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My family members would not be considered “animal people.”  My oldest and youngest brothers like to play with dogs, and of course we all love puppies and kittens.  But, overall, we are not prone to loving animals.  That being said, we do have two small dogs as members of our family.  Rather, we did have two small dogs.

My elder dog, Jack, died on Monday afternoon.  He was 10 1/2 years old—an elderly dog, but not yet ancient.  Jack was a black terrier-poodle mix; he looked like a lanky Scottish terrier.  He was docile in the company of family members, but fierce when faced with danger.  Which generally came in the form of a mailman or neighbor’s cat.  Unfortunately for Jack, he was not quite as big as the neighbor’s cat, and had to be dragged from impending altercations occasionally.

My mom noticed a few weeks ago that his behavior was atypical of him.  Usually a quiet, loyal dog, he would follow her around the house, hating to be separated for long.  The past few weeks, he spent most of his time hiding under beds or behind chairs.  Jack was losing weight rapidly and ate very little.  While I was home for Easter weekend, we took him to the vet to find a solution to his odd behaviors.

The vet found a tumor.  Needless to say, my Easter break was spent with much tears and deliberation of what treatment path to follow. Finally, a surgery was scheduled for Monday to remove the tumor if possible.   At first, the surgery seemed to be going well.  The vet was able to remove Jack’s tumor, which had been leeching the protein and nutrients from his body.  The doctor began to sew him up again.

The vet found another tumor.  This one was four inches, huge for the tiny dog.  The tumor was near his spine and large intestines and there was nothing the vet could do to save him.

We were devastated.  By Monday, we had assumed the worst but were hoping for the best—we ended up with the worst.  My younger dog, Jill, wanders the house looking for her best friend.  My mother and youngest brother cried, and I cried talking to them on the phone.  I learned that mourning a pet is similar to mourning a human family member; you will still feel the emptiness, the hole they filled in your life.  Like humans, pets can cheer you when you are sad and give you their company when you are alone.  Plus, they never say a cruel word to you.

Jack was a kind dog, and he was with us for many years.  It will be strange adjusting to life without him.  Even though I visit home less frequently now that I am in college, I will still half-expect to see him when I walk through the front door of my house.  Jack was a dog, but he was family.  I suppose my point in writing today is to remind you all to cherish the time you have with your family, friends, and loved ones.  Even the smallest members.

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