You Will Be Missed, Jette

My dog is dead. After thirteen wonderful, joyful and loving years, Jette (like Bette) was euthanized on Wednesday, April 8 2015 at 3:30pm (MDT). Considering where she started (in a cardboard box on the side of a road on an indian reservation in Oklahoma) she had an amazing life. She was adopted in the early summer of 2002 when she was about 12 weeks old. It only took her two days to be potty-trained. She was smart, both a blessing and a curse. Her intelligence allowed her to get into things she shouldn’t have like a whole bag of Oreo cookies or a giant fudge brownie. But that same intelligence allowed her to be well trained and therefore off-leash as much as I thought we could get away with. She learned the difference between her wrench toy and any of the number of tennis balls she loved to pop. In the end, her hind quarters would do no more than prop her up, preventing her from doing just about anything more than a short walk down the street.

Jette was stubborn as a youth. She gave Shannon the most trouble nipping at her and generally not paying attention to her commands. Their relationship was more like that of siblings, where Shannon was the eldest sister. Jette would let Shannon do absolutely anything to her, which was very handy as she would often have some ailment that required an ointment or pill. Jette would even put up with Shannon’s aggressive hugs while letting her know her displeasure with a long groan. It wasn’t until the last few years of her life that she would tolerate us loving on her for more than a few minutes, thanks in part I’m sure to Shannon’s persistence.

Jette, a black lab, swimming at Chatfield dog parkJette loved water in any form. Being of mostly labrador makeup, she loved to swim. When we were near water, she would just walk herself in and float around waiting for us to throw something for her to retrieve or chasing ducks, if they were available. Her best boyfriend, Arvin, took a wonderful picture of her at Chatfield dog park swimming towards the sunset in undisturbed water. I’m not sure he knows how touching and meaningful that picture was to Shannon and me – thank you A.

Jette would even find ways of enjoying the snow, regardless the depth or temperature. On more than one occasion I found her standing on three legs unable to move as the snow and temperature had made her paws hurt. But when it wasn’t that cold, she would roll on her back in the snow. There must be some smell or itch-scratching that made it desirable. She did this rolling in the front yard one storm while I was shoveling the drive and she made a little sledding path down the front grass. When she was finished rolling, she would ways look around to see if anyone was watching. She was a proud dog and getting caught doing such a silly thing just wouldn’t do. I think of it as if she was letting her lab out.

While she wasn’t a giant fan of riding in the car, she preferred it immensely over the alternative of not being with her people. She accompanied me and Shannon on many fishing trips where she spent the whole time rooting out rodents and birds or swimming through water I had not yet fished, naturally. She would barely be able to get back in the car, worn out from all her investigating and trying to keep track of her people. I like to imagine that those where the days she dreamed of when she would twitch while she was sleeping.

I like to think she loved Telluride as much as we do, for rarely did she stay in the room without us. We took her on the gondola into town, she joined us on the deck as we ate breakfast or lunch and she always went fishing or hiking with us. She would even ride with us on our light off-roading trips, despite being thrown around the entire time. It’s our nirvana and I think it was her’s too.

Though she spent twelve of her thirteen years at the Hoyt Court house wearing a path in the grass along the fence trying to keep the squirels at bay, she was an absolute trooper when we made the move out to Washington just last year. There were times when she would stare me in the eye seemingly wondering when we were going to go back to her backyard. I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to give that to her. But I know she preferred being with us, regardless of what state we were in.

Just Thursday night I remembered her show of excitement we called buckin’ bronco. She would take her favorite rope toy and sling it side to side all the while bucking herself off the ground and in a circle. I think she liked the slight dizziness that followed. Consider yourself fortunate if you got to witness this display as it didn’t happen often and was even more rare as she grew older.

Jette died in the back seat of the Xterra after an amazing day of visiting most of her and our favorite places. We started at Chatfield dog park where she spent so many afternoons meeting other dogs and swimming in the many ponds there. As a way to explain how we came to our decision to euthanize her, when she so confidently strode into the water, we quickly realized that she was not herself. I had to wade knee deep into the pond and drag her back to shore as her limbs were not working as she expected. She struggled to stand in the shallow water but just kept pushing herself further out, staring at Shannon and me with a very confused look. It was a confirmation that we had come to the right decision earlier that morning. If she’s unable to enjoy the thing she enjoyed more than anything else, then it was time to send her somewhere she could enjoy it again. It’s the toughest thing I’ve ever been through (and am still going through).

After picking up some dry clothes for me, some sandwiches for us and some turkey for her, we headed up Highway 285 to Mt. Falcon. It being a weekday, we were able to park near several of the picnic tables and found one in the sun to have lunch. She gobbled her turkey like it was running away. She had had a McDonald’s sausage biscuit for breakfast that day and probably thought that she better grab it before ‘the man’ (me) says no. Jette was restless while Shannon and I ate our sandwiches, though we had to pick her up several times as her hind quarters failed her more often as the day progressed.

Jette, a black lab, resting on grass with Mike at Mt. Falcon.After lunch and seeing that Jette wanted to do more than just hang around a picnic table, Shannon wrapped the leash around Jette’s waist as a sort of hammock to support her failing rear legs and we began hiking. We tried to keep up as she seemed to be on a mission. We ended up settling down on a beautiful bench at the top of the Parmalee Gulch trail. Again, she fell down while investigating all the smells in the area and so Shannon and I joined her on the warm straw grass, soaking in the view, the sun and especially the company of our wonderful Jette.

From Mt. Falcon, we headed towards Kittridge via Myers Gulch and turned left on Bear Creek Canyon towards our next stop on the list of favorite places, Alderfer/Three Sisters trail head. We made a quick stop in the upper lot to soak in the iris fields before moving on.

The trip back down Bear Creek Canyon was beautiful and relaxing for all of us. Jette with her nose pointing up sniffing the many scents along the river. There’s a unique smell that goes along with rivers. And knowing how much she loved to explore and swim in them, I like to think the trip down that canyon sparked memories of all the fishing trips before this day.

At the bottom of the canyon near Morrison, we broke left into one of Shannon and my favorite places, Red Rocks. Jette had hiked the Matthew/Winters trail when she was very young. I remember her pulling me up the many steps leading out of the creek, eager to investigate every smell and sight. As with all of our hikes that crossed water, she always finished the hike with a trounce through the creek. I don’t think there was a creek or pond where we hiked or stopped that didn’t get walked into by Jette. But today, especially after the Chatfield incident earlier today, her water adventures were all over.

It was getting close to our appointment time, so we headed to the wonderful Doctors and staff at Highlands Animal Clinic. We arrived in the Highlands early, so we found the nearest park to get in one last walk with our lovely Jette. Wouldn’t you know it, we saw a squirrel! If you don’t know, they were her favorite quarry. It was one of the few words she really perked up to when she heard it. Shannon’s father loved to watch her reaction to “Squirrel!”. So Jette got radar-lock on the squirrel and scurried off to chase it. She couldn’t run anymore for the betrayal of her hind quarters but she shuffled as fast as she could and scared the squirrel into someone’s back yard. We felt so lucky that she was able to have one last shot at her nemesis. We, of course, were all tears as we loaded her into the Xterra for the last time.

We had only been to the Highlands Animal Clinic and met with Dr. Jenkins barely more than 24 hours prior. Despite barely knowing us, Dr. Jenkins and her staff went above and beyond for us by sending Jette to sleep in her bed in the back seat of my Xterra. It was the end of her thirteen year road trip with Shannon and me, and a very peaceful end.

I’ve lost my best friend; my partner; my child. One of the many wonderful things about dogs is that they are eager to be by your side regardless of what the task or trip may be. One of the visions of Jette that will be with me forever was the bright, hopeful look in her eyes as I walked out the door to work every morning; as if today would be the day she would go with me on that adventure too.

I’ve lost my appetite for food. I can’t sleep even though all I want to do is dream about her. My chest feels as if a black hole has formed there and no matter what the thoughts and images of her that I throw into it, it continues to pull more of me into it.

I’ll miss talking to her as she followed me around the house doing whatever I was doing. She always listened and I always wished she could talk to me with words. But she always spoke to me with her eyes and the tilt of her head.

I’ll miss having her in the backseat of my car as we returned late from a fishing or hiking trip. We shared many mesmerizing sunsets around this wonderful state.

I’ll miss hearing her snore while sleeping. I’ll miss wondering what she was dreaming about as she barked, ran and wagged her tail while she slept on her many dog beds throughout the house.

I’ll miss her rough snout-push when she wanted your attention or when she wanted to come in whatever room you were in.

I’ll miss her excited ‘whassup’ head lift as she greeted us when we came home, whether we had been gone for an hour or a week. I’ll miss the moaning and squeaking after the ‘whassup’, as she rubbed up against your legs, letting you know how much you were missed.

I miss her so much…

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