Rob's Blog Archive

May 25, 2014

Jake Turns Twelve










I moved to Montana with my girls, Dawn and Tenaya, in July of 2003.  A pair of show stock littermates, they had both just turned six.  I purchased my first two racing dogs, Jake and Jag, three months later.  Like Dawn and Tenaya when I got them, Jake and Jag were a pair of year and a half old littermates. 

The first dog I lost after moving to Montana was Jag.  I was visiting Alaska, and a moose attacked the team during my second run there and trampled Jag to death.  She was five and a half at the time. 

On her twelfth birthday, Tenaya was in good health.   She passed away five months later.  She was a little weak, but still enjoyed her mile and a half walk on her last night.  The next day, Tenaya went from showing some pain to passing in less than fifteen minutes.  My guess is it was severe hemorrhaging. 

Dawn’s dementia started before her twelfth birthday and became severe during her last year.  In the end, she had lost any relationship with me other than my being her caregiver.  Still, she held to the notion that, if you really believe in it, everything is edible.  Dawn’s love of food made her last year worth living even though she was alone.  A few months after her twelfth birthday, the cancer that would eventually kill her, started affecting her gait.  She responded very well to prednisone and had six pretty good months.  Cancer had spread throughout Dawn’s body when I had her euthanized, less than two months before her twelfth birthday.

With Dawn’s passing, Jake became the dog I’d had the longest.  Always athletic, outgoing, and charming, he was true to being a J.   Even as an older pup, Jake could lead.  Few leaders do everything well---Jake was never great with gee and haw.  He was, however, the best dog I’ve had at finding the good footing in poor conditions. 

Jake’s ability anywhere in the team started my first season with him.  It hasn’t ended.  I had cut back to training six dogs when I got to Alaska.  Prudhoe and Shoshone were clearly my top two.  The performances of the next four, Lolo, Gaiya, Tanner, and Jake were a bit less distinguishable.  Jake was cut, then Tanner.  I ran with Shoshone, Prudhoe, Lolo, and Gaiya.  At least two calendar years older than the other contenders----that’s equivalent to ten human years---Jake had an uphill battle to make the team.  Still, it felt very strange to have an A-team without Jake on it. 

Jake, or Jacob as I often call him, will turn twelve in a week.  He’s in great shape, but so was Tenaya when she turned twelve.  Sapura made it to fourteen, so many years ago.  Recently, Vixen made it to fourteen and Otter was only a few weeks shy of this.  Fondue has passed 13 and, with a little luck, so will Quid. 

I’m spending more time with all of my older dogs.  Obviously, given that Zappa went from essentially perfect health to passing in hours as a seven year old, I know that losing dogs is unpredictable.  Sort of.  It’s possible I’ll lose Prudhoe or Gaiya in the next two or three years, but unlikely.  It’s a certainty that I will lose Vixen in the next two or three years.  Fondue and Quid won’t be far behind.  And then, next in age comes Jake.  All are at ages where life is more month to month than year to year.  I’m giving all of them a little more attention than others in the kennel. 

Jake continues to move around a lot during yard time, playing with everybody else and digging and being Jake.  Vixen’s gait is still magnificent for a drug free 14 year old, knock on wood, but she’s slowed down.  During yard time, I make it a point to give Vix a few more scratches and hugs.  Fondue, not quite as special as Jake, but not far behind, is now frequently seeking out and getting scratches and hugs, too. 

Jag was in lead when a moose attacked the team and killed her.  After the moose had run off, I ran up to see what had happened.  The first words out of my mouth were, “Oh no, not Jake.”  In all that had happened, I had forgotten that he had run in the first team, not the second, and it was his sister laying on the ground.  Realizing it was Jag was fast and a relief, until I realized I had still lost my Jaggle.  That said, it took years to accept the fact that I had clearly favored one of my dogs over another----actually a brother over a sister.  I love all my dogs, but they’re not my children.  With this, some are more special than others.  Between how long I’ve had him and who he is, Jake tops that list. 

I have always said that, more than anything, death teaches us to cherish our time with the living.  And so I am with Jacob.  He’s about to turn twelve.







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