Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Jackie O

Oh Jackie O.

It has taken me a while to finally get up the guts to try and put a fitting tribute together to a dog that was my better half. She was the peanut butter to my jelly, Batman to my Robin, the other pea in the pod. Jackie and I first met December 28, 2000; she was 6 weeks old, and I was 14.  This was the start of a bond that few will ever understand.  Jackie picked up her name from my mother who when asked what her name should be answered "Jackie O! She's a Jack Russell of course!" the family friends taking care of her at this point started calling her that and I never could figure something better out to change it.  She grew into the name Jackie O very well, never a moment of drama could be missed and her views were always known.

Her early years where characterized by the typical terrier stubborn streak. House breaking took longer than it should have since she did not have time to stop playing to go outside, but once she finally got it through her head, she never had a mistake.  She always challenged rules with an attitude of "wanna make a bet?" but quickly learned what were her toys and what were not. I am still impressed at how quickly she learned that and how she never strayed. I have memories of being woken up at 3 and 4 am with a tennis ball dropping on my head, toy piles under my bed, and licks all over my face to inform me that even if it was the weekend, it was time to get up, now!  She would get annoyed when she was left outside for too long since she wanted to be in on the action. 

My mother always said we deserved each other since we were both just as stubborn as the other.  Standoffs over something were common. Attempts to wake me with tennis balls lead to a no toys on my bed rule. This rule was constantly challenged with new toys, and on different parts of the bed. Just because no applies on that spot, with that toy, doesn't mean it applies here right? 

Her middle years were where we grew into the duo. Ash and Jack, A&J, whatever you called us, where one was the other was sure to follow.  Jackie slept in bed with me since she learned that under the covers was much warmer than on top.  (That later translated into cheaper heating bills, so I didn't complain too much when I moved out on my own with her) I couldn't fall asleep without feeling her next to me, and it took a few weeks in college every time I went back to school to get used to not having her next to me.  We did terrier trails, horse shows, and everything and anything. She became skilled at navigating airports in her bag and would be waiting in it as soon as she saw it come out so you couldn't forget her.  At terrier trails people were impressed with how well we read each other and we consistently cleaned up in youth handler and youth obedience where they mostly judge the duo.  I still feel bad for leaving her when I went to college, but she managed to wrap my mother around her front paw.  I would come home to a dog that was over weight and running the house.  She was always over joyed at seeing me, but she knew the game of ruling the roost was over.  It was during this period that she started being able to predict when I would come home. A few days before I would get home from school Jackie would move back into my room with no warning. She did this once when I had given no one warning I was coming, but Jackie knew.  She would also stop eating for a few days after I left her. 

Her last two years were the best. I always promised her when I left for school that after I graduated she'd go with me wherever I went. I kept that promise to her and she moved with me to Colorado.  She may have had to spend time alone while I was at work but that didn't stop either of us. Where ever she could go, she went. My back seat driver learned how to roll down windows in the car and got very frustrated when child lock was applied.  She learned about dog parks and frog hunting at Chatfeild. She almost knocked me on my rear end a few times trying to chase rabbits in snow.  She was very picky about her rear end touching snow which made winter very interesting, but it was very Jackie.  She was never one to let her views go unknown. If she was not happy with the situation she would happily let you know, or find a way to make herself happy with the situation. Once this involved leaping 3' into the air to pull a stuffed toy out of a grocery bag. Well played, Jacks.  She also spend nights sleeping outside the closet where I kept the squeaky toy that had a bed time since it wouldn't die. She was never one to give up easily.

Last October Jackie was diagnosed with Inflammatory Mammary Carcinoma, a very aggressive form of breast cancer in dogs.  We did everything right to try to prevent this from happening. We spayed her before her first heat which should have reduced her chance of mammary cancer by 99.5%, I paid careful attention to her lumps and bumps, and she got all her routine care. She also had to get the most aggressive form of mammary cancer, found in only 5% of all mammary tumors. My girl was quite the fighter though. She fought and fought for about  5 months.  Left untreated most dogs make it a month.

Through those 5 months she showed her true self in many forms. She became the hit of the oncologists office and everyone at the referral hospital knew Jackie O the second we walked in the door.  She was a large personality in a small body.  Her side effects from chemo were minimal and those that surfaced were faced with chicken broth and rice. She did have to have one tumor removed when she informed me she was going to remove it herself or we were going to have it taken off for her, this was on a Friday afternoon before a long weekend too. Her timing was never a strong point.  She then informed me the cone I stuck on her to keep her from removing her staples as well was not to her liking and she pulled it off over night along with some staple rearranging. Our vet joked that Jackie wanted to add her personal touch.  Jackie had skill for getting to the last treatment of a chemo protocol and then having a tumor resurface.  She finally hit the point where the cancer invaded her lymph system  and chemo had really stopped working.  At this point I had to make the impossible choice to stop putting her through Chemo and she was given 2-4 weeks.

Jackie made it almost 4 more weeks. During those few weeks we spent as much time together as we could.  I knew those moments could never be reclaimed.  On the last day of March she left me.  She had stopped eating nearly everything, even baby food which was always a favorite, and the light in her eyes was starting to fade. The little girl who had fought so much was still trying to fight for me as much as I was trying to fight for her. Her personality was still there since she was voicing her views and telling people off until the end. Her new brother (Walter) would not step foot near me when she was on my lap for fear she might get him. Letting her go is the hardest choice I have ever had to make.  Our vet who claims to never cry since she has to keep her distance started crying that day.  She was the one who pointed out to me only a year ago that I had my soul mate in a 15 pound bouncing, barking terrier.

Every day I wish there was something else I could to to have Jackie back, but there is not.  The back seat of my car is still empty, child lock is strangely off in the car,  the porch is still missing a guardian,  my bed is colder, and life is a little quieter and slower.  I realize how lucky I am to have had such an amazing dog. She was my soul mate dog and I know there will never be another like her.  She was a class clown, a dictator, and the best friend you never had rolled into one.  Her antics were always good for a laugh, and her tongue always cleaned up tears.  On the day I lost Jackie our vet passed on a comforting thought: we are all brought on the Earth to learn how to love, Jackie just learned very quickly.

Here's to you Miss Jackie O,  you will always be loved.