Phillips County News - One Nation, Under God

By Parker Heinlein
Outdoors Columnist 

He still wags his tail


September 9, 2020

My dog Jem turned 14 this week.

He’s the last of my dogs that became acquainted with my father, who passed away nearly 14 years ago.

Now the old dog is starting to act like the old man at the end. He moans and groans a lot, sleeps all the time, but always wakes up hungry. He demands to be fed, watered, let in, let out. He voices his unsolicited opinion on everything.

However, there’s a big difference between old man and old dog. I never considered having the old man put down. I may have thought about it, sure, but never really considered it.

With Jem, I think about it all the time.

I don’t want him to suffer. I don’t want to wait too long. On the other hand I’m not anxious for him to leave. He still gets up in the morning and goes outside. He begs while Barb cooks her breakfast. He insists on riding with me in the side-by-side. Birds still catch his attention. He still wags his tail.

My first springer spaniel, Agate, took her final breath surrounded by family, and passed away peacefully at home. I didn’t realize at the time how special that was.

She had cancer, but didn’t get really sick until the very end. We never talked about putting her down.

Zoey, my next bird dog, lived to the ripe old age of 13 before she became so crippled I had her euthanized. As old and infirm as she was, it was still a difficult decision.

It was a decision I didn’t make with Spot -- who died a year ago -- but I should have. Nearly 16 years old, she suffered at the end, and died a day before I was going to take her to the vet.

Jem still takes care of his own business, keeps himself relatively clean, and stares balefully at me whenever I talk about his impending demise.

Dad, near the end, said he wanted to go. He was ready. I hated to hear him say that. As difficult as he’d become, I couldn’t imagine life without him, but soon he was gone.

Jem may be echoing the old man’s words.

Or not.

I’ve always had a hard time understanding him.

The end of his road is no doubt near. I just wish it would be his decision, not mine, to choose the time of his passing.

Parker Heinlein is at [email protected]


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