Life’s Lessons

What I learned from Jade
By Judith St. Ores, April 2011

Our story is nothing miraculous, just an ordinary family and an ordinary dog. I feel sorry for those who have never had a pet, and have missed out on one of life’s greatest experiences, even when it means losing their beloved pet in the end.

Jade is in a better place now. I hope that we did him a favor by helping him. The fact was, even though he was trying to end his life by not eating or drinking, he may have survived a few days longer. I wanted to end the pain and not prolong his agony. His organs were starting to give out. He had arthritis so bad that he hopped on three legs, falling several times each day. He needed to be carried up and down the stairs. He couldn’t lie down because of the pain, yet he couldn’t stand because of the pain either. He hadn’t slept well for days. He had no quality of life anymore, and he knew it. The vet said he would only make it another four to 10 days on his own.
Thirteen years ago, I would not nor could not have understood why people grieved the loss of their pets. Then Jade stormed into my life, turning everything upside down, literally. My kids and I had decided on adopting a black cat with green eyes from my sister’s farm, hence the name “Jade.” One day, we ran across a litter of black Labrador puppies, and there was no turning back, but the name Jade stuck.
My son studied the puppies, and decided on the one that seemed to be somewhat of a loner. While all the others were playfully chewing on each other in a puppy pile, this little guy was just hanging out by himself playing with a toy, ignoring the chaos going on around him. “That’s the one,” my son exclaimed. Off we went with a sleeping black ball of fur between us in the front seat.
Jade taught us some very important lessons, the most important being unconditional love, devotion and friendship. He taught me to relax a little more in life and enjoy the ride with the windows rolled down. I learned not to stress about the house being messy, because no matter how many hours I spent cleaning, he would make sure that I had hair circling my ankles and footprints on the floor in a matter of minutes.
Once when I stopped at a garage sale, he had crawled into the front seat and honked the horn in my car, apparently he thought I was wasting time on a gorgeous spring day, when we could be doing better things. I remember once thinking that something was wrong with my car, only to realize it only appeared to be running rough because Jade was huffing and puffing in the back seat, causing the car to bounce.
When he was a puppy, I was working in the garden. I think that’s where his digging fetish began. He saw me digging in the dark rich soil. The next thing I knew, I had black dirt flying all around me. I think it took two days to get all of the black soil out of my hair and scalp.
One afternoon I had done the laundry and hung the clothing on the wash line. I loved the fresh smell of clothes dried outdoors. Apparently, Jade did too. I peered out the back window to discover him happily running through the backyard, with none other than one of my Victoria Secret bras in his mouth.
We often went running and walking together. One afternoon, we went running around Lake Nokomis. We stopped by the shore of the lake to admire the view. Jade wanted more than to admire the view, he wanted to take it in completely. Without warning, he leaped off the retaining wall into the water, making a splash, swimming with a smile on his face. When I finally got him out of the lake, he made sure, that if I wasn’t wet already from his entering splash, that I would be thoroughly soaked, by shaking himself a couple of times.
He was my running mate, my guard dog, my companion and my friend. We used to have “conversations,” he and I. He would listen intently, as I bared my heart to him. He would look with concern when I was sad, and smile as only a dog can, when we laughed and played.
My son, Dustin took his loss rather hard also. They were best buddies. I remember the year that Dustin fractured his wrist and could not do all the things a boy would typically do during his summer vacation. I would come home from work and there they would be in the TV room, watching TV or playing video games. Dustin lying on the floor with Jade lying behind him, like an overstuffed pillow. I’m sure, the same as Dustin, Jade would have rather been outside playing and running around, but instead he was happy to simply hang out with Dustin and be his pillow. What a great friend! Dustin left for the United States Coast Guard in 2005. He would try to come home on leave once or twice a year, and Jade never forgot him. He always recognized Dustin at first sight, or even before that when he heard his car pulling up the driveway.
In the six-plus years that my husband, Paul, and I have been together, he and Jade had also become best of friends. Whenever Paul was off work, he took him everywhere. They were inseparable. Paul took Jade’s loss pretty hard too. He compared losing Jade to the loss of his Dad. My daughter Deanna, her husband Noah, and their kids said their good-byes to Jade about a month before he left us. Somehow, without even talking with her about Jade’s health, Deanna knew, and sensed it. She took extra time with him that day, without my even knowing why.
I think Saki, our Siamese cat, misses him. I get the feeling that Saki knew Jade was at the end of his journey a couple days before. He did not leave his side all day. Even when Paul had to run into town and closed the bedroom door to the room where Jade rested, Saki sat outside the bedroom door ... and was still in the same spot in front of the door when Paul got back an hour or so later. Normally, Saki would pick on him, taunt him and just plain mess with Jade. But he hadn’t done that in the last few weeks or even month. I think he knew it’s cruel to kick someone when he’s down.
I had put together a scrapbook for Jade a few years ago, realizing back then, that he was aging quickly and would most likely not be around much longer. In it, I put a great quote by Andy Rooney, “The average dog is a better person than the average person.” Well put, Andy. I guess we could all learn something from a friend like Jade. My family made jokes about the scrapbook when I made it, but now they look at it teary-eyed, and are glad that we have it.
Neither Paul nor I slept very well the first few weeks after saying good-bye to Jade. The house was so very quiet. I never thought I would take his loss so hard. Nothing really prepares us for the loss of a loved one, be it human or a furry friend. It’s really been heartbreaking.
Dustin will be home on leave in a few weeks, at which time, Deanna, Dustin, Paul, Noah, Bryson, Jack and I will give him ‘a proper burial’ and spread his ashes somewhere that he would want to rest, perhaps by the lake or park that we used to walk and run.
He’s in a better place now. No more pain. He’s probably, running and jumping and having a great time. I’m sure he’s smiling as only a dog can. I think that he is still most certainly watching and guarding all of us. He’ll never really be gone from our lives, his legacy will always be with us, as well as those important life lessons that he taught us.  
May he sleep peacefully. Jade, 1998-2010.


Judith St. Ores grew up on a dairy farm outside of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. She works in the field of information technology, and writes humorous short stories in her downtime. She currently lives outside Hudson, Wisc., with her husband, Paul, Saki, her cat and their new puppy, Bailey.