About a week and a half ago, I received a call from my dad telling me our little dog Jock went into the hospital for some emergency surgery, but that he was okay. That Friday when I went home I found out he wasn’t doing as well as we had hoped, that he looked like death and couldn’t life his head. That Saturday, I went to visit him and based on what I was told from the day before he was doing better. He lifted his head, and wanted to get up and walk around, so we took him out to the hospital’s backyard where I walked around the perimeter with him once before he was exhausted and wanted to go back to sleep. Having not seen him before it was hard for me to believe he was doing better–he looked so rough, it was hard to see him as such. I quickly left before the nurses could see the tears start to well up in my eyes. But there was still hope he would pull through. He just needed time.
The Sunday before last we took him home for a 24-hour trial. the doctors wanted to see if he would eat anything. But he spent most of the day roaming around and sleeping. That evening I went back to school.
A week ago Monday, the 24th, I received another call from Dad. Jock had passed away in his sleep. I was in my dorm. I literally crumpled against my bed at the news.
Let me back up. I had two dogs. Now I just have one. Did I ever mention them on this blog? I don’t think I have. I meant to before, but…. Let me introduce you now:
In 2001, I had my first puppy ever–a Shetland Sheepdog. He was eight weeks old and weighed two pounds. He was the runt of the litter. The breeder, a wonderful woman, called him Mighty Mouse, we named him Jock. Dad gave him the full name Wee Jock Albion’s Heir, because that’s what Dad does. “Wee” being Scottish slang for “little” or “small” and Albion being another name for Scotland. So “Little Jock, Scotland’s Heir.” His mother was Sunshine and his father was Coby, a champion in tournaments. His brothers and sisters were… well, he had brothers and sisters.
My family and I trained him, and all the usual stuff you do when you first get a puppy. We didn’t want him to sleep his first night in a strange new place by himself away from his mother and his brothers and sisters, but amazingly enough, he didn’t so much as whimper once.
I’m not going to give you the whole life story, I’m not sure I can, but I’ll keep this abridged.
Jock would go on to be my puppy, my dog, my little brother, my friend, for eleven years. He loved to run around the yard treeing squirrels (or pretend he was to make himself look important) as well as play with flashlight lights, or your hands, or try to herd you or the mower, and so on. He was both and indoor and an outdoor dog. He loved to sit behind the couch, or on the register, or in front of a fan. But when the weather was nice there was no place more he loved than the outdoors. He would run (or just lie) around all day–even at the age of 10 or 11 he was always running around the backyard. He always came to me for some reason when he wanted out.
He actually turned out to be our “cat”, preferring to keep to himself, except when he would occasionally pop up and give you the “scratch me!” look. This behavior became more apparent when we got our second Sheltie, Nessie (Princess Inverness) in late 2007, who much more actively seeked (and seeks) attention. Nessie became incredibly attached to Jock though. Wherever he went, she too would follow. Jock wasn’t crazy about her at first, but got use to her.
From a young age, Jock learned it was futile to beg at the table, but we would give him fruits or veggies. Sometimes he would get cheese (his favorite treat) or frozen, raw chicken. His great fur coat had a way of making him look larger until you got him in a bath (which he hated) and you realized how small he was, even when he was older. He was a runt after all. The largest he ever got was around 20 pounds, but he stayed around 15 as he got older. One of the things that astounded me because it took me so long to notice was that he had a malformed ribcage. It must have been one of his runt problems. I had a feeling he would eventually have health issues that would come back to bite him when he got older.
Around the middle to later part of Jock’s life he became determined to eat whatever junk he could get his little paws on, stuff that he had no business eating like balloons or socks, especially socks–the balloon thing ended quickly, but there was always the laundry room. We did our best to keep him away from those things and out of the laundry room, but he would always manage to sneak one occasionally. The sock would sit in his belly for a while, then he would throw it up and eat it again, unless we caught him.
I always joked that Jock was determined to commit a slow form of suicide with that behavior. That joke isn’t so funny anymore.
When Dad first called me a over week ago, that’s exactly what Jock was going into surgery for. He hadn’t eaten in a little while and he started having diarrhea and vomiting. He told me they had to cut him open to get to the footie lodged in his gut. It was suspected that it was sitting in there for some time slowly causing problems till everything finally peaked. His systems were starting to shut down. He had abdominal failure, renal failure, an enlarged liver (we suspect the latter was another problem but we’re not sure what), and his lungs couldn’t expand because of his malformed ribcage. They also had to remove eight inches of his intestine. eight inches… I felt sick.
When I went to see him, he was the most haggard thing. His soft, beautiful coat was now short and rough. His belly was completely shaved and he had what looked like staples running up and down it. When I paced myself with his slow painful steps around the hospital grounds the Saturday before last, I was reminded of a similar walk I had with my great-great uncle who was suffering from Alzheimer’s before he passed. The comparison weighed heavy upon me.
But the fact that Jock was up and about was a good thing, and his kidney’s bounced right back into the swing of things, which was good, though he still refused to eat and drink. But there was hope.
When we brought Jock home for the 24 hour trial my sister noticed him doing the strangest thing. He was doing things he hadn’t done since he was a puppy, like walking old rounds or waiting by the fence for the elderly neighbor (now long gone) who use to give him treats. The last one was particularly odd to me because when she passed it was if he knew and he immediately stopped going by the fence. But that time, he was waiting for whatever reason. It was as if he was trying to relive the past.
I mostly saw him just roaming around. His walk was slow and clumsy from the pain medicine. He was also a bit high. It would’ve been funny watching him trying to keep balance if it wasn’t so sad. If he wasn’t walking, he was sleeping under the butterfly bush, which was odd because he never did that before. In that moment, seeing him under the bush, in my heart of hearts, something told me he wasn’t going to make it, but it was so feint. Almost a whisper.
On the 24th of September, the day after bring Jock home, my phone vibrated in the middle of my Accounting class. Checking the message after class I saw it was my dad saying something about going to lunch. I sent a text back telling him it would have to be fast because I had work in an hour.
He immediately called back. “Ian,” he said, “Jock passed away last night. I talked to your boss and he’s giving you the day off. I’m taking you home.”
My heart of hearts told me this would happen, I recognized that, but I still couldn’t believe it…
“It’s okay,” Dad said, “I cried like a baby too. So did Mom [she found him in the morning].”
Dad told me Mom found Jock in the kitchen laying curled up on a mat over his favorite spot (the register) with the fan blowing on him. He was home, he was comfortable, he wasn’t alone, Nessie was with him, and he passed painlessly in his sleep. We couldn’t have asked for better.
Dad took Jock’s body, wrapped it in fine linen, and buried him in the backyard, two feet down, and facing West. There is small mound with a sun dial on top. My grandparents want to get us a special stone, and Dad wants to build a cairn over the mound. I don’t know what laws or regulations there may be about burying pets in one’s backyard in our state, but when it came down to it no one really cares, Dad said.
Nessie was always so close to Jock, I wondered how she would react when he passed. She was difficult to read. She seemed to act like nothing had happened. But whenever she goes outside, she occasionally just lays by the grave. It’s one of the most precious things I have ever seen. I had to take a picture.
I think it was my sister’s sock they found inside Jock, but I don’t remember. It doesn’t matter, and though she hasn’t mentioned anything regarding it, or shown any sign, I hope she doesn’t feel responsible. I don’t think anyone is. We did everything in our power to keep him from getting socks. He was bound to slip one by. It could’ve been anyone’s. There are times I feel guilt too. Did we do everything that was best for him? We certainly did our darnedest to give him the best home.
I just wanted to see him, to hold him one more time. My folks tell me I wouldn’t have wanted to see him as he was lying on the kitchen floor. He wasn’t at his best. That’s another funny thing. The nurses tell us Jock was their favorite patient. They saw him at his absolute worst, yet the loved him best.
And I think. I think about what a blessing it was to have to know Jock since he was a tiny puppy, a mighty mouse, a heir of Albion. He was the best little dog, and the best little friend, I could ask for. And I am ever so thankful for the blessing God gave me and my family.
So long, Wee Jock, and thanks for 11 blessed years.
Thanks for reading.