I went for a walk in late September, and I brought the camera to try to get some pictures of the K puppies and of Indy (now named Zeke), who is staying with me (with his "sister" Minnie) while his people are on vacation. These pictures were taken 9/22--the puppies were about 17 weeks old.
I started out this morning by walking the 4 puppies and Hunter and Zeke and Minnie (also boarding with me).
On Wednesday, around noon, I looked out the back door for Ash. The sun was out, but it wasn't hot, and the light was clear in a way that doesn't happen often in our humid summers. Ash was lying in the shade of the poplar tree. He wasn't on his side, but lying upright, one hip cocked a bit, and his nose had dipped into the grass, as though he'd fallen asleep while looking about him. He didn't move when I opened the door, and I kind of drew my breath in and held it. He was gone, I knew, and suddenly, in a sort of shudder in my head, I felt my life shift uncomfortably to fill his space. I saw evening walks without him, I saw myself filling food bowls--but not one for him, I saw his son Coal moving outside of his dad's shadow. And I thought, *IF* I could have chosen a place and a moment of happiness for you, Ash, this would be it--surveying your domain on a beautiful day. Going quietly without loss of dignity, without discomfort, mobile and active to the end. Just moving on.
I walked out into the yard and sank into a cross-legged position in front of him, and reached a hand out to pet his soft ears.... And he woke up, a bit startled, and looked about him and went to get the Jolly Ball for me to tug with him.
That morning, on our walkabout with all the dogs, he had lagged behind. I knew that something was*wrong*. But his gums looked good, his eyes were clear, he didn't seem distressed. He did have diarrhea and his stomach seemed distended--but not to an extreme. I went inside and made an appointment for him at the vets--the soonest I could get an appointment was 3:30. He was fine as he got in the car, although for the first time ever, I had to help him get in.
The vet's exam led to x-rays, which showed his entire colon impacted and the suspicion of a mass in his abdomen. Two vets looked at the x-rays, and they decided they wanted another one. While we waited for the next x-ray, he began vomiting, and he peed unconsciously, and his stomach started swelling up. He began to show signs of pain and discomfort, panting and the veins on his face began to stand out. He lost color in his gums and began to look dehydrated. They took the 3rd x-ray and started a catheter with a pain killer and fluids. The pain killer helped, and he drowsed on the table. He smelled of testosterone-filled urine--he had peed while upside-down getting x-rayed, and it had gotten into the fur around his thighs--and of yeast and old dog. The 3rd x-ray showed his stomach was twisting and loops of bowel swelling with gas. He was facing 2 surgeries now--one for the torsion and one for clearing the impaction. Neither was a safe or fast or easy surgery. The risk of infection from the colon surgery is high. And Ash had already been losing mobility; he had back surgery in 2002, removing a bone chip that had broken off the tip of his sacrum and lodged in his spinal canal. The nerve damage from scar tissue from the surgery had weakened his back end and may even have contributed to the impaction in his bowels.
So, I sat there next to him while he drowsed under the effects of the pain killer, and I made the choice that it would end here, this day. He wouldn't go home with me. He didn't get to die in the grass, under the tree, in his own yard. But that is what I am going to hold onto as my last memory of him, nose deep in the grass instead of pressed to the steel of the examination table, sunlight dappled around him, a breeze bringing the smells of honeysuckle and forsythia instead of urine and sour yeast.
Ash was born into my care on February 4, 1997. My first-born puppy. And together we learned about competitive dog training and went to Boston and Austin and Alabama and New Jersey and North Carolina and Tennessee to compete.
He wasn't a beautiful dog--except when he was working, and then he was gorgeous. He was always eager and always energized. Always willing and strong and overflowing with joy and enthusiasm. He didn't do things by halves--to be loved by Ash was to be steamrolled. And he talked--he'd sing on request and "purred" when he was petted, and he rubbed against you like a giant cat. And he talked while we worked, while he did his down-stay (to the detriment of our points), while he heeled, while he retrieved; he'd squeal on the send-away and scream on the recall. He had too much drive, too much zest to keep it to himself. There are a lot of pictures of him on my website, at his page.
He made beautiful puppies that went on to become best friends and life savers--4 or 5 of them are doing Search and Rescue work. I have still, to carry on, Coal and Jubilee, and Jedi, too. Ash was a great dog, in his own way. And he gave me everything I could have asked. He'll never be forgotten.
Everyone thinks Jack Russells are hyper, but this is a typical view around my house:
The other night, Ruffian came in from the rain and decided to dry herself off. This is what I saw on the sofa:
There's a Ruffian in there!
The puppies started squeaking so she struggled to free herself so she could see what they were doing:
She is in love with the puppies. As they were being born, I let her smell my hands and she wriggled and bowed and then rolled over with joy at the smell of them and the desire to play with them. It was such a graphic demonstration of the strength of the canine sense of smell... and of her instinctive reaction to puppies (now that she's older and no longer thinks they're rodents!).
Here's her peeking at the puppies from the other angle:
Momma and babies are doing well. Here are some pics of them at about 5 days old, fat and strong and well loved by their mom.