack would fight off this medication like the fighter he was, and suffer horribly, the other part of me just wanting Jack off that table where so many other good old dogs had probably spent the last moments of their lives.
We told the veterinarian we would take Jack home, and my husband and his father carefully and tenderly placed Jack in the van. My husband and I got in the back, and as soon as the engine turned over, the vibration of the vehicle gently rocking the dog’s aged body, Jack finally let go. I think he wanted to be in the back of a vehicle one more time, to take one more ride. As soon as he was where he felt he belonged, he relaxed and finally passed on. Jack died on his own terms, where he wanted. And I was grateful it was in a spot that he loved.
There was no more pain. There was no more suffering. There was just Jack, a fiercely loyal Shepherd dog, dying like he lived, with a strength and perseverance until the end. Jack fought all the way to the last moment, and he passed exactly where and when he wanted to, and not a moment sooner.
We all should live like Jack lived. Fearless, strong, loyal. We should fly through the air with joy when we are happy, and show it with a smile. We should enter people’s lives like a bright and shining angel, and cheer them up during their sad times. We should fight for what we want, all the way until the end. Quite simply, we should live every day like it is a ride in the back of a bright red pick-up truck. Like Jack, even when we are hurting, we should find joy in something we love, even if it’s the joy of the very last ride.
Rest in peace, Jack Towell, you will forever and always be in our hearts.
Until next time, celebrate life, love your family, cherish your dogs, and God bless.
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The godly care for their animals, but the wicked are always cruel.
God made all sorts of wild animals, livestock, and small animals, each able to produce offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.
Always be joyful.
1 Thessalonians 5:16
A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.
So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord !