This is the second story about Jack the therapy dog on Corpus. Read Joanne O’Carroll-McKellar’s earlier piece here: Therapy dog: Jack and the SPCA Dog Squad.
Jack ran out of the front door and slipped on the wet step. He landed heavily on his left front leg. Next morning we visited a rest home and hospital for our monthly SPCA Dog Squad visit. I noticed a lump on his leg. He didn’t seem to be too perturbed and was his usual caring self with the residents. However, I wasn’t happy about his leg. We went to the vet. The initial diagnose was arthritis. An x-ray was scheduled, then a biopsy ordered. The result: osteosarcoma. Bone cancer … what a shock. He was far too young. Bone cancer is very aggressive in dogs and they can die within a very short space of time.
Thankfully Jack didn’t appear to have much pain. The decision was made not to intervene too much medically and that, keeping in mind his needs, he would live as normal life as possible. He became my world. A planned trip away was cancelled.
Jack was retired from the Dog Squad, but we still filled in if other volunteers were unable to be there. He missed his work, as did I. We both enjoyed visiting the residents in various rest homes.
The tumour on Jack’s leg grew to the size of a golf ball. He was now favouring his leg a little. His daily medication became a game of what would get the medicine down … paté or a slice of saveloy.
His exercise was now quite different. No beach, no ball games, but gentle walks and shorter runs at the park. Our favourite walk was a promenade along the Esplanade at St Clair. He was still meeting his dog friends. They sensed his illness and were never aggressive towards him. Dog owners were respectful when I made them aware Jack, was unwell.
The months went by. Sometimes I forgot he had cancer. Life seemed so normal in our new routine. He was regularly checked by his vet. Half a year passed. I sensed he was changing. It was little things at first. He seemed tired and would sleep longer. Walks became shorter, and he would go to bed after dinner. He became a little introverted. He did, however, smile and had a good appetite. He loved going for drives, shopping, to the bank, to cafes … so many places love seeing a dog. We would often walk in the city. Jack was a big handsome Curly-Coated Retriever. Everyone wanted to say hello to him. He adored small children and was very tolerant with tourists who wanted to take his photo. We had so many adventures together, traveling far and wide.
Jack’s vet made house calls every few weeks to asses his progress in his own environment. He adjusted Jack’s medication when necessary. Jack was still not on major morphine-type drugs. Then, within two days in late April, things changed. His pain was obvious. His vet came for his usual two week visit. I knew it was time. We made the decision. I was ready. It is the hardest thing a dog owner has to do, but your beloved pet trusts you to do the right thing for them.
It was decided that the vet would come back later in the day. I had an hour to fill in. Jack was given light sedation. We drove to the beach. It was a horrible stormy Monday. We walked along the Esplanade, breathing in the salty air. The sun came out and we enjoyed our last walk together.
Jack’s vet and nurse arrived at our home. I had made the house calm with classical music, Jack’s favourite. He was cradled in my arms, and with a whisper he was gone. My heart is broken. As I write this, my house is very quiet, but the presence of Jack is still here. I miss him every day.
Jack, the therapy dog, who bought so much joy to our older citizens, was working until the end. He will be remembered always for his gentle soul and caring nature.
In a short time a new Curly will take his place. Hopefully, he too will become a therapy dog for the SPCA Dog Squad.
In loving memory of Curlylochs Rustic Zac: Jack the Therapy Dog. 28th January 2012 – 29th April 2019. RIP.
Joanne O’Carroll-McKellar lives at St Clair, Dunedin, New Zealand.