Oh Ritter… there’s so much I want to say. My heart is so heavy right now. We lost our sweet Jackson a couple of weeks ago. So much has been going on the last few months and I haven’t had time to sit down and catch up writing. We noticed a lump on Jackson’s neck back in April. We had it biopsied and removed while he was boarded in May while we were in the Bahamas. A week after we got back from our trip we were told it was a very aggressive form of cancer called Hemangiosarcoma. A blood borne cancer that spreads rapidly through the body. We were told most dogs who have it never have outward signs. They just collapse. We were lucky that Jackson’s cancer presented as a skin tumor first because we were able to know what was coming, prepare ourselves, and really cherish the last few weeks with him.
The day we found out we were devastated and visibly upset. We told you that Jackson had a sickness that would get worse and worse and he would eventually die and go to Heaven. You asked if we could give him medicine and help him get better and I told you there was no medicine for this sickness. And over the next few weeks we talked often about Jackson’s cancer, what to expect, etc. He changed visibly. He was less energetic. But he was still playful and alert for many weeks. We took him to the park, the creek, and on walks until he seemed he couldn’t handle it anymore. We loved on him…alot. And on Friday (July 14th) you and I came home from lunch and Jackson wouldn’t get up. He wouldn’t even come out of the kennel. He wouldn’t eat or drink. You looked at me and said “it’s the sickness isn’t it mommy?” And I said “yes …and I think Jackson may go be with God today.”
I called Daddy and told him to come home right away. He called the vet and she agreed that it was time. She always told us it would be this way…one minute he would be fine and then he would just be down and not be able to get back up. And that’s what happened. I knew.
So I put you down for nap and went and laid in the kennel with Jackson. Then daddy came home and we got you up and went. Your kindness and compassion and understanding of everything was amazing for your age. We explained to you that Jackson was dying and that we were taking him to the vet so they could give him medicine so he wouldn’t hurt anymore. We explained that, from there, he would go to be with God and that he wouldn’t be coming back home. You didn’t seem sad. You talked about it in very matter-of-fact terms. Which is completely appropriate for your age. You don’t have emotions associated with death yet..and that’s a beautiful thing to see. You see the circle of life for what it is…and you don’t have sadness about it. I think your handling of it very much helped Daddy and I.
You stayed in the room with us when she gave him the injection. I told you that you could go out but you chose to stay. Then when Jackson was gone Daddy took you out to give me a minute with him. Then I went outside with you and gave Daddy a minute with him. And that was it. We got in the car and came home. You were full of questions… “how will Jackson get from the vet’s office to Heaven?” “when will we get another dog?” “How do the angels fly and carry Jackson at the same time?” “Why don’t dogs live very long?”
I did my best to answer your questions and fight back tears on the ride home. I wanted to talk about burying Jackson but you didn’t seem to understand the concept of the soul and the body yet. So I just told you that the angels were coming to get him from the vet and taking him to Heaven. When we get his ashes back I would like to bury them and plant some flowers and have a place to visit him. But I’m not sure yet how to go about explaining that to you or exactly where we would want to bury him.
You tried to cheer us up by giving us lots of hugs and telling us it was okay. You even tried to come up with positive things about Jackson dying. Which makes sense because whenever something bad happens I always talk to you about finding positives. So it makes sense that your little brain would go there at a time like this. You said “now you won’t have to stop cooking and leave the stove to let him out when he needs to tee tee!” 🙂
You’ve also talked alot about getting another dog. I know we need another dog. It’s good for you. It teaches you compassion and responsibility. But oh my heart just aches for Jackson right now. I don’t know if it would be better for us to get another Boxer because they all have such similar personalities..and maybe it would ease the pain for us… or perhaps it would be too hard having a similar dog and we should just get another breed altogether. I don’t know. I know we want a younger dog for you to grow up with. But we don’t want a puppy. We want a rescue. It is probably going to be a long process.
But I want to say this…in all of my 37 years I have never encountered another animal like Jackson and likely never will. I pray so hard that you will remember him. He was the best dog. So loyal and loving. At the end of this blog I’m going to share some posts I made about him…I want you to know how special he was…how much he loved you and protected you. There are so many stories I want to share with you as you grow up. I want to keep his memory alive. He was so so so much more than a dog.
Here are my posts from the day we found out about the cancer as well as the day we lost him. Followed by some of my favorite pictures of Jackson and us!
Jackson was a constant presence. Always there. Observing, watching, protecting, loving. Wherever we were, he was too. By our side. We were his pack. When you were born life got so busy and crazy and so much changed. I felt guilty for so long believing that Jackson wasn’t getting the attention he did before you came along. But that is life. We were adjusting to all the new responsibility and life with a baby and it was amazing, but hard. He gained a ton of weight the first year after you were born and I beat myself up thinking we didn’t walk him enough or get him enough exercise…then he started losing hair too. Come to find out he had a thyroid problem. We got him on medication and he lost all the weight and his hair grew back almost instantly. Then I felt guilty that I had chalked it all up to allergies and a lack of exercise and hadn’t looked deeper into it.
But all that to say… before you were born we took photos and videos of him constantly. Then you came along and the focus was on you. I have clearly been obsessed with documenting your childhood. ha. But it’s amazing to go back and look through photos and videos of you now…he was always there, in the background, off to the side, watching you. Once we were out on a walk and you were in the stroller and he was walking beside you. We stopped to chat with some neighbors and their dog approached your stroller. Jackson attacked that dog. I had never seen him be aggressive before and I’ve never seen him be aggressive since…but in that moment he believed that dog was going to get you and his instinct to protect his pack kicked in. I share all of this to make a point… it’s a testament to what a loving and loyal dog he was. So many dogs don’t adjust well to babies and to losing the attention of their owners. Not Jackson. He welcomed you, loved you, and protected you.
It’s been about 2 weeks now. I’m having a very hard time and still crying quite a bit. Daddy is being quiet and introverted about it. But you have handled it so well. Every night you still pray for Jackson just like you always have. And now you have started talking to him… “I hope you’re having fun with God!” “I hope you’re having fun in heaven!” You’re so thoughtful and kind. This will be a big adjustment for us but we will get through it. We will never forget our sweet Jackson but we will make new memories with another dog.
Lastly I want to include a video message I sent to Lindsay the night we lost Jackson. I think it will be special for you to hear how you handled everything that day.
Mommy loves you sweet boy!