“Jameson, were you chasing deer again? Jameson, did you eat the entire thing? Jameson, stop licking the baby. Jameson, wanna go for a ride?”
Those were some of the most common things that would come out of our mouths when talking to our best friend, Jameson. Jameson made us feel like the luckiest family in the world, until last week, just three months shy of her 14th birthday. Jameson was our 100 pound black Labrador Retriever, who always thought she was a lap dog.
Jameson was our first. Luckily, we found her at a local pet store about four months before the birth of our first daughter.
My wife, Susan and I went looking for a puppy and after an hour or so of looking at all makes and models, we didn’t find a connection. But, one of the attendants told us they had a puppy in the back that had not been available yet because it had been sick. He checked with his manager and a few minutes later brought out a little black ball of fur. The ten week old ran in circles for a minute, gave Susan kisses and then went pee on my foot. It was love at first sight. We took her home that day and named her Jameson. Over the years, Jameson would be there for all four of our babies to come home from the hospital, every birthday and every other family event.
She was incredibly gentle, sweet and loving. She made our family the happiest when she was the center of our attention. Every one of our four children rode her around like a horse and ran with her and swam with her and shared their meals with her. And all of them used her as a card table, a playmate and a food disposal.
When Jameson was in her younger years, there was no dog faster. She would chase anything, deer, squirrels, cars. I would always turn to Susan as Jameson was chasing after a deer, “I wonder what she would do if she caught one.” Of course, we never found out. And, at around five years old, Jameson blew an ACL chasing a deer. After reconstructive surgery, the doctor told us that she would probably see Susan and I again within the year. I asked why. She informed me that Jameson’s new surgically repaired knee would prove much stronger than her other knee and the result would be, well…let’s just say seven months later we were back.
Jameson also loved to eat and she could trick us into thinking she hadn’t been fed yet. She would look at you with her big brown eyes and tilt her massive box head and give you a little bark. I would feed her and then she would do the same to the next person. I lost track of how many times I fell for it. Often, Susan would come home and see an open can of dog food and say, “you didn’t feed Jameson did you?” already knowing the answer.
And, if you made the mistake of picking up your keys off the counter with even the slightest jingle, Jameson would come from a dead sleep to a full gallop in the blink of an eye. She always wanted to go where the kids and the action were. Jameson loved going on road trips, especially when we would load up the car to go to our hunting camp in Alabama. She never wanted to be left behind when everyone got in the car. On road trips, she would actually hunker down low to the floor, as if invisible.
Jameson was never happier than when she was in Alabama during hot August days when she would walk the property, hop in the pond and sunbathe on the grass. Our road trip to Alabama a couple of weeks ago was the first time Jameson didn’t make the trip. She just couldn’t do it. We were all heartbroken that she couldn’t be with us. When we arrived at the camp house and got out of the car, my wife remarked that Jameson would have gone straight for the pond…before we could even get our bags into the house she had to have a swim.
Last year, I had major surgery and every day during my recovery Jameson was there at my feet making sure I was ok. When I woke from a nap she would be staring at me and when I was in pain she nuzzled up against me. And, I remember being so grateful for her being there for me. She always seemed to know what was going on in the house.
Jameson always enjoyed company over at the house. She would greet every single person as though she already knew them and would sit right next to them or lay down at their feet. And so many times, we would be having folks over and lose track of her, only to have our conversation interrupted by her incredibly loud snoring. Everyone would always bust up laughing at her and she would sleep right through it all. At night, I would find her in my bed. When Jameson was a younger dog, she would wrap herself around my head at night or sleep across my legs pinning me down. I loved it. My wife loved it and my kids wanted her to sleep with them which she often did. As she got older and couldn’t handle the stairs any longer, I would carry her up the stairs like a baby so she could sleep with her devoted and loving family.
As the years went by Jameson went through the lab cycles. Going from hyper puppy to calm and then for the past many years she became the ultimate Jimmy Buffet chilled out senior. She went from the first one into the car to having to be helped in the car. She went from incredibly active to more docile. But, she never lost her love of life or love of her family.
Over the past six months or so, Jameson also transitioned from being an indoor to an outdoor dog. She wanted to be outside all of the time, so we made her a bed in our garage and she just came in for several hours each night. I would carry her up the stairs from the garage to the mudroom door.
Other than Jameson’s knees, she was always in great health. So, over the past year as we started to see her slow down. She had general weakness in her hips and rear legs, so our longtime vet recommended acupuncture and laser treatments. Now, I’ll tell you, I wasn’t a believer at first. But, boy did Jameson respond. She gained strength and mobility and really gave her at least six extra months of life.
Over the past several months my wife and I knew the end was near but neither of us could bring ourselves to discuss it. We thought she would live forever, and she will in our hearts.
When we returned from Alabama, we had made her regular appointments with the vet for her laser and acupuncture treatments on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of last week. On Monday, My wife and my daughter Isabella went out of town. So, I needed to get Jameson to her appointments. When we arrived, she was very week and I needed help getting her into the vet’s office. Our wonderful vet thought we should do blood work to see if there was anything going on. As usual, I picked her up at the end of the day and she was happy to go home and seemed a bit better after her treatments.
Jameson had a great Tuesday. She was walking around and eating and drinking and enjoying the outdoors. The kids played with her all day.
On Wednesday, I took Jameson to the vet and dropped her off. Everyone in the office cheered as Jameson walked in by herself and went straight to the back. She went right to the pallet they built for her and laid down. I stroked her head and kissed her and told her I would see her later.
My cell phone rang around 3:30pm. I answered knowing it was the vet, expecting the results of her blood work and to say she would be ready for me to pick up. Instead, I got a quaking voice of one of the techs saying Jameson had just coded and they were doing CPR on her. Her incredibly dedicated and caring team didn’t want to let her go and wanted to get her back for us. After 15 minutes, Jameson was gone. I sat at my desk and cried. Then, I had to place at call Susan and Isabella and tell them and we cried together on the phone.
Jameson died the way she lived, always thinking of her family first.
Jameson is buried where she can still watch over our family. The family that loved her so much and that she loved unconditionally. Jameson, we will miss you.
Rest in peace, dear friend.