ChildDrenched: A Tribute to the Love of a Dog

Families can learn about life and love from a wonderful pet. This blog is a tribute to our dog and may help others cope with losing their pet.

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 <read more>

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Wendi June 05, 2012 at 12:39 PM
What a wonderful story for the love of a dog who becomes such an important part of your family. We loss our black lab Rascal right after Thanksgiving last year of 16 years and it still feels like it just happened yesterday. He was our "first born" before having our son and yes us too it has been so tough to get over the loss of him. It is amazing how much unconditional love they bring to our lives. Thanks again for such a great story and I am very sorry for the loss of Jasper !! May you all remember all of the fun times with him !!!
Patty Lazarus June 05, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Wendi, thank you for your comments and your understanding, having just walked down this path. Your support is much appreciated!
Amy Leahy June 06, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Oh my God Patty. Your story of Jasper brought tears to my eyes and many fond memories of Mario, our Italian German Shepherd who we adopted from the Annapolis SPCA when he was 7 months old. He was my choice - despite the kids choosing another dog - because he reminded me of a dog I'd had as a younger adult and a shepherd we'd had when I was a kid. When he was 9 months old he took off so quickly out the front door that I landed on the sidewalk with a broken arm. But he eventually grew calmer but before that I can't tell you how many times I told my elementary school age kids to have him go down the stairs IN FRONT of them so he wouldn't knock them down and hurt them. He was the best dog. I have friends who are true dog lovers who still tell me what a great dog he was. When he was 10 he suddenly started having trouble breathing and going up the stairs from the back yard onto the deck. After about a week I took him to the vet only to find out (without any testing, by the way) he had cancer. Within 6 days he went blind, couldn't go up the two steps on my front porch, and quit eating. Having this dog be a part of our lives enriched us unbelievably. The kids learned about taking care of and loving something outside of their own little world. We do have another dog - one my daughter pushed me to get just two months after Mario died. He's also fabulous…I guess we just choose great dogs.
Patty Lazarus June 06, 2012 at 01:48 AM
Amy, thank you for your thoughtful note about Mario. Its nice to know that you can move on to enjoy other pets after losing such a wonderful one.


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