Just over 10 years ago, Heather and I went to the Humane Society in Salt Lake City on a quest to get a small dog as a friend and companion for Luna, our Husky-great Pyrenees mix.
We met Chase, a cross between a black Lab and a great Dane. The folks at the Humane Society told us he was only 45 pounds when he arrived there. They managed to bring his weight up to 55 pounds before we adopted him. Still, he needed to add at least 15 more to get to a healthy weight.
Right away we knew two things:
- Chase was not his name. He needed a new one.
- He and I were immediate friends.
We renamed him Jet, and we also soon learned the description on the Humane Society paperwork wasn’t quite right. While they were correct that he knew the command for sit, Jet never learned to shake, lay down or roll over on command. Eventually I taught him to stay.
Jet always struggled to keep his weight up. As much as we fed him, he always had the mentality of a puppy, and the energy to match.
He never liked fetch. I think he knew if he returned the ball, I would just throw it again. For a dog who was most content laying his head in my lap, why would he ever want to run away from me, even for a moment?
At the time we adopted Jet, we had a home with a large, fenced yard, and while he was a bigger dog than we planned, Jet turned out to be a great companion to Luna. But he was more of a companion to me.
Like most dogs, Jet was able to give me one thing that we humans so often fail at: unconditional love.
With few exceptions, Jet slept right beside the bed next to me (the exceptions being the nights he climbed onto the bed and nearly pushed both Heather and me on to the floor in our sleep). Over the years, as I worked from home on late-night reporting deadlines, Jet would try to stay up with me, making sure to only leave the space by my chair for the occasional drink or to be let outside. By the time I finished writing, he was almost always fast asleep at my feet.
Every day for 10 years, Jet has been right at the gate to the driveway or his kennel, or had his nose pressed to the glass of the front window whenever I returned home.
A couple of months after adopting Jet, we moved from Utah to Washington State. Jet refused to ride in the car with Heather and my sister-in-law Kara. So we let him ride in the moving truck. Discontent to not have a good view out the window, he was only happy to have the full passenger seat, forcing my dad onto the uncomfortable folding bucket seat in the middle. He was happiest when my dad drove, and Jet could sit right next to me. That way, when he was tired of staring out the window, he could lay his head in my lap.
Despite making it to nearly 80 pounds at his healthiest, Jet seemed very unaware of the 85 percent of his body mass behind his neck. He thought he was a lap dog, and he frequently forced his head into some very tight spaces, only to find the rest of him stuck. At one point I had to nearly completely dismantle a hot tub to release him from such a predicament.
Jet loved our home in the forest near Wenatchee. We let him run off-leash in the field next door, and he loved to wade into the Entiat River, lapping at every ripple as if it was meant for him to drink every drop.
Even though his Lab coat made him nearly completely waterproof, and he had the webbed toes to go with it, he never was completely sure of himself in the water, and he never learned to swim.
We learned out lesson about moving with Jet, and two years later, when we moved across the country to New York, we planned for Jet to ride with me. We had an old ’78 Chevy Scottsdale with a big bench seat. Some of Jet’s happiest moments were in that truck, staring out at the countryside, and smelling all the smells, as we trekked through Washington, Montana, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois (a lot of the rest of the drive was in the dark, so he didn’t get to see much, but he smelled many things between Indiana and New York).
A couple years later, when I was laid off from my job in Dansville, Jet was my best friend as I searched for a new job. Along with Luna, we had many leisurely walks along the trails of Letchworth State Park, which was right across the street from our house.
When it came time to move again, Jet found his place in the front of our moving truck, again taking in the wonder of sights and smells as we drove every mile of U.S. Highway 20 on our way to Oregon. We saw Cleveland and Chicago. We survived a thunderstorm in Sioux City. We almost blinked as we passed through Van Tassell, Wyoming, population 15, and saw both sides of the Tetons. Jet got his feet wet in Yellowstone Lake, saw geysers erupt, and barked at buffalo and elk.
When we arrived at our home in Coos Bay, he learned to love the ocean, as we took many trips to the beach. He again joined us on the trails at Crater Lake National Park.
Jet finally consented to riding with Heather when we moved to Arizona. But I’m nearly certain that had to do with the better view from the front seat of the moving truck she was driving, because he immediately found his way to my side at rest stops.
We always knew Jet was terrified of thunder, and it was no more apparent than the summer monsoon storms that grace Arizona. But Jet found his safe space: at my feet under my desk. When the thunder grew so loud that he thought it would kill us all, he could put his head in my lap. Because if he could put his head in my lap, and let me rub behind his ears, we both knew things were going to be OK.
Jet’s been along for the ride in several of our adventures during our time in Arizona, with trips from Flagstaff to Bisbee. He was my hiking companion as I climbed Granite Mountain just outside of Prescott. But with his age, I wasn’t quite comfortable taking him with me when I hiked Humphreys Peak near Flagstaff or my long winter hikes on the North Rim or the Mogollon Rim.
In February of this year, Jet went in for his regular care at the vet clinic, and came home with a diagnosis for lymphoma. Given his age, we opted for palliative care, and the vet cautioned us that he might only last 6-8 weeks. He lasted more than 5 months.
We took advantage of the time, taking several rides in the car, and many walks in the neighborhood until his declining health meant not leaving the yard at all. Still, every day, he found time for his most favorite activity: laying his head in my lap and staring up at me with his big brown eyes.
In the last few days, as his eyes became increasingly cloudy, and as he lost the strength in his legs, we knew the end was coming. Today, Heather and I decided to let him go before the pain and suffering further degraded his quality of life.
We were fortunate to spend more than 10 of his nearly 12 years together.
I miss you, buddy.
As always, Heather does an amazing job of capturing all the amazing moments through photos. I pulled all these images from her Flickr. There are more photos of Jet here.