Friday, January 10, 2014


Losing a pet is a heartfelt loss.  When you're a caretaker, pets are your babies.  Harry is my son (also my snugglebug, angel-baby, and wild man) and a part of our family both immediate and extended.  I can't imagine how I would react losing him and I prefer not to think about it.  But when a family dog passes away it's something you do think about.  Earlier this week, Harry's fur-cousin Jager went to dog heaven after giving us 10 years of love.  

It was a sudden loss, as Jager was older but not visibly unhealthy.  Because it was so sudden I know that my family is still processing it, and I hope my little post moves them towards remembrance and acceptance.  Jager was adopted as a baby, only 7 weeks old when he became a part of my sister's family.  He was one of the first puppies Harry's Daddy had extended contact with, as I would use our time together as an excuse to visit my sister and play with the puppy.  He had super sharp teeth, was playful, nippy, and for the only time in his life, very small.

He expanded into a huge German Shepherd, nicknamed Big Boy, with an unlikely fondness for stuffed animals.  Jager's gentle giant status was something that always made us all laugh as he'd lay his head on his "woobie", a leopard print stuffed animal shaped like a bone and fall asleep.  He had an entire toy bin of perfectly intact animals that he'd play with in rotation, always keeping woobie closeby.  Jager was also a big fan of water and the first family dog in a long time that actually wanted to go swimming (the rest my sisters and I would force into the pool with us).  As soon as the cover was off the pool (and sometimes when it wasn't) Jager would sit on the steps, splash water with his paw and try to bite it mid-air while yipping in delight.  Then with the command of "go swimming!" he'd plunge into the water do a lap towards the deep end, turn around, and return to the stairs for more splashing.

Jager was also the first family dog to endure dog allergies.  Not only was he a finicky eater (he required us to hold the bowl while he ate) he became allergic to wheat and eggs as well as pollen among other things.  Luckily he had a nurse mommy who tended to his every need and even gave him weekly shots to ban the allergy symptoms.  Yet another trait of Jager that made us all laugh---the intimidating German Shepherd with a fondness for stuffed toys who also eats duck for dinner.

Just like Harry, Jager joined a human family and a dog family.  When he first arrived he had an Uncle Chase - our family dog since I was in third grade - and during his tenure he had cousins Lucky, Karma, Boomer, Jack, Joey, and eventually Harry arrive.  Jager both played with and disciplined his fur cousins with some backyard romping and a few disgruntled growls when his cousins were out of line.  To Harry, Jager was both a grown up to look up to and a buddy to play with.  As Harry joined us for more and more family gatherings, he started to know Jager's name at home when we'd ask him if they played together.  With a cock of the head and a wag of the tail, we knew that Jager meant something special to Harry.

As a dog mommy, I know there are also personal moments that are unforgettable about your pet.  For me, it's when Harry consoles me when I'm sad or goes in for an extra hard nuzzle when we're snuggling on the couch.  It's also singing and talking gibberish and English all morning, afternoon, and night to someone who doesn't talk back.  So I can imagine having a quiet home is especially heart wrenching after a loss.  

The great thing about pets, and dogs especially, is that they love unconditionally, they don't judge, and they are always happy to see you whether you've been away for two minutes or two days.  They live their short lives to a fuller extent than humans, as if they know what their purpose is the second they arrive on Earth.  Which is why when they leave us, although it's sad and we miss them, we know that they ultimately lived a good life with the people they loved the most.  So although we're sad to say goodbye to Jager, we're happy that he led an awesome life and left it peacefully, surrounded by his devoted and caring family.

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