Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Life's What You Make It

Jake had an appointment at the CSU Animal Cancer Center at 11 am this morning. Paul took him up there for restaging, so we could check on the spread of the cancer. I got a sad call from him late in the afternoon while I was at work, telling me the ultrasound indicated that his spleen had ruptured. He was bleeding internally and would be gone soon…a couple days at the most…maybe even just a few hours.

Paul and I talked about whether I should make the drive up to Ft. Collins or if Jake could make it back to Denver. We decided that we would try to do it in Denver. The vets at CSUACC called Dr. Hedlin at Aspenwood Animal Hospital to let her know that we’d all be there in about an hour and to have a room set up for him. I left work right away and waited for them at the clinic.

When Paul arrived, Jake was laying on his bed in the back of the SUV. His eyes were looking around but not really registering anything. It took a few moments before he recognized me and managed a few taps of his tail to let me know he was back.

We carried him into the room on a stretcher and waited for Dr. Hedlin. Jake looked worn out and exhausted but fortunately did not seem to be in any pain. We spent about an hour in the room, talking to him and brushing his fur, as soft as it was the day he came home on 9/10/2001. He seemed ready.

The vet techs came in, shaved a small patch on his forearm, close to the furless scar tissue left over from the original tumor in 2009, and set the catheter. Dr. Hedlin came in and sat with us for awhile. We talked about how many times we had brought him to Aspenwood over the last 9 years, and what an amazing dog he was, particularly over the last couple years during his up-and-down battle against cancer. We all cried and said goodbye. She pushed the chemicals in the syringe and he fell asleep quickly, much faster than I expected.

As I watched him take his last breath, I couldn’t help but remember watching my mom do the same, a few months later the same year he was born. If you’ve never witnessed something like that, you may think that it’s tragic, or painful, or something to avoid. But it is truly an honor and privilege to be there when it happens to someone you love…when they leave us in a familiar place…surrounded by people who cared about them, and for them.

And so, if there’s a message here, you already know what it is. It’s a bit like the ending of that Monty Python movie, “The Meaning of Life” where everything is distilled to a few basic instructions. So simple:

Go for a walk with your dog.

Call your mom or dad, or someone close to you.

Try something new.

And don’t forget to take some pictures.


  1. Thanks for sharing your journey with Jake. I particularly like your words about being with someone at the end of their life. He was a wonderful dog and I will miss him. Hope to see you soon.

  2. That was beautifully written Mike. My thoughts are with you all.

  3. So sorry to see your journey end. I'm grateful that Jake had such great friends walking the path with him.

  4. You don't know me, but I loved reading about you and your dog. My dog died suddenly when hit by a car when he was only 2 years old, and I still miss him. I have since adoped 2 more, and they are the love of my life. My heart aches for you and the pain I know you feel. Thank you for sharing your story, and for sharing the love you received from CSU and their hospital and doctors. Jake will have helped so many, thank you for what you did.

  5. I have followed your story from the UK as my dog was diagnosed with histiocytic sarcoma last feb and I had to put him to sleep just before Christmas. Our teaching hospital in the UK were trying to get approval to get the clodronate over to the UK from Colorado but it was looking like a lengthy process and time wasn't on his side. I too was with him at the end. It is very sad but important to be there. My thoughts are with you at this painful time.

  6. Thank you for sharing your story of Jake. I have been through "the journey" with our beloved Ranger in 2007. I also went through the journey with my Mother in 1987. It is a great privledge and honor to share that moment- the moment of transition with another living being. Your story has brought tears and laughter- Jake was loved and cared for so well. We know you will miss him until that time when we all meet our pets once more on the other side of The Rainbow Bridge.

  7. Your story is so very touching. Thank you for sharing Jake's story with all of us. What a beautiful dog! He was very lucky to have you as his owner, and you were very lucky to have him. What a perfect match. CSU is a wonderful veterinary hospital. You gave him the best care in the world! Animals are wonderful. They teach us so much. I love mine with all my heart! You are an inspiration to everyone. I am very sorry for your loss. You are in my thoughts and prayers. The pictures of Jake are beautiful!