All good things must come to an end
And it’s not fair.
This is an understatement because my life with Tiger Jack Burke wasn’t “a good thing” it was extraordinary.
He first entered the race into my life on May 24, 2012. But how did he pass me so quickly in the continuum of age?
Tiger Jack had been in decline for a while but I’ve always maintained that I would let him leave on his own terms. The barometer I used to measure this was if he chattered his teeth when I asked him if he wanted to go for a walk. This is something Greyhounds do when they are excited. He was still chattering yesterday and as Needa ran around in the new fallen snow, Tiger Jack romped along with her. When running, greyhounds spend 75% of their time in the air; they actually fly.
I prayed that when Jack was ready to leave he would let me know. Last night we were up several times and he seemed more nervous than usual. I’ve been sleeping on the couch to be with him since I moved into my house in August, so he was rarely more than 5 feet from me.
He had full breakfast with Needa and we all went to doze for a while to let their food digest. But then he had his stroke, and immediately I knew it was time.
The stroke subsided after a few long, terrible minutes and he had a few smaller episodes throughout the morning. Getting a Vet to come to the house for euthanasia in the UP isn’t like at home. The visiting Vet was booked. The Newberry Vet was booked and was going on vacation after today.
I sat with Jack, trying to decide what to do. I didn’t want to have to drive him to Sault Ste. Marie and have him put down in an office setting. I wanted him to continually see my face and hear my voice in what little time I knew we had left. A drive to the Soo was out of the question and I sat alone and dejected.
Then the phone rang. It was the traveling Vet. She said she could make it to Newberry in a couple hours.
For the next three hours Jack was in a state of relaxation. I rubbed his head, scratched his ears and reflected upon the many scars on his body that came as a result of wipeouts on the track or scraps in the kennel. But they had healed long ago and by the time he got to me, he was a pistol. A broken toe on his front left foot ended his racing career and it is what ultimately steered him to me. It healed long ago and I held that paw for three hours.
Most greyhounds don’t race more than a year or two and a miniscule amount become champions. This is why adoption is so important for these 45 mile an hour couch potatoes.
For the remainder of the morning I laid on the floor with him, soothing, comforting and telling him how much I loved him and that everything was going to be alright. Even though he had a hearty breakfast, I hand fed him his favorite treat (chicken breast) until he could eat no more.
If I moved to wipe my eyes, he kept reaching for me; grabbing my arm and then resting his head on it; further proof that he knew it was time. I caressed and comforted him. This continued until the Vet arrived. Needa was with us looking on at the end. His eyes get heavy after the injection. With a relaxed grip on his paw, I rubbed his back as the air left his lungs and just like that, the dread evaporated.
I’ve always said of this big, beautiful brown eyed boy that despite his age (14) he could play a greyhound half his age in a movie. He was a bad ass and I lovingly referred to him as Clint Eastwood his final months. My only regret with Tiger Jack Burke is that we could not have spent more time together here on earth. The truth be told, I was missing him long before today in what I call “the unfair heartbreaking anticipation of the inevitable.”
I conservatively estimate
that Jack and I walked just over 8000 miles together from May of 2012 until yesterday,
December 28, 2021.
That is the distance from New York to Los Angeles and back--- and then to Los Angeles again.
Or, just short of 30 trips from Royal Oak to Mackinac City.
Or from Detroit, MI to London, England and back. Ok, no more comparisons, I know you get the picture.
A good friend, who has known of his condition sent early condolences, knowing it was going to be strange and sad for me in these days to come.
It already is.
I promised Jack I’d see him again in heaven, but hopefully not for a while.
From his broken toe to my broken heart, I will continue to love him. His passing has left a raw gaping hole in my heart.
Tonight, I keep expecting him to wake up from his nap, come to my desk, put his head in my lap and snub me when I try to kiss him.
My house is one box of Kleenex lighter this evening.
He took more out of life than it took out of him.
He was a Champion of the Heart.