Losing a 12-Year Friend
Remembering Family Dog
As I sit and write this, I am dog sitting two dogs for my best friend. Despite not needing dogs around to make me think of him, being around these two dogs is making me flash back to Jorge. Jorge was my parents’ dog; though he was basically mine too. The only dog we had for that long. He was with us for a full 12 years, before we lost him. Best we could determine he was a mix of Labrador and Ridgeback. Either way; he was a total sweet heart and the best four-legged friend any of us ever had.
Not too long after my grandmother passed away, my parents and I were at her house. The old man that lived behind her house had a puppy tied to a fence on a short rope with only a piece of tin leaned against it for shelter. Despite conditions, the puppy would get on its hind legs and wag his tail at the man when he would see him; trying to show affection. The old man’s response was to push the puppy down with his knuckles and yell at him to get down. I watched this happen sitting next to my Dad; who was also watching this happen. Finally; another neighbor came over and started talking to us about the scene. All of us were sickened by the sight of it. After a short moment, my Dad and the neighbor walked over to the old man and puppy.
Long story short…by the time they walked back; the tan and smiling puppy was in my Dad’s arms. He was still small enough to carry, though he wasn’t a tiny puppy by any means. Right away as soon as he was put down onto his own feet inside the screened in porch, he went to sniffing around and getting to know the lay of the land, but would stop and love up on anyone who happen to be near where he was exploring. It was very clear that even though he wasn’t treated well before, he no problem loving humans. From that moment on, he was part of the family. One look at my Dad’s face and my Mom caved in and agreed we could keep him. My Dad likes animals too, but he had never been attached one the way he instantly became attached to Jorge. He was like a kid again; despite being in his 50’s at the time.
Jorge Grows Up
Obviously, I can’t write out Jorge’s entire life. Twelve years on paper would be more than a book. Instead I will give you some of the highlights. Circumstances and some failed attempts at plans, kept me at home longer than I had ever planned on living under my parents’ roof. Well, I should say my parents’ “roofs” because as a family we always traveled a lot. We were a military family so I guess it just stuck in the family for a while even after the days of deployments and being stationed were gone. Because of this fact, we discovered very quickly that Jorge loved to travel. If he heard the word “go” or “come on” then he would run to the door. As soon as you opened the door, he was standing at the back of the SUV just waiting to have the back opened so he could jump in. He was all for a road trip; didn’t matter if it was to the vet’s office down the street, or a drive across several states. It also didn’t matter how many times he had been at a place; he was going to sniff everything. Every time we stopped to let him walk around and us to stretch our legs, he was sniffing every tree, bush, car, building, piece of paper, and blade of grass he came across. Turns out we picked the right name for him…he was Curious Jorge.
In case you are wondering, spelling his name with a “J” instead of a “G” was a choice we made; just so that his name would be different than usual. After all; he was a dog named Jorge, not a person. Now, even as he grew up, for the most part, Jorge didn’t really meet a stranger. He basically loved everybody; or at least anybody that would pet him. He reacted badly to a few people through the years, but no real way of knowing why. One of them, we believe reminded him of the old man’s son; who we found out was worse than the old man toward him when he was a puppy. Everyone else though; he loved you the second he met you. We taught him not to jump up pretty early; since he got bigger pretty quickly but he had one habit that would tell you he liked you. He would always get between your feet from behind so that just his head and front shoulders were sticking out between your legs. It was his safe place, I guess. He did that from puppy to adult and into being an old dog. We thought it was cute even though when he got older and bigger, he could take you off of your feet sometimes if you weren’t careful.
Our Heartbreak Arrives
Many years later, he got slower and changes started to happen. His fur would shed even more than it used to, he would lay around more, he became hard of hearing a little. All of these things, we blamed on the fact that he was much older now and like humans, things change as a dog grows older. Many times, we took him for unscheduled veterinarian appointments if we thought something was wrong. Each time he would get a clean bill of health and the veterinarian would say what we thought; he was just getting older.
In 2019 I had moved to Panama City, FL and was doing my own thing there. Several times to start with, my parents had visited there and of course, Jorge came with them. However; after a while, I didn’t see them as much due to being busy and them being busy. The last time they visited me, Jorge stayed with a dog sitter because he was lazy and my parents didn’t want to put him through a car ride from GA down to FL. They went home after a few days, and life moved on.
Toward the end of the year, Hurricane Michael came through the panhandle of Florida; and did a direct hit on Panama City. I was home for that hurricane too, but that’s another post for another day. Because of the category 5 hurricane; the city was almost leveled and, of course, everything shut down. My place had no power, no water, and a hole where the window used to be. Since the city shut down and my place was unlivable, I went to my brother’s in Destin and a few days later, we both drove to GA to my parents’ house for me to stay there until I could get back on my feet.
I had only been back at my parents’ house for two days, when late on the second night… Jorge suddenly let out a loud and haunting yelp. His bed was against the wall in my parents’ room, so it woke them up right away. I was in another room with the door closed, asleep. I didn’t register what I had heard, until my Dad opened the door and told me that something was very wrong with Jorge and that he thinks he might be getting ready to go. It sounds horrible…but I wish he had gone that fast.
I got dressed and joined Mom and Dad in their room where Jorge was laying next to their bed. Dad and I both checked him over again to be sure there was nothing physically wrong on the outside. There wasn’t. Another veterinarian later told us that he thinks Jorge had brain cancer and it must have ruptured or broke through somehow in that moment; and that’s what the yelp was. We didn’t know that at the time. When Dad called him to go in the living room; Jorge didn’t move. We helped him to his feet, but his back legs wouldn’t work. That was the moment we really knew this was as bad as we had feared. Eventually; we got him into the living room and then onto his bed; which we also took into the living room. We put his bed next to Dad’s recliner and Dad slept in the chair off and on while trying to comfort the dog. Honestly; we all thought he would be gone by morning time, but we wanted him to go at home; besides, the veterinarian offices weren’t open. My parents live in a small town and the animal clinic doesn’t have an emergency section or emergency hours. The nearest decent size city is almost an hour away. We didn’t want him going on the drive there.
He Is Still Missed
Rather than go into the heartbreaking details, I will simply skip and say that eventually we had to take another drive to a veterinarian in the nearby city to have him relieved of his pain; which wasn’t going to end. We got opinions of vets in one day and plus it was obvious that it wasn’t going to end with him getting better. So the choice was made, after trying again to let him go at home, to make that trip to the doctor to let him assist. One of the hardest things we’ve ever done. Jorge was cremated and his ashes placed in a beautiful engraved wooden box. The box sits where his bed used to be. His stuff was donated to the local animal shelter.
It has now been over a year since he passed away suddenly; after I only had two more days with him. He is still thought of every day and he is still missed. It’s funny how a pet can become such a loved part of the family. We cried when we lost Jorge as much as we cried when we’ve lost human family members. The reason is simple; it hurt just as much. Over a year later; and it still hurts. Having said that though; I would do it all over again, just to have those 12 years with him. All the pain of losing him and going through his final days could never erase the memories and the happiness he brought into our lives and into our family; starting that very first day that Dad set him down on the screened in porch of my grandmother’s house.
Jorge was a goober; but he was our goober. He’s gone but we still love him and we still miss him every day. There will never be another dog that can replace Jorge; he was one of a kind. When you are making sure to tell everyone you love them and appreciating every day that you have with them, make sure you include your pets too. They are only here for a limited time, but oh what a time it can be.