That's me holding him the day we picked him up.
Though he was officially a "family" dog, everyone will admit that he is completely my dad's animal. Dad took him to work with him every day. Took him on hour long walks every morning and basically spent every waking hour with Jack. Jack loves him. He'll just walk all over the house a foot behind my dad, looking up hopefully at him for a command or something to do, because even though he spent his whole life in Scarborough, he never lost the Collie instincts that are bred into him. He would growl any time anyone came close to my dad, because in his mind there was no person on earth who was more important than my father.
While Jack was a puppy, his crate was kept in my room, so he slept with me. Like most puppies, he was a shit-disturber, so I would often wake up to the little white tip of his tail bouncing around the foot of my bed because he was finding something to either chew or shit on. I loved him for that. I still love him for that.
I like to think that because of the time we spent together in Jack's childhood/adolescence (hey, they grow up fast) we have a very special bond. A sort of unspoken "you're my second favourite" type of thing. I'm not sure if it's true in his mind, but it's definitely true in mine.
Jack is now 14 years old, which is already older than most Border Collies live to. My dad took good care of both dogs, (we got another one named Trixie when I was in grade 11) so they were very healthy, athletic, and smart for their most of their lives, but age has caught up with them and now they mostly lie around and sleep.
Jack in particular has really slowed down. He doesn't jump into the bed of the pickup or run full tilt chasing frisbees anymore. All of his legs are in pretty bad shape from jumping and running so much in his youth and he has a lot of trouble going up and down stairs now. Whereas he used to stand next to you and move his head under your hand for a pat, now he lies down whenever he can.
This past summer a huge growth started on one of Jack's back legs. I was in Guelph, but my family told me that he had been chewing on it a bunch, which seemed uncharacteristic. He was getting old, now being past the point that most of his breed dies, but I never seriously considered his death because he had always been so healthy and smart.
My parents were at church one morning, when my sister woke up to barking and yelping from downstairs. When she got to the kitchen, she found Jack in the middle floor, the growth burst open and bleeding and unable to move. She called Dad right away and he rushed home. My dad, normally jovial and level-headed, picked up Jack, sat with him on the couch and cried. I have never seen my dad cry and I believe that this was my sister's first time.
My sister drove over to the church to pick up my mom, since my dad had taken the car. On her way there, she had to pull over because she was crying so hard that she couldn't see.
My mom came home and they took Jack to the vet where they found out that the growth was a tumor. Jack was scheduled to have surgery. About a week or so later, my sister and dad took him and he had a successful operation. The vet kept the tumor to test it. Jack came home woozy from the anesthesia and had trouble getting around. My dad plopped him on the couch and Trixie came over to give him kisses. Hearing that twisted my heart into funny shapes.
We found out about a week later that the tumor was malignant. The vet said that they had gotten the entire tumor off of his leg and taken some skin around it just to be safe, so we could be optimistic.
To be honest, it is hard to be optimistic when your 14 year-old dog gets surgery done on a malignant tumor.
Jack seemed better and more energetic after the surgery, but still was moving around at a snail's pace. He started falling over sometimes on walks. One morning while he was out with my dad, he just wondered off and seemed to forget where he was and get lost. He started barking at random times for seemingly no reason. His nose is constantly a dry, scabby mess.
When I came home on Monday, I was petting Jack in the basement when my dad came to talk to me. He mentioned that Jack had been doing badly lately and falling over more. Jack started chewing on his leg a little bit and my dad showed my three small new tumors on the same leg where the old one had been.
I went upstairs, put on Fallow by the Weakerthans and cried. I cried yesterday too. I cried this morning.
Jack is dying right in front of me.
At this point, I suppose all I can do is try to make the most of the rest of my time with Jack. Jack is my first pet, so I've never had a pet die before. I don't know how to deal with this. Jack is one of my best friends. It feels like I'm going to lose an arm, but I don't know when it will happen. It's this giant, awful, black "thing" that is coming and can't be stopped. It looms over me. What makes it even worse is that Jack doesn't understand what's going on. He doesn't understand "cancer" the way he understands "Do you want to go to the lake?"
Whenever I was feeling shitty, Jack had a habit of coming over and putting his head on my lap, looking up into my eyes. It always made me feel a lot better and forget about whatever was plaguing my mind at that moment.
That is the way I will remember Jack.