Jasper’s Final Days

2 Oct

(Veronika writing tonight)

I had a comforting thought today… If I write about this moment, it will last forever.

In this moment, Jasper is still with us. He is laying on his side in his crate in the living room with a light blue towel over him to keep him warm. The soft-ball sized cancer tumor on his side is making the towel stick up. As he has been doing for most of the time lately, he is sleeping… but, Jasper is still breathing and he is still with us. We can lie down next to him on the living room rug and caress his head gently and speak to him. We can watch him breathe. Sometimes, we can catch his eye. Sometimes, we notice him gazing at us as we walk by. His eyes are glassy and watery from the pain medication he is taking. He is definitely tired, but he is still with us.

This weekend is probably the single most beautiful weekend of the year in the Twin Cities. The first weekend in October is when the marathon takes place, because the fall colors are usually at their peak and the trees are glowing in yellow, red and orange in the sun. This weekend is no exception.

Thursday afternoon was when I first noticed something had changed. Jasper did not want to get up and seemed to have trouble breathing. When Todd came home, Jasper wagged his tail in his crate, but wouldn’t get up. Things were taking a turn for the worse. The next day, Todd decided to work from home. He called me mid-morning and asked me to come home. Contrary to other times when Jasper wasn’t feeling well, but later bounced back, we knew that this time was different. He had stopped eating, seemed much more tired and in much more pain than at any other time before.

Not knowing if Friday would be his last day, we decided to take Jasper to the St. Croix River. Todd and I had agreed a while back that one of the signs that would help us determine if it was truly time to let Jasper go was if he no longer showed an interest in water… We placed comfortable cushions in the car and took Jasper for a ride. The river was overflowing, but we managed to find a perfect stretch of beach where we could take him down to the water. He was excited as ever, pulled his way down to the water and played with delight (albeit on somewhat wobbly legs) in the water. It turns out that there is no such thing as ‘clear signs.’

After the beach, we didn’t want to go home, so we kept on driving along the river. We made a few stops along the way. Jasper looked out the window and kept his watery eyes open the whole time.

He always did enjoy riding in the car and watching the world go by. Sometimes, just gazing at the sky seemed to give him pleasure. Jasper has always had a fascination with clouds. I remember one of the very first days after we had brought him home as a puppy, he was laying in the grass in the backyard chewing on a stick when he suddenly stopped. It was as though he had noticed the sky for the very first time. Jasper spent a long time (especially for a puppy with a short attention-span) just observing the white clouds passing by against the blue sky.

Another moment that has stuck with me is the first time Jasper went swimming. Todd may have written about the occasion already, but I have the most vivid memories of that day. For most of his young life up until that point, we had tried to gently coax him to step into the river without much success. Then one day, when Jasper was perhaps 8-9 months old, we were walking in the Minnehaha dog park when we got to the beach. It was a windy day and I remember waves breaking against the shore. Jasper went into the water and was caught by surprise when he suddenly realized that he was swimming. He had a panicked expression as he scrambled to get back to shore. He took one look at us… and after a brief pause, his expression turned to sheer excitement! He ran straight back into the water and went for another swim… (and then another one)

This Saturday morning was absolutely beautiful. Todd and I got up a little earlier than we usually do on the weekend, and got Jasper ready for another ride. This time we didn’t travel as far. We wanted to take Jasper one last time to his favorite park – the Minnehaha dog park along the Mississippi River. As we got him out of the car, the air was a little cool, and Jasper was shaking a bit, either from the pain or the cold or both. We walked into the park slowly and let Jasper set the pace. When we passed other dogs, it was as though they understood that Jasper was on a special journey today. They were curious and smelled him, but kept a respectful distance.

The park was beautiful as the sun was shining through the leaves above. The river was overflowing so we didn’t spend much time by the water. Instead, we walked down other well-worn paths that all three of us know so well. At one point, we met a young male Vizsla. The strange dog was bouncy and happy to be in the park. He wagged his tale profusely as he greeted Jasper. He reminded us so much of Jasper when he was young. It was a beautiful moment of coming full circle.

Like the tales of a Native American preparing for his final journey, Jasper walked with slow determination in the park with us. On occasion, he would glance up at Todd, as he always did. On occasion, he would lead the way, as we got close to the water. When we stopped and sat down for a few moments on a fallen tree, Jasper would come up and rub his head against our legs, and give us gentle hugs, as he always has. It was as though all three of us knew that this would be our last trip to the park together, and we cherished every moment on our walk.

Unless Jasper does not wake up in the morning, tomorrow we have to make the decision about letting him go. No matter how much you try to mentally prepare for something like this, it is not an easy decision. Todd and I have gone back and forth on it all day today. On the one hand, as recently as Friday, Jasper showed an interest in water. On the other hand, he is clearly tired, uncomfortable while standing and walking, and not eating much of anything. What ultimately will help us make the decision tomorrow is the realization that we are not the ones to end his life. Cancer pulled the trigger a long time ago. While we can never know how long Jasper would have lived beyond tomorrow, it is clear to us that it would have only been a matter of time.

One thing is for sure. Jasper never stopped loving water – and the only thing we could get him to eat on his final days was peanut butter. Some things never change.

With much love,

Veronika

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8 Responses to “Jasper’s Final Days”

  1. Khyra's Mom October 2, 2010 at 10:21 PM #

    I’ve been following Jasper’s tail/tale since another blog pal (Dennis The Vizsla) told us about your blog –

    I hadn’t commented before but having gone through the same pains of knowing when – either with my own pets – or seeing friends in the blog world wrestle with ‘it’

    It is hard – but I always feel they will let us know – their eyes – their tails – give their clues –

    It is truly the biggest gift of love we can give them – because it causes us the most pain –

    But from the day we bring them home, we know this day is coming – yet we do it anyway –

    I commend you for making his last days special ones – days he’ll hold onto for as long as he can –

    Please know you’ve got lots of support ‘here’ –

    Thinking of you AND Jasper –

    Khyra and Her Mom

  2. Teesha Lane October 2, 2010 at 10:24 PM #

    Thank you for sharing these beautiful intimate moments with us. With tears in my eyes, and as I’m hugging my own healthy pooch, I thank you and send peace…….

  3. Keri October 2, 2010 at 11:52 PM #

    veronika and todd….. may I just say ‘ditto’ to teesha’s perfect comment……

    I add my thanks as well.

    Keri

  4. Phil & Lucky October 3, 2010 at 7:41 AM #

    With tears in my eyes we are saying a prayer for Jasper. What a wonderful fun life his family has provided for him. Reading your blog has really helped me get a better perspective on life with our vizsla, and to enjoy every day, take him to his favorite places and stop and smell the roses. We’ve also decided to get another Vizsla and are now on the waiting list at the New England Vizsla rescue. I want you to know that if we get a boy his name will be Jasper.

  5. Lindsey October 3, 2010 at 8:28 AM #

    I’m so sorry. Much love to you.

  6. Lori Hecomovich October 3, 2010 at 9:14 AM #

    Never second guess your decision, no matter what it is. Jasper is very lucky to have you both.
    Hugs and prayers
    Lori

  7. Elizabeth October 3, 2010 at 3:58 PM #

    This blog made me cry. I’ve been following this blog for quite some time and I was just balling reading it. As I read it I was hugging my baby and could only imagine your pain (not that I wanted to). Just know that I’m thinking of you guys and praying for strength for both Jasper and you guys.

  8. avi October 3, 2010 at 6:14 PM #

    I’m thinking of you three today. Words can’t even express how hard something like this can be.

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