Judi promised me that when I got ‘home’ Tiberius and Gus would be waiting to welcome me. She didn’t tell me that I would find a whole family: Peep-Quack is a white duck; Blackie is a Cocker Spaniel; Dynamite is a German Shepherd; M.P. is a teeny lop-eared Magpie Rabbit; Hansel and Gretel are Dachshunds; Buster is a mixed brown mutt; Streaker is the little ball of black and white fluff that Tiberius reared into a cat. And just as Judi knew would happen, before she and Jerry got home from the vet’s office, there were three boxers romping in joyful, pain-free abandonment with their extended family through green, green grass that brushed against their bellies. Peep-Quack rode on Gus and M.P. asked if I would carry him.
There is so much that I know since I’ve come ‘home’ that I didn’t know before.
I would like to tell you my story.
As I was traveling
from Port Orchard to
I was so busy
thinking that I missed a part of their conversation and I only tuned back in soon enough to realize that I was being left
at the vet’s office. I became really alarmed when my mistress took off my leash and collar and then left without even
saying goodbye. The vet’s assistant put a chain collar on me, took me into the back room, and put me into a kennel.
It was while I was in the kennel that Judi entered my life, but I didn’t know it. The vet’s assistant called the
purebred foundling home in
Something very unusual happened last night and it made me really apprehensive. The vet’s assistant took me home with her; that had never happened before. Why did I go to her house? She has cats; she locked me in the back porch and gave me stinky cat food to eat. I didn’t eat; I wasn’t hungry. I paced. I hardly slept.
This morning the vet’s assistant took me back to the vet’s office. When she left work, she put me in her car; we went and got her children. I like children. Then we started driving again. I curled up in back and went to sleep. I was really tired.
I woke up as we slowed down and went over a hump into a parking lot. The vet’s assistant stopped by another car and she got out. She said a few words to another woman who was there and then came around to get me. Me? Why Me?
“Judi, this is Blackjack, or BJ.” “Blackjack, this is Judi.”
The vet’s assistant took the borrowed collar and leash off me, got in her car, and pulled away; I was left with this stranger, this Judi. Huh? What’s happening? I don’t know this person. What’s happening? When do I get to go back home? Judi knelt down so that her face was level with mine; she rubbed noses with me and gave me a hug. I put up with it; I have good manners. Judi had that dry papery smell of old people, but not as old as my mistress. She said, “Well Blackjack, BJ, this isn’t quite the way things were supposed to be; we were supposed to have time to get acquainted, but I think we should be able to get along pretty well once we get to know each other.”
Judi had arrived at the parking lot early. When she spotted a pet store, she drove over to purchase a collar and 20 pounds of ‘Hills Science Diet’ for me. Now, she reached around my neck and buckled an electric blue collar on me – it was a little big – then she snapped on a short electric blue leash. When she opened the side door of her van and helped me get in, I knew that I wasn’t the first dog that had been in that van. I could smell that someone had been in it not too long ago. There was a dog bed on the floor of the van; the cover had been washed and the bed aired but another dog had used that bed. Judi shut the door and walked around and got into the drivers seat while I paced and fidgeted in the back. Judi drove across the parking lot and parked.
We got out, yep, me too, and went into the pet store (I had never been inside a pet store before
– it had LOTS of interesting smells. I gave a couple of questioning pulls at the leash but Judi kept me firmly held
back. Darn!). Judi filled a small bottle with fresh water and we returned to the
van. Judi thought I was thirsty because I was panting hard. It was a warm day but the panting was mostly because I was so
afraid of the strange new things that had been happening to me. Judi poured some of the water into a small dog bowl she had
in the corner of the van. When I drank, my long tongue splashed water all over. Judi refilled the bowl. That little bottle
of water didn’t last long. After it had been refilled for the third time, Judi poured a little more water into the bowl,
shut the van doors, and in no time we were headed to
I was too nervous to lie down and sleep. I kept pacing around, licking the windows, lapping water, kissing Judi, walking on the dog food, puncturing the bag with my toenails, and getting in and out of the passenger seat; Judi asked me to lie down, but even if I hadn’t been as upset as I was, I didn’t know where I was supposed to lie down, on that other dog’s bed? Every time we had to stop in traffic, Judi would turn around and pour a little more water in the bowl. She kept talking to me, trying to soothe some of my anxiety and nervousness, to make me feel comfortable. It was pretty awkward; we didn’t know each other, and neither of us knew what to expect.
Finally, we pulled into a long gravel driveway. Judi parked under the carport, came around to the side door, and got me. I had to wait while she unlocked and opened the door to the house. I got a blast of the inside air; that house reeked of dog, but no one came to greet us. As we walked through the house and finally out a sliding glass door to the outside, I kept expecting another dog to come from somewhere and welcome us. Judi touched me and talked to me all of the time. I was too involved in trying to assimilate the scents and atmosphere to listen. My nose was up in the air and down in the carpet sniffing; I would cock my head first one way and then another trying to catch a sound. My eyes probed everything, and my panting tongue hung down to my knees. Once outside we went down some steps onto a patio, across the patio, and down a few more steps onto grass. I thought, “Even the dirt under the grass smells of dog. Where is the dog?”
As she led me around, Judi kept trying to tell me that this was my yard. This was where I was to go ‘potty’ and where I could run and play all I wanted. It was a big yard surrounded by mature trees and bushes and a chain link fence. There was the smell of dog everywhere. She showed me a doghouse just my size; it smelled of the other dog. Judi undid the leash and asked me to go “potty.” She turned her back and after I wandered around a bit I took care of my needs at a spot that smelled mostly right. I took a long drink out of a fountain.
Judi called me, “BJ . . . come BJ . . . come on BJ.”
I knew she meant me but I was Blackjack, not BJ. I thought, “When she calls me Blackjack, I might consider going to her.”
“BJ, let’s go.”
“Go? Maybe she is going to take me home.”
I went to her. We went inside and through all of those rooms. Judi opened the door and we went out to get in the van.
My heart sang, “I am going to go back home.”
Judi said, “I’m sorry BJ, I know we just got here and you’re probably really tired, but there is something I have to do.” She held the drivers door open and I got in; I had to figure out how to get in under the steering wheel and then around the gearshift. I stepped all over and into some stuff that was between the seats trying to get into the back; I made a mess.
Judi got in and we went back out the driveway and onto the street. This time we didn’t drive very long. When she stopped, we both got out again. We were at a vet’s office. You just can’t mistake that smell. When we got inside, Judi had me stand on a scale. Judi mumbled to herself, “Sixty-nine-point-eight pounds, I thought you were awfully big for sixty pounds. I wonder what Jerry will say.”
I wondered, “Jerry? Who’s Jerry?”
Judi talked with the woman at the counter and had her change the record to put my name, “BJ,” on it to replace “Gus.” Who’s Gus? Judi gave the woman my vaccination record and then she made an appointment for me to have a checkup.
We went ‘home’ – to Judi’s home. I wondered, “What is happening to me? Why am I here?” When we got into the house, Judi showed me all over the rest of the downstairs and the upstairs. There were dog beds everywhere, dog beds that were big enough to stretch out on and be really comfortable in two of the bedrooms and by the living room couch and smaller dog beds in the office, sewing room, and family room. All of the covers of the dog beds had been washed, and the insides had been aired, but the smell of another dog was still in them. “Where,” I wondered, “is that dog?” I was too tired to worry about it anymore. I had a great big drink, splashing water all over the floor and wall. When Judi pulled one of the big dog beds into the office, and laid it under the computer work station, I didn’t need a second invitation as ‘BJ’ to curl up on it and go to sleep.
When I woke up, Judi gave me some more water and a bowl of food. I was too upset, scared, and worried to eat. I just wasn’t hungry. I splashed water all over the newspaper-covered plastic that was under the big water bowl Judi had put down to replace the smaller one.
The days rolled by seamlessly. In the beginning, I didn’t let Judi get six inches away from me. If she moved, I moved. She was the only anchor I had. I didn’t eat anything during my first three days with Judi; finally, Judi made some gravy and put it on my food. Even with my shrunken stomach, it smelled too good to resist. I ate a little and then each day I ate a little more gravy-covered food until I was eating normally. I had come to trust Judi – a little. When we went to bed at night, she would drape her arm down from her bed to my bed and keep warm, gentle, caressing fingertips on me so that I knew I was safe and not alone. I began to trust her to leave whatever room we were in and not follow her, unless she was gone for quite a while. Most importantly I learned that I was BJ, and that BJ was a very important fellow.
I knew that Judi
did not always live alone in the house. There was the smell of other people in every room, stronger in some rooms than in
others. Each night I would lie on my bed under the computer work station and listen while Judi talked to someone on the phone
that she called “Jerry,” “Sweetheart,” or “Love,” and each night there would be a report
about me. The first call was all about what I looked like: a neutered three year old
fawn boxer, natural ears, almost seventy pounds, a mostly black muzzle, a narrow white exclamation point shaped blaze between
his eyes, small areas of white on all of his toes, no socks, a lower tooth that catches the outside of the upper lip on the
right, a full white chest with faint, large, dark freckles showing through; he does not have a typical boxer waist. He is
beautiful, much too beautiful to have been euthanized, but his body is soft and his toenails are too long; he will firm up
and file those nails down romping around in the yard. He has a good temperament.
Then there was the report about the screen door on the sliding glass door. Judi had left me alone outside when she left
the house. I had an anxiety attack. The screen on the screen door didn’t just get torn; the whole screen door got mangled.
She told Jerry, Sweetheart, Love what a beautiful proud natural boxer prance I had and that instead of running by moving all
four feet separately I bounded like a graceful antelope. Those were the good things. But - BJ won’t eat without gravy on his food. The next account was about me getting out of the fenced yard. Judi
didn’t remember leaving the gate unlocked. She didn’t. I unlocked it. But I didn’t go anywhere. I
was by the back porch waiting for Judi when she came home. When Judi hung up the phone, she would always tell me that my “Dad”
would be home from
One night, we were sitting and watching TV, actually I was napping on Judi’s feet, when Judi started to talk to someone. I woke with a start. Huh, how did that people get in here without me hearing him? I don’t know what has happened to me in the past week and a half; I just do not feel like barking and growling at this person. Why? Well, I had better go over and sniff him, and give a low growl deep in my throat just to let him know I am not someone to be messed with. Oh, Oh. He belongs here; I have smelled him since I first came here. He sounds good; his voice is deep and soft. He has fur on his face. I hope this is who Judi called my dad.
I sensed that Jerry, Sweetheart, Love, was a little disappointed in me. He wanted to like me, but when he looked at me he expected to see a brindle boxer with white socks over his ankles. Jerry had a constant pang of sorrow that I didn’t look like that. He wasn’t too sure that he liked my ‘snaggle tooth.’ I was seventy pounds of aggressive dog, not sixty pounds of playful dog. When I greeted Jerry at the door, my stub of a tail hardly moved; my whole body did not wiggle and contort itself into ‘S’ shapes of glee. My breath had a sharp sour unpleasant odor. But as time passed, Jerry became used to me and it was clear from the first that I was Jerry’s brown dog. My whole world revolved around my dad. Judi always said, with a smile, “The moment Jerry came home I became furniture to BJ.” It wasn’t quite that bad, but almost. My long tongue was the first thing about me that Dad found endearing. He got a chuckle out of how extremely long it was and how adorable I looked when I slept with a small pink tip showing between my dark lips. Dad didn’t mind being licked to death. He took me with him everyplace, and when Dad left me alone in the pickup, I washed all of the windows for him.
Things didn’t always go smoothly. One day Dad went to the chiropractor and left me to guard the pickup. A man came out and got too close to the pickup. I barked, and barked to warn him not to bother my dad’s pickup. When it didn’t seem like he was listening, I began pounding on the passenger side window with my front feet while I was growling and barking. Oh, Oh. I think I am in BIG trouble. That flimsy window just shattered into a million pieces. The terrified man ran into the chiropractor’s office. I think he would have liked to scream. I was only doing my job of protecting my dad’s property. I had better just sit here quietly and be good. When Dad comes out, maybe he won’t notice the window. That was a futile hope. Dad noticed the window. It was probably all the little sparkly pieces of greenish glass covering the seat that gave it away. While my dad was gently but thoroughly checking me over for cuts, he kept crooning, “BJ, BJ, what am I going to do with you?” Dad drove for a little while; the wind whipped in though the open window, blowing stuff all around inside the pickup cab. When we got to the automobile window repair shop, we got out and took a walk while some men put in a new window.
Dad didn’t carry a little bottle of traveling water for me; he carried a gallon jug and a large bowl. When he had to leave me alone in a vehicle, if the weather was cool, Dad left the windows open just a little crack or down as much as a couple of inches. Dad said that’s why that flimsy window broke so easily when my seventy pounds hammered on it; it wasn’t supported at the top. If the weather was warm, Dad always parked in the shade and left the air conditioner on. I was never left alone for longer than a few minutes and I was almost always within sight of my Dad. The exception was when we were at a job and it was cold outside. I stayed on a blanket on the seat of the dump truck covered with another blanket. I dislodged the blanket when I stood up to see where Dad was. When Dad came to check on me, he would fix the blanket. He recovered me a lot.
I go to work with Dad every day. My dad does what is called ‘dirt work.’ This means that he uses a cat and backhoe to shape the dirt for new home construction. After the first couple of weeks of being lifted up into the cab of the dump truck, I figured out that I could leap up there on my own; Dad was always right there to give me a final little boost if I needed it. I think that I sometimes I needed that boost when I didn’t, just so Dad would know that I needed him. At first, when we got to a job, Dad leashed me with a long steel cable leash so that I could not wander away. Then one day he decided to trust me and didn’t use the leash. When I wasn’t leashed, I had a more pleasing personality. I didn’t growl or bark at those who came by to say hello. I think that the major problem I had with being leashed was this: if my dad needed me to protect him, I couldn’t break that steel cable to get to him and that worried me.
There were two jobs we had where there were boxer dogs in a fenced enclosure adjacent to where we were working. Dad let me run up and down outside of the fence while they ran up and down inside of the fence. We were friends while we were separated by the fence. I don't know if we would have been friends if they had been free and able to get close to my dad.
There was one time when I worried my dad. I went down the road and around the corner of an unfinished house and lost track of time and place in the joy of playing. It was the one and only time that I was out of earshot of my dad. Dad told Judi about it later that night. He said, “I called and called and called; for an hour-and-a-half, I called BJ. I was ready to give up when BJ came pelting around the corner just as fast as he could run.”
All Dad did was hug me and say over and over again, “Oh, BJ. Oh, BJ.” I never did that to Dad again.
I started to ride on the backhoe when Dad was moving it around from the trailer to the barn for servicing at home. He had to coax me up onto it the first few times. Pretty soon when we off loaded the backhoe at a job site, I was on it and in my place before Dad could say “yes” or “no.” I became an expert backhoe rider. That metal got awfully cold sometimes, but it was worth it to be right next to my dad’s warm knee, where he could reach down and pet me.
Dad put loops of wire over the fence gates at home, so I couldn’t open them. That worked for a while and then I decided that if I could leap into the dump truck I could leap over the fence. I did. I don’t know why. Even though I never went anywhere except to the back door, I could have, and this worried Dad. He could have lost his BJ, his partner, his friend. One day Dad created a new wire fence; it ran around my yard, inside of the bushes and chain-link fence. This twisted together red and yellow wire fence was almost chest high, supported on metal posts, and it ran through yellow conductors. I was helping my dad. Dad stepped over the new fence; I was going to follow him when I stumbled into that wire. It scared the BJ out of me. I ran to the porch and sat there quivering. I don’t know how I knew what that wire was but I did. At least, I knew it could hurt me. For three days, I would stand on the porch and tremble rather than go down into the yard. Dad had to put a leash on me and almost drag me out to the yard to go to the bathroom. He never did put electricity in that wire, but I never crossed it either.
I was always glad to go someplace with my dad. Going into or out of a place of business I had a special way of walking with him. I would take a firm but gentle grip with my teeth on the tips of the fingers of Dad’s leather work glove; we walked side by side. Dad always introduced me, “This is BJ.” Inside of the business, I was well behaved and people would ask me to come back and visit. Often, when I went back, they had dog-treats for me. Dad was proud of me.
My Dad and Judi treated me differently. They were both gentle but Judi would do a mock growl, get down on the floor to give me hugs and wrestle, or she would box with me when standing up or kneeling. I had a lot of toys; Judi would give one a toss and then play tug-of-war with me when I brought it back. Sometimes Dad played tug-of-war, but mostly he just talked softly and lovingly to me; we ‘held paws,’ or I lay across his lap, when Dad watched TV. Love for me radiated from my dad. Judi was the first one to notice that my sharp sour breath had turned into normal sweet doggie breath; I wasn’t scared and nervous anymore. I was happy.
Judi saw dark wobbly looping scribble dribbles on the claret colored carpet in the upstairs bedroom; the dribbles led her down the stairs and then across the blue kitchen and family room carpets. From my trail of dribbles, it was clear that I had been trying to get to the door to go out. “Jerry, did BJ tell you he had to go out? He dribbled all of the way from up here to the slider. I let him out.”
The same scribble dribbles were seen a couple of other times that week, and I found myself sitting in the vet’s office. My vet was Dr. Christensen. She had a boxer too, a girl boxer. I had met Dr. Chirstensen once before when I got my healthy dog checkup and my shots brought up to date. This time, I had a bladder infection. Dad and Judi had to give me pills, once in the morning and once in the evening. It wasn’t hard taking the pills wrapped in good canned dog food. For a long time, Dr. Christensen, Dad, Judi, and I thought that this had completely cured my bladder problem.
A part of my life was visits to Dr. Christensen, more frequently than we would have liked. After the bladder infection, I had trouble with vomiting. I had pancreatitis. I was put on a special diet; that wasn’t so bad. It included some new dry food that Dad and Judi mixed with good canned food to stimulate my appetite. I never did have a really voracious appetite; for a day or two or three I would eat good and then I wouldn’t. The worst part of the pancreatitis was that Dad would not share the contents of his “Bait Box” with me at lunch time anymore; all I could eat was my own food, no people food. I had biopsies taken of a couple of small lumps on my lip. Benign. I got an ear infection. Cured. I would go outside and come in with small welts under my fur. Allergic to something that bit me. More pills. I became an expert at taking tests and pills. But I kept having appetite problems and erratic urination. It sometimes seemed to us that I must be Dr. Christensen’s only patient; we certainly got well acquainted.
My Dad has taken
me to Dr. Christensen for the fourth time about my urinary problem. I hope they find out what the problem is soon. One time
I will go out to go and have a weak but semi-normal stream, and then the next time I might go out and try and try and try,
finally, I might produce one little squirt or a dribbly stream that lasts for twenty minutes before I can stop. Thus far,
Dr. Christensen and all of her tests haven’t been able to find out what is the matter with me. One time she gave me
a general anesthetic and did a biopsy of my bladder; afterwards, I was so woozy that my dad had to carry me out to the car
and then into the house when we got home. We didn’t find out anything. My dad has wet salty tears on his face a lot
lately. Dr. Christensen manipulated my bladder again today; she was trying, with her knowledgeable sensitive touch, to see
if she could feel anything abnormal. I appear to be normal. For some reason I do not understand, when Dr. Christensen moved
her hands up to feel around my neck, I bit her. I don’t bite. I act like I will,
but I don’t bite. I did bite. I bit Dr. Christensen. I didn’t even growl. I just bit. Oh no, she will never like
me again. Dr. Christensen told my dad not to worry about it. She said, “BJ has been putting up with a lot lately.
He must be getting pretty tired of being poked and prodded. Next time we’ll just put a muzzle on him and then we will
all be safe. (I didn’t like that muzzle.) Now, about what I started to say,
we’ve been unable to find any trace of cancer, even though I am concerned that it might be the problem. If you want
to take BJ to
We are in
I had an MRI yesterday.
It didn’t hurt. I was asleep. Today a young veterinarian student kept bending
my feet back and then having me stand on them bent that way. Around and around and around she went, first one foot and then
another; it went on and on and on. I put up with the silly game for as long as I was able; it hurt. I bit her. We are not
We are home. Before we got home, Judi received a phone call from my vet’s office. A Dr. Richter reported that I have cancer in my lymph nodes. Radiation treatment is not an option. Dad decided to have me take Chemotherapy. Every Tuesday I go in for my Chemo treatment. I understand that it makes people really sick. One of the blessings for me is that it does not work the same way for a dog. They have given me some oral medicine to help me not get too sick with the treatment. I seem to be doing OK. I have several bottles of medicine sitting on the counter top; I take pills in the morning, pills at , and pills at night. One of the pills makes me really hungry. I have never been hungry like this. I don’t eat dog food any more, except for the little bit that Dad puts around my pills. I eat home-made chicken and rice. I eat, no that’s not accurate, I wolf down about ten cups of food a day, and could eat ten more. When Judi had to go visit her daughter in Bellingham at the end of August, she left Dad instructions on how to cook my rice. He does a really good job.
I still go to work with Dad every day that he goes. I can’t leap into the cab of the dump truck anymore and it is awkward for me to be lifted. Dad built me a carpet covered ramp so I could walk up to the cab and back down to the ground. I was afraid of it at first. I didn’t know what Dad expected me to do, but he laid my ramp on the ground and showed me how to walk on it, then he leaned it on the foot of the trailer so there was a gentle slope for me to walk up and down. I got the idea. I will do anything for my dad.
Dad had to leave
again to go see his Mom in
Two weeks is an
awfully long time to wait when your whole world has left. While Dad was in
My cancer is in
remission. I do not have to have Chemotherapy any more. I didn’t loose my fur, but the big patches of fur on my right
shoulder, my rump, my stomach, and on my legs that had been shaved off for tests haven’t grown back the way they should
My cancer is back. Dad took me in for a Chemotherapy treatment. Judi told Dad, “Jer, this isn’t going to work. It is just prolonging the inevitable and hurting BJ. You are going to have to make that hard, hard, hard decision.”
Dad decided to quit the Chemotherapy treatments. I wish I could lick fast enough to keep the salty tear water off of his face.
I am so ashamed of myself. I can’t walk or lie down or sleep without dribbling. I soak my bedding. Judi held me and whispered in my ear, “Be your own proud beautiful self; it is not your fault Brown Dog.” Dad purchased some bathroom rugs to put on top of my beds; I wet right through them. Judi’s big thick bath sheets and bed comforters seem to absorb the best, so Dad bought some recycled ones just for me. Judi and Dad are doing two to three loads of laundry every day just to keep my bedding dry. I can’t lick myself off often enough to keep the urine smell off of me. Dad wipes me down with a damp towel and then dries me.
Dad and Judi stayed at home instead of going to Snohomish
for Thanksgiving. We all went to
I have only been out on a job once in the past month and then Dad had to half lift me into the truck and back down. I licked at the saltwater tears that leaked out of his eyes and ran down his face. One of the things that my Dad had really liked about me was the way I held my stub of a tail straight up at a perky angle. I try to keep it up, but it just droops down on its own. I haven’t been on the backhoe for over a month and Dad keeps saying he really wishes he had a picture of me riding on it. I spend most of my time on my brown Naugahyde couch; there is a plastic sheet under my blankets. I am warm, covered up to my ears with Judi’s Taz blanket.
Dad caught me trembling today. He thought I was cold and put another blanket on me. He is worried about me. I don’t have any appetite lately and with as much as I have been leaking I don’t have to urinate when I go outside; I try to go in hopes that I won’t leak as much if I do.
When Judi got home from school and work tonight, Dad told her we had to go to the vet’s. (Judi’s heart dropped to her toes.) He told her that for the past three days, I have been trembling and today it had been continual. He called the vet’s office to tell them we were on the way in.
Dr. Christensen wasn’t in but Dr. Richter was. I had seen him before, when I was taking the Chemotherapy; he was really nice and seemed to like me. We had to wait for Dr. Richter in room #4 for quite a while. I couldn’t quit trembling. Dad and Judi covered me with part of my big comforter blanket that they had brought for me to lay on. But I wasn’t cold. Dr. Richter told Dad and Judi that I was trembling because I was fighting pain.
Dr. Richter left and came back and gave me a shot. I got a little drowsy, more relaxed, and I didn’t tremble as hard. Judi had tears leaking out of her eyes and running down her face, just like Dad. I stuck out my tongue to help clean them off but I couldn’t lift my head high enough even though she was right there hugging me. Dr. Richter came back in after quite a while and gave me another shot. I began to feel really strange; I didn’t feel like me. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I started trying to fight the effects of the shot. I was afraid.
Dad, I don’t want to leave you. I will do anything to stay with you. I tried not to let you see my pain. I am your good B Wee; I am your friend, your companion, your partner, your defender. I am afraid and confused. You are my life.
Dad held me; Dr. Richter gave me a final shot. My last thought was, “I love you Dad.”
And when I opened my eyes, I met Tiberius and Gus and the rest of my family.