In my blog, I usually write about adopting children and try to provide emotional support to prospective adoptive parents. Today, I am writing about the other adopted member of our family. I write for those who have lost a dear, furry family member and the devastating sense of loss it creates, while also leaving us with cherished memories.
Our dog Jasper died, fittingly, just before Memorial Day weekend. He came into our lives when I was truly ChildDrenched and unable to conceive our third child. He was a gift to our two young boys a year before we adopted our daughter who is now ten. His presence filled our home and our hearts and he taught our children lifelong lessons. As he aged, I watched in admiration as our children cared for him when walking became more difficult, feeding became more complicated, and spending time with him became less entertaining. I am forever grateful to our dog for suffering through the last few months as we readied ourselves for the end. We are now all in mourning, stunned by the emptiness in our home, despite five people living here.
As a healthy yellow lab, Jasper enjoyed every person who came to the door bearing packages, dry cleaning or mail. His tail wagged incessantly and despite his 90-pound girth, he was happy to be an inside, lap dog. He seemed delighted to see us every time we walked in the door, regardless of how long we had been gone.
My husband posted our dearly departed, eleven-year-old dog’s photo on Facebook and received more condolences from friends and business associates than I have ever seen. Some had met Jasper when my husband used to take him to work. Jasper would greet all the employees walking from desk to desk and then lay down in the middle of the room, logging hours of restful naps while the software engineers worked. Others just knew of Jasper through my husband who referred to him as his “third son”.
As a puppy, Jasper was another member of the “team” for our kids. He often played in the outfield when our sons played baseball many years ago. We would watch him try to pick up as many balls in his mouth as he could fit, and still run. He was happy to be “dressed up” on Halloween for pictures and trick-or-treating. My daughter enjoyed arranging her stuffed animals all around Jasper, who sat patiently listening to her chatting with all of her friends. He loved the snow and was extremely enthusiastic and protective when our kids went sledding.
Jasper was a loving family member who, until a year ago, was my perfect walking partner and my buddy when the house was empty on school days. He would sit and listen to me type at my computer, talk on the phone, and watch “Ellen” with me. Far from passive, he had an intuitive sense of how to respond to us when we were happy or comfort us when things went wrong.
Although the last year was full of vet visits, complicated medicine schedules, and physical therapy appointments, there is no relief in his absence. I would gladly have kept picking up his shedding fur and feeding him pain killers and treats. But, we knew his health would not improve and it just wasn’t fair.
Now, we miss him when we walk in the door to our “empty” house. It will be a long, slow recovery, especially for our sons who helped us pick him up from the breeder eleven years ago when he was only six weeks old. Jasper’s death represents the years that have gone by and as we look at his puppy photos, we also shed a tear for our children’s childhood that went fleeting by. Optimistically, I now know that having a dog accompany our children as they grew from kids to young adults helped teach them compassion, responsibility and now, about loss. As difficult as this loss has been, I highly recommend a dog for any loving family.
We all knew this day was coming. My daughter kept track of Jasper “in dog years” helping her learn her 7s times tables and also understand why he seemed to be getting old so quickly. I watched other friends’ lose their family dogs and somehow expected less of an impact on our lives. I was wrong. Jasper’s departure has devastated our family and as we limp along suddenly dog-less, the prospect of recovery seems remote. The thought of adopting another dog has been shelved until late in the summer. The problem is that there is no replacement for this perfect pet. Jasper’s calm and friendly disposition will never be matched. We just have to hope that the good memories persist, allowing another dog to slip into our lives someday and help ease the pain. Rest in peace, Jasper Zamboni.