Jamie joined my family in January of 1999. Through the years he was a fantastic pet, a fantastic dog and he brought joy into our lives. He died last night. We love you Jamie! He will be missed.
My earliest memory is of our dog Gretchen, licking me and knocking me over onto my butt, and laughing. I was outside in the screened-in-porch in the house where I grew up and I couldn’t have been more than 15 or 16 months old. That memory of Gretchen — a female Doberman Pinscher– is my only memory of her, because she was stolen from a construction site later that year.
Gretchen was a brilliant dog, she couldn’t be kept inside fence (she just tunneled underneath), looked both ways before crossing the street, and was perhaps too clever to be a dog. Someone picked her up from the construction site (my parents think she was lured with food, her weakness) and because she was an extremely well-bred dog from a lineage of champions, probably sold. Someone (probably the thief) even had the nerve to call my parents house (they put ads in the paper, went to where she was stolen, looked everywhere) to ask if they ever found their dog — mentioning that he found a female Doberman in the same area and “gave her away.”
I cannot even imagine the kind of pain my parents and my older sister must have gone through — losing the dog in that way. I know that the stories alone affected me, and I was a baby.
After Gretchen, my family went through a number of less than stellar dogs. There was King, the mean Doberman left to us by some rich guy that thought of my dad like a son. He was no longer a member of our family after growling at me — an experience I remember vividly as being kind of terrifying. There was Oreo, the Black Lab with the white stomach, that we found while at the lake and that my sister refused to let us leave without. Oreo was awesome, she was just a bit too feisty. When she jumped through our screened in porch, that was one thing. When she jumped through the neighbors (she saw my sister and I go over, we left through the front door — hours later she wanted to see us), she had to go to a new home. There were the bird dog puppies, Buck and Sugar, that I loathed because they were small and jumpy and scratchy. There were a few other bird dogs, including Jill, an old dog who was probably 10 or 11, who got out of the yard because our neighbor (who liked the dog because she was old and thus practically unable to move and “frighten” his children” and opened the fence between our houses to allow the dog to have more roaming space), left the gate to his carport open.
And then there was Shadow. Shadow was the first animal that was a pet to my entire family. My sister is six years older than me and even before Gretchen, had lots of different dogs (and even briefly a cat). My parents were married for 4 and a half years before having my sister and they too had pets. But Shadow was the first pet that was around to be enjoyed and loved by the entire family. Shadow was the ultimate family pet.
We got Shadow at the Humane Society in 1990, when my parents went out looking for Jill. I had just started second grade, and I remember coming home off the school bus and seeing the dog in the front yard. Like Gretchen (and Gretchen’s brother, mother and father — who also lived with my parents or my uncle at various times), she was a Doberman Pinscher. She was five and from a very nice family in Pennsylvania that had just moved to Atlanta and into an apartment. They loved her very much but were worried that such a large dog wouldn’t be comfortable in small quarters, so they gave her up. In actuality, she probably would have been just fine indoors, but their loss was our gain.
Shadow was smart, which is pretty common for Dobermans, but she was also extremely sweet and gentle. She was the perfect family pet. She could shake hands, which always impressed visitors, was impeccably behaved (save the two times she got out of the yard — both times she was caught by my cousins who lived a few houses down the street), well trained (she used the pine straw that lined the back fence to do her business and then buried it), she was perfect.
We had and loved Shadow for 8 years. She got on in age and had some kind of cancer (we could see the tumor in her stomach) and in October of 1998, when she was having a hard time even lifting her head, as a family, we took her to the vet and had her put to sleep. It was incredibly sad and painful and a sense of loss I had not experienced up to that point. I am thankful that the entire family was there when we put her down, holding her and telling her we loved her. She was, after all, our pet.
In January of 1999, we got Jamie. Now, 1999 was a pretty terrible year for my family for a variety of reasons. I was 16 and suffering my first debilitating major depression. Although I have suffered from Major Depression since I was a child, it was January of 1999 that things were so bad that I could not get out of bed. I just wanted to die. My parents felt helpless and the medication and doctor’s seemed incapable (or unwilling) to do anything. It was pretty awful.
My mom didn’t want another dog; she wasn’t ready and claimed (as she always claims) that after Shadow she did not want a pet at all. My dad, however, wanted another dog. My parents went to the Humane Society and found Jamie — a Black Lab who the vet estimated was between 1 and a half and 2 years old.
I remember being in bed, incredibly sick (I had bronchitis) and depressed and this dog barreling up the stairs. Shadow was terrified of heights so she never came upstairs, but Jamie was immediately at home. He licked my hand. And despite not wanting another dog, I was in love.
Jamie was not a smart dog. In fact, he was as dumb as they come. He would eat anything, had no sense, was scared by ladybugs, you name it. That said, Jamie was without a doubt, the sweetest dog our family ever had. He never growled at anyone, he never did anything but love us and love his pig’s ears. He could be a handful — like his penchant for tunneling out of my parent’s new house (they had to install an invisible fence) and his fear of the hardwood floors that kept him from coming inside the new house for almost a year. I wanted to take him to a dog psychiatrist or dog hypnotist and the family all said I was crazy. Now the Dog Whisperer has made a bajillion dollars and I don’t look so crazy.
Still, Jamie was wonderful. He was the sweetest most happy dog you could imagine. And we loved him. As Jamie got older and it became harder for him to walk up the steps of the deck to get into the house, he still remained a jubilant puppy.
Jamie died last night. My mom called me at 11:00 PM with the news. She and my father were of course, devastated. He had been a little sick the day before and had thrown up a few times that day, but initially they were planning on taking him to vet this morning for a visit. When he threw up again and seemed to be having trouble, they took him to the emergency room. He died as they got there. My mom said that he heard her voice, saying she loved him, wagged his tail and then died.
My dad thinks his kidneys shut down — which would make sense because he was drinking lots of water and throwing-up.
When Shadow died, as horrible and tremendously sad as it was, we were in a sense prepared. We saw her downturn coming and collectively as a family decided to put her to sleep. She probably would have passed on that same day or the next naturally, but we knew it was coming. Jamie came as a surprise. Sure, the dog was getting old, but his puppy-like nature never made it seem like he was aging.
As my mom said, I’m just glad they were with him and took him to the emergency room. I can’t even imagine them having to find him dead in the back yard this morning. That would just be too awful for words.
Our family had Jamie from January 1999 until now — so we had him for 9 and a half years — even longer than our beloved Shadow. And although I was in college and living on my own for the last 7 years or so, I was home often enough that he was still our dog.
People say that losing a pet is like losing a child or a parent — I think because they love you unconditionally in the same way; because they ARE part of the family. I cried last night more than I have cried in years. Our wonderful puppy, and the last “family” pet (if my parents get another dog, it will be theirs, not the families) is gone.
If you have read this far — thank you. I would normally do this sort of thing in my journal. But seeing as I don’t use that anymore, I figured I might as well use my site/blog. It’s not the type of stuff I normally write, but it’s real and it is my life, and I want to write about it.
I don’t have access to all of my old pictures from my last digital camera so I can’t include a picture of Jamie (I didn’t get any of him at Christmas for some reason), but here is a Black Lab that looks strikingly similar, and this will do until I can get a real shot inserted.
9 people have left comments
Sameer Vasta said:
This is a beautiful tribute to Jamie and to all the dogs that have been part of your life. My thoughts go out to you and the whole family.
Mary Warren said:
Dearest Christina, Thank you so much for doing this for our family. Your talent with words managed to capture it all! You will always be our “little doll”! We love you so much! Mama and Daddy
so sorry to hear. big hugs thanks for sharing your story. i teared up a little. aww. it is like losing a family member except one that you really like and never bought you an ugly sweater for christmas. sorry i had to try to make you smile a little.
Mark Douglass said:
Thank you for sharing your story, Christina. What a wonderful tribute.
Personally, I am always happy and very interested to see entries like this on blogs that normally cover completely different subjects. Even though I’ve never met you, I now feel more connected.
Best wishes to you and your family.
Black Velvet passed early this morning. Already miss her. Loyal, waiting at the fence every evening when I got home from work. The most loyal dog I have ever had. She will be truly missed.