“Mommy, Why Can’t I Go?”

Jasper the dog

As my sister began to close the door to the vet’s examination room, Jasper moved towards her. He looked up at her, cocked his head, and his warm brown eyes said as clearly as if the words were spoken, “Mommy, why can’t I go?”

Jasper, a Chocolate Labrador, always followed Mommy. He followed her around the house from room to room, upstairs to the bedrooms, downstairs to the laundry center, all over the house. Wherever Mommy went, Jasper went. He was Mommy’s boy. Her sweet boy. And now Jasper’s life was coming to an end. The seizures were taking him out.

He was 11 years old and lived a good, long life. He was suffering and had been for the last month, despite the multiple wee-hour trips to the clinic over 30 miles away. Putting him down was the most humane thing she could do. That did little to comfort my sister. He was her dear boy, loved as a member of the family, and now she had to end his life.

“Dear Lord, heal our Jasper,” she prayed a hundred times since the night he had his first seizure. “Dear Lord, show us what to do. We don’t know what to do,” she cried as days turned into weeks and weeks turned into a long month of sleepless nights, endless worry, and medication upon medication. And, finally, “Dear Lord, take this cup from me. I can’t bear it,” she pleaded through her tears as she realized it was hopeless.

Jasper would seize, then return to normal. At first, he would be okay for the better part of a week until the next seizure. Then it became several days between seizures. Then another period on prescribed steroids when he was acting himself for about a week. But on the last day, there was no letup in the seizures.

The kind doctor said it was time to let him go. All the medications had failed to save Jasper’s life. There was only one decision. He had to be put down.

There have been sad days in our family, but this was among the saddest. Dear, guileless Jasper was losing his life. He would not follow Mommy ever again.

Eyes so warm, they could melt your heart. Love so unconditional, you could forget a bad day just by seeing him wag his tail at your arrival. Patience so endearing that you could never get mad at him. That was Jasper. And now the seizures were taking him.

She had fed him his last meal. It was a jar of baby food that he devoured. Those ugly seizures made him extra hungry. With each bite, she kept thinking of the mere minutes she had left with her boy.

Tears blinded her eyes as she reached for him and hugged his furry neck one last time. When she got up to leave so the tenderhearted vet could administer the lethal shot, her knees almost buckled under the weight of grief and guilt. At that moment, he was still a vibrant dog. At that moment, his tail was wagging. At that moment, he was Jasper.

But that was just a moment in time. In the next moment, he could have had a seizure and have been writhing in pain like she and her husband had seen so often during the last month.

No, there was only one decision. They had to do what was right for Jasper. And as much as she wanted to, she couldn’t stay for the end. She turned the knob and pulled the door closed, Jasper’s brown eyes still on her.

There in the middle of the night, she sat in the vet’s waiting room while he administered the sedative followed by the lethal dose. As she poured out her sorrow over the sad loss of her dear and faithful dog, she began to wonder if it was all worth it. Then from behind the closed door, she heard the uncontrollable sobs of her husband, a former Marine and tough as nails, as he held Jasper for the last time. She recalled her sons’ tearful responses to the news that Jasper was incurably ill. She questioned why anyone would allow themselves to get so attached to an animal whose lifespan is so short.

But then, blissfully, she remembered.

She remembered the almost 4,000 good days out of over 11 years they had with Jasper. The day he ate the crayons and pooped a rainbow. How he climbed up to the window each day when the UPS truck went by, barking out his protection for the family he loved more than himself. And how he indulged the darned cats while they climbed over him, purring their love for this big chocolate fur ball. She remembered and knew.

She knew that if you love deeply, sometimes your heart will hurt. She knew why it was good to hug, love, and treat a dog like a member of the family as she reflected on Jasper’s love, which had no conditions. She knew that Jasper would always have a piece of her heart. In time, that special feeling would bring her comfort. And she knew someday, a long way off, there might be another furry family member that could help ease the pain of losing Jasper and wag its unconditional love right into her heart. Into all their hearts.

Rest in peace, dear Jasper. Rainbow Bridge has a very sweet boy keeping an eye out for that UPS truck while tolerating those new darned cats purring their love for a big chocolate guy named Jasper.

The day Jasper died, his loss was felt with tears and sadness from Pennsylvania to Tennessee to Florida, as family members and friends learned the news. We all grieved the loss of this gentle boy. Eventually, we got on with our lives, all except for my sister. Her broken heart could not be consoled, and her fears at loving and losing another beloved animal were not something she could overcome.

Occasionally and very gently, I would ask her if she was ready to bring another dog into her home and family. Her answer for the next two years was always the same, “I can’t. Not yet.” She said she would know if and when the time was right. And the “if” seemed pronounced.

About a month ago, my sister boarded a plane for Miami, Florida, to bring home her rescue puppy. Her good friend Maria had shown her a picture of a little white furry dog with sad eyes. The rescue agency had named him Herbie. One look at Herbie, and her fears melted away. She suddenly and deeply knew she was ready to bring Herbie into her heart, life and family. She was ready to love another dog.

Herbie is enjoying his new home, his naps on the big bed, joy rides in the car, and tolerating his first snowy Pennsylvania winter, wearing his little green sweater through it all. He is, after all, a Miami puppy. Herbie, once with sad eyes, follows Mommy wherever she goes.

Who could have known the new furry guy that would capture my sister’s heart would live so far away. Herbie knew. He called to her, and her heart listened.

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What People Are Saying

  • From a weep to a sob!!Proves animals enhance your life.

  • Beautifully written, Bon. I have tears streaming down my face. I knew the pain Susan was going through, as I have lived it many times. Love you, cuz.

  • I remembered losing my childhood pet” Candy”. It took my til this past year to allow myself to love a furry baby again. Totally get this beautifully written article

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