Sunday, January 1, 2012

Diamond in the ruff.

Grief is a funny thing.  There are so many things that it does to you.  Aside from the normal sadness there is guilt, anger, regret . . . It saddens me to know that it often takes grief, or tragedy, to make one realize how much you truly love someone.

Once they are gone a flood of emotions rushes through you.  Sometimes you can stop your brain and distract yourself, at other times you just can't stop the thoughts from coming.  

Many of you know that in May of 2010 I lost my mentor and friend, Lee Mannix, a dog trainer in Austin, Texas.  His death was a hard blow as it was quite unexpected. {Funny thing I made a blog post about Lee and titled it "Diamond in the Ruff" too, fitting.}  I never realized how much pain came with grief until I lost him.  I had lost before but something about his death really hit me harder than ever before.  You can't stop but think of the things you should have said, shared, apologized for, explained . . . and most of all the fact that you should have told them how much you valued and loved that person.

While many may not understand the comparison of losing a valued human to the loss of a dog, many of you can.  To me my dogs are as valuable as many humans that are in my life. There were so many things I wanted to do before Jake was gone.  So many things I wanted to be sure he knew and understood. And then the regrets I had-- I regret not walking him more, not training him more, the times when I was frustrated and told him to "leave me alone" when he'd beg me for dinner,.  I regret not loving on him more, not taking him more places . . .  You just don't realize how much we take for granted until it's too late.

I took for granted how absolutely perfect he was.  He didn't need more training, I thought to myself--he didn't do anything wrong.  He didn't need to go many places, I thought to myself--he was happy where he was. 

Jake was calm, laid back and never stole anything, ate anything he shouldn't nor did he jump or get on anything.  I never taught him not to jump.  He just never did.  He never put one paw on our furniture or a counter-top.  He never stole food that was lying around.  He never ate any toys that he shouldn't, he'd just sweetly chew his own bones or toys.  He was perfectly gentle with all other dogs no matter how old, how big or small, or whether they were boy or girl.  He was the most gentle soul.  

He loved Sophie, my 3 year old, more than any of my other dogs do.  Sophie also was attached to him.  She likes the other dogs but doesn't really have much to do with them.  She would always sweetly and calmly pet Jake, and lie next to him.  She would talk to him and he would lie his head down and just listen to her.

It's funny I never wanted Jake when he came into my life in October of 2003.  He wasn't the perfect dog I mentioned above when I got him.  He was a typical un-ruly adolescent Labrador Retriever {1 year}.  He ran circles around my living room for 20 minutes, on a tear, after I had agreed to take him from his previous owners and "find him the best home".  I sat down and sighed. {What have I gotten myself into?!}  He disappeared into my kitchen and then came out, happily trotting around in a catch-me-if-you-can fashion, with a knife in his mouth.  I did what you should never do and chased him, then tackled him to grab the knife from his grasp.  I was frustrated and shoved him into his crate.  He whined and barked for an hour.  I was ready to find that perfect home for him . . .ASAP!

A few days later I had to go to a dog camp that I had planed and paid for months earlier.  I became a bit frazzled realizing that I hadn't thought this through after agreeing to take Jake in.  I was taking my Jack Russell, Trevor, with me but didn't have a clue what to do with Jake. I didn't want to leave my two roommates with him as he was a mess to deal with.  I just decided to pack him up and take him with me as well.  It was after that weekend that I decided to keep Jake.  After that I began working on his "annoying habits" and in no time he was a very good canine citizen! In 2004 we went through the Delta Society's Pet Partners program and he passed his therapy dog test with flying colors. 

My husband and I always laughed at an incident that laid out Jakey in the best light.  He truly was one of the calmest dogs I've ever known.  I was at an event that included some dogs for adoption and I recall DFW Lab Rescue had a booth right next to my table.  Jake was lying sweetly and quietly under my table and a friend was sitting at my booth with me.  A woman came up and leaned down to pet Jake.  He stayed there, sweetly wagging his tail but not getting up or moving.  She looked up over the table, "Hey is this dog for adoption?"  "No, he's my dog, we just happen to be next to the lab rescue."  She continued to pet him.  "Hey, is he okay?"  I quickly looked under the table thinking something was wrong.  Then she says, "Is he slow?"  I said, "Slow?  You mean like Forrest Gump?"  The girl had a completely straight face.  "Yeah he's just lying here."  My friend retorted sharply, "Um, yeah, he's trained!"  I just laughed.  From then on we always had the joke of sweet Jakey being 'slow'.   But we knew better, he was just, well -- Just Jake!

Over the past few years I used him many times with dog aggression cases as he had zero reaction to dogs no matter what they were doing.  Dogs could lunge and bark and act nuts, he would just offer a calming signal, turn his head or sniff the ground and be as cool as a cucumber.  He helped me evaluate dogs during their Canine Good Citizen tests over the years.  He would sit at Starbucks by my chair and be the sweet coffee-shop-dog many people desire.   I recall one day just last year when he accompanied me to a dog training class and afterwards I had lunch with a friend.  We ate at Cafe Brazil as they have a dog-friendly patio.  He laid next to our table, sweetly and politely all during our lunch.  A man even commented, "Wow, I'd love to have my dog lie here while I ate lunch!" 

Jake was a true diamond in the ruff.  He went from a crazy, wild Lab whom I wanted to re-home ASAP to the absolute most wonderful dog on the planet.  He just needed some polishing. {I suppose this is the story of most dogs' lives, i.e., they just need some polishing and the right home!}  And we all know he was a fighter.  Most of you know what medical complications we have endured over the past two years.  Just last year {2010} he wasn't expected to make it and we were able to have him here a little more than a year after that.  He survived four surgeries, recovering well from each.  His last surgery was on December 1st, just four weeks ago.  He recovered well, and quite unexpectedly. {The vets were fairly sure he wouldn't survive the surgery.} And just last week he was bouncing around, tossing his favorite Nylabone in the air and then lying down to chew on it.   However we think his very scarred intestines just couldn't handle anything, including food of any kind and it all just caught up to him one final time.  He formed yet another obstruction, just like the previous two, made up of hardened fecal matter.  His body could not evacuate it and this time we couldn't do anything to help him.  It would most likely keep reoccurring.  And with this, we had to make the decision to humanely end his pain and suffering.

I'm not sure if he knew how loved he was.  I often wonder if he knew, and I hope he did.  I told him often, in a question format, "Bubba, you know you're the best Bubba, right?"  And it was that exact statement that I made to him this past Saturday morning . . . I kissed him on the head while rubbing his ever-so-soft ears and let him go . . .

Here is a video montage of my sweet Jakey boy. {For those who get this via their inbox click this link to see the video:}


  1. Beautiful, Stacy. Very moving...I'm crying my eyes out. Missing my Codi so much. I'm walking Daisy tomorrow, and the day after that.....
    I'm so sorry for your loss. HUGS!

  2. Beautiful boy, beautiful tribute. Crying for your loss.

  3. I am sitting here bawling at reading this. Jake was lucky that he got you and I can see you were lucky that you got him. I know you are an excellent dog trainer but I didn't know that you are also an excellent writer but I know that now as the tears stream down my cheeks. annie/colorado

  4. Stacy, thank you for sharing your thoughts and reflections about your sweet boy Jake. It was truly moving. I was really touched reading what you had to say and I think the tear are proof that you said it well and reached out. I am so glad that Jake was a part of your life and you a part of his. I am certain he knows how much he is loved. Thinking about you and your family during this time of loss.

  5. Trust me on this. Jake absolutely knew how much he was loved and it was the greatest act of love to let him go. I just lost my 16 y.o. lab in November and it hurt just as much as when we lost our 7 y.o. lab (also a Jake) to cancer. They're never with us long enough. Run free sweet Jake. You will find my boy, Jake at the bridge and he will show you around.

  6. I am so sorry Stacy, I didn't find out about this until now. Jake was an awesome dog and very lovable, I am so glad I had the pleasure of knowing him.

  7. Wonderful tribute, Stacy. I'm sitting here with tears running down my face. I know you went through a lot of health issues w/sweet Jakey. He knew you loved him, I'm sure of that.