January 11, 2022

Retrievers and Me (4): Hardscrabble Jack

Already published

Part 1: The Retriever Who Did Not Retrieve

Part 2: A Professional Golden Retriever

Part 3: A Bulldozer of a Dog

Jack swimming in the creek on a hot summer day.
Let's try changing Leo Tolstoy's famous opening line of his 1878 novel Anna Karenina to this: “All happy dogs are alike; each unhappy dog is unhappy in its own way.” 

When Perk was gone after only ten years, I turned to the Internet and located a Chesapeake Bay retriver breeder in Black Forest (an area NE of Colorado Springs). 

M. and I visited her, bringing photos of Perk as our credentials, and we put down a deposit on one of the current litter, who were just fat little puppies wriggling around in the whelping box at that time.

In June she announced that our puppy was ready. Based on our previous ownership of a dominant male, she assigned us another one —first out of the whelping box, she said — although he never grew as large as Perk, topping out at 90 lbs. (41 kg).

He spent his midsummer following our cat Victor around the yard and garden, until Victor seemed to say, "Would someone get this clumsy puppy away from me?" (Victor's real inter-species friendship was with Shelby — see the next post.)

He perfected his characteristic stance, front legs braced extra-wide, as though saying, "Are you going to make me? You and whose army?" 

In late summer we took a car-camping trip up into British Columbia and Alberta, visiting friends and some of my Canadian relatives. He sat in M.'s lap as we traversed Wyoming on I-80, contentedly chewing on the armrest. 

Jack bays back at the local coyotes.

In a small Idaho town, a retired logger gave him his "secret name" — Little Hamster — and told us a story of another Chessie who would ride atop a loaded log truck. 

On a hiking trail at Lake Louise, the cute puppy/le chiot received many compliments.

But I don't have many tales to tell about Jack. He hiked, he hunted, he camped, he traveled, he howled back at the local coyotes. Although his muzzle went gray early, I hoped he would live forever. As you do.

His only quirk was that he did not show his belly. If you caught a little bit of belly showing as he napped and wanted to rub it, he immediately would turn upright. Perk used to wriggle on his back in the snow, making doggy "snow angels." but Jack would never do that.

When he started to pass blood in his thirteenth year, and I took him to the vet, it took me and a vet tech together wrestle him over and hold him so that the vet could pass the ultrasound transducer over his bladder area.

It showed "a mass," she said. 

A relatively new graduate of the Colorado State University vet school, she was a little afraid to say the C-word to a client, I think. But that's what it was — bladder cancer.

I wrote a haiku some time later:

I splash cold water on my face.
The young dog sniffs
at the old dog's grave.

The young dog. Fisher. Oh gawd, Fisher.

Maybe I should acknowledge another dog as well before dealing with . . . Fisher.

Part 5: Half-Lab, Totally Brave.


1 comment:

mjh said...

We were crushed when Luke the Lovehound died related to lung cancer last September after just 10 years with us. I realized many have felt this loss, though that's cold comfort. Dogs are the best of us, they just don't live long enough.