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Saying goodbye is full of memories

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  • Jack, Julie Muhlstein's black Labrador retriever, died Aug. 5.

    Jack, Julie Muhlstein's black Labrador retriever, died Aug. 5.

It was 13 years ago, the summer of 1997.
Planners in San Francisco were touting 30th anniversary remembrances of hippiedom's Summer of Love. In Everett, it was simply a quiet summer like any other. Untroubled by terrorist attacks, wars and economic disasters that were still years away, we had no idea how lucky we were.
One sunny Saturday that summer, my husband was up uncharacteristically early. He had found what we'd been looking for in a newspaper's classified ads.
By midmorning, we were in a back yard in south Everett. A family there had three puppies left, wiggly black Labrador retrievers. There was a big male with a boxy head, his smaller and sweeter looking brother, and a sister pup.
Our children, 14 and 10 at the time, loved our choice, the cute little male puppy. Just back from a vacation in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park, we named our dog Jackson after our camping site at the park's Jackson Lake. The name was a good match with our cat, called Madison for Yellowstone's Madison Campground, another much-visited spot.
My orange cat -- these days we mostly call him Madcat -- is now 16. But Jack my dog, my dear friend and faithful walking companion, is gone.
On Aug. 5, after several weeks of soul searching, I stood quietly saying "good dog, good dog" and petting old Jack as he was euthanized at Everett Veterinary Hospital, where Dr. Tom Koenig has taken care of my pets since the 1980s.
Until that sad day, I had somehow managed to live 56 years, nearly all of them with pets, without ever having to make such a wrenching decision. Jack could have lived longer, the vet said, with pain pills and someone to carry him up and down stairs. I couldn't do it. Jack weighed more than 80 pounds. At night, he was pacing and whining. He couldn't get comfortable. He was deaf, and his eyes were cloudy.
He still went for short walks, but lagged after a block or two. Twice I saw him fall on our back steps. His suffering seemed wrong when I could end it.
That end, after an injection in Jack's foreleg, came astonishingly fast, as Koenig told me it would. No more suffering -- except for me and my kids, we're suffering.
Sure, Jack could be a bad dog. He would snatch a whole loaf of bread from the counter, and by the time you noticed it missing it would be all eaten, with just a shredded plastic bag left as evidence. But even when he was bad, he was always a good dog.
A year after we got Jack, my husband, Jim, died. That lovely dog slept in the front hall by the door every night for almost two weeks. He was waiting for a master who wasn't coming home. Finally, one night he gave up and came upstairs to sleep next to my bed. From then on, for a dozen years, Jack was my dog.
It's been a long, long time since that Haight-Ashbury Summer of Love. Last week, in a column for The Huffington Post, journalist Bob Franken called this season a "summer of hate," with its rancor over gay marriage, immigration and plans to build at mosque near the site of New York's World Trade Center attacks.
When this summer began, I expected to remember it as the "summer of oil" because of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Instead, my memories will be personal.
For me, it's the summer of saying goodbye to my good dog Jack.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460;
Story tags » Animals

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