This last week has been very difficult. It started when we took our Bernese Mountain dog to the vet for what we thought would be a routine visit.
Jethro, our 105 pound Berner, became part of our family five years ago. He was an impulse buy, a perfect example of why you should never take your kids to “just look” at puppies. Ashley, who was 9 at the time, was obsessed with Bernese Mountain dogs. I had never even heard of the breed, but she had bought books about them, stuffed animals, calendars… name it. Being adventurous parents (or stupid parents—you decide), we decided it would be fun to visit a breeder and “just look.”
Next thing we knew, we had Jethro.
Jethro isn’t the most intelligent animal. He’s big, klutzy, and nervous when he gets in tight places. This isn’t a good combination when you happen to be walking through a doorway at the same time as Jethro. This dog is a knee-injury waiting to happen.
Walking Jethro has always been an experience as well. Lori’s first run with the dog resulted in him getting spooked, flanking her, knocking her to the ground and giving her a scar that she still has today. He’s much better now, but he still outweighs Ashley, which can make him difficult to control if he wants to go left when she is going right.
Our family has never owned a dog of great size before so we never fathomed how much food this dog would consume… and eventually discharge from his body! We’re talking serious dino-doo-doo! Add to this the fact that he always manages to stop and squat in the middle of an intersection when we’re walking him. It’s pretty embarrassing when your dog is building a miniature log cabin in the middle of a four way stop while you’re pulling out a 40 gallon ziplock for cleanup!
Despite these drawbacks, Jethro is always cheery with a tail wagging and a big goofy grin on his face. It doesn’t matter what kind of day you’re having, Jethro wants to be with you, snuggle up next to you, lay his monstrous head on your lap and just love you.
About six months ago on a particular day when Jethro was driving me crazy, Ashley said something that I’ll never forget. She said, “I find Jethro inspiring!”
Rather than arguing with her I simply asked, “What on earth is inspiring about this big doofus?”
“He’s always happy,” Ashley affirmed. “Even when life sucks, Jethro is content.”
Ashley went on. “There’s no drama with Jethro. He doesn’t hold grudges, he doesn’t play favorites. He just loves you and wants to be with you. Some friends come and go. Not Jethro. He’s always there with a stupid smile on his big furry face. He’s inspiring.”
I thought about these words from the mouth of a 14-year-old, and funny enough, I found that I could tolerate Jethro’s shenanigans a little better after that day.
Unfortunately, Ashley was wrong about one thing. Jethro isn’t going to always be here.
Last Monday, while the kids were at school, it only took the vet about 30 seconds checking his lymph nodes for her to determine why he’s been breathing so heavy the last couple of weeks. Five-year-old Jethro has lymphoma.
“What’s that mean?” We asked.
“It means that he probably only has about 30 to 60 days left with you.”
The rest of the visit was spent with her telling us about chemotherapy options that would cost as much as my car. Sadly, we went home to tell the kids the bad news.
Ashley took it the hardest, literally bawling. Jethro has kind of been “her dog” all along; she’s the whole reason we got him in the first place. But everyone was brokenhearted about the news.
“I hate knowing! I wish I didn’t even know!” Ashley pronounced, tears streaming down her cheeks.
We sat and cried together on the family couch.
It wasn’t long before Jethro wandered over, setting his big furry head on Ashley’s lap. I guess she was right—he is always there for you. He’s the one with cancer, yet he seems to be the happiest one in the room. Ashley was right. This big furball is actually inspiring.
Life the last week has been a little different. Jethro’s getting a lot more table scraps. Who cares if they’re bad for him! Live it up Jethro. We’re walking him more, petting him more, hugging him more. We’re cherishing every moment… thankful for the moments we get.
We’ll miss you Jethro!