He stood in the middle of the kennel, shaking from head to toe, looking totally despondent. The chart on the door said that he was a two year old Jack Russell, and he had been surrendered that very day. And he’d also been to see the vet that day, and lost his manhood… No wonder he was hanging his head, and being unresponsive! I kept talking to him, and he finally inched forward enough so that I could scratch him lightly on his left cheek.
The next day I went back and took him for a walk. He had a funny, little gait, his left rear leg kicking out to the side, and his left butt cheek was smaller than the right one. I asked the shelter staff about that, and was told that the leg had been broken. The vet later confirmed that the leg had been shattered, and had not healed right, and it was now too late to do anything about it. He’d probably been hit by a car, and not tended to, so that left rear paw was now turned outward.
My husband was traveling at the time, but I talked to him over the phone about the Jack Russell at the shelter, and about his supposed weaknesses – marking in the house… We read up on it a bit, and talked to Jack’s son, who was familiar with Jack Russells, and when Jack got back from his trip, we decided to give the Jack Russell a second chance at family life. Jack picked him up while I was at work, and he’d also purchased a dog bed, dog food, and all the necessary accessories. We named him Guber.
People kept saying that Guber had won the doggie lottery when he ended up with us, but it was actually the other way around – we were the lucky ones! Guber was an affectionate, energetic, very loving and obedient dog. He could jump higher than any dog I’d seen, and he loved to run and play ball. He also loved to just cuddle on your lap or next to you on the sofa. A year later when little six week old rescue Pia joined our family, Guber wasn’t overjoyed, but he was still fiercely protective of his little sister. Pia was a heeler mix, and soon outgrew Guber in size, but Guber was always the alfa dog. He must’ve thought he was a big dog, because if he perceived a threat, he didn’t hesitate to go in between me and dogs several times his size, and he got tumbled more than once trying to protect Pia from the consequences of her curiosity.
Although Jack was the one who had brought Guber home from the shelter, and Guber spent most of his time with Jack, he was still very much my dog. Maybe it was the bonding that took place those first couple of days after he had been left at the shelter? When I was at home Guber used to follow me around the house, and as soon as I sat down he jumped up on my lap. He had his own bed and his kennel, but the rules were soon broken, and he slept with us. No, I wasn’t the one who broke the rules! Jack did! He was also the one who once smuggled Guber into a motel! He simply took Guber with him everywhere he went. I don’t know how he managed it, but Guber even sat next to him on a bar stool when he had lunch in a pub once!
Eight months after the adoption we started noticing that something might not be quite right with our precious Guber. He would come happily running, just to take odd tumbles, and he would at times run into things. The local veterinarian shared his diagnosis with us, and the specialist confirmed it: Guber had lens luxation. Lens luxation is a hereditary decease, and it is a serious condition where the lenses come loose in the eyes, and causes the dog great pain, and unless something is done, the dog goes blind. We only had two options: Surgery to remove the lenses, or surgery to remove the eyes. The surgery to remove the lenses only had a 50% success rate, but that’s what we opted for, hoping that Guber would be left with at least guide vision.
The surgery went well, but Guber’s recovery was slow. He was allergic to one of the medications he’d received, he had diarrhea and his stool was ruby red with blood. We almost lost him. A transfusion at the local veterinary clinic pulled him through, and life looked up for Guber and for us. But then he had an accident… Despite wearing the Elizabethan collar, he hit his right eye and went blind on that eye… He then had to have a second surgery to remove the eye… I was devastated! On the way home from the surgery in Denver I was in the back seat with Guber, and Jack was driving. Guber was still drowsy from the anesthesia, and snuggled down next to me. I was thinking of this little dog, his courage and indomitable spirit, his protectiveness and loving nature, and my heart ached. He had been through so much, and it didn’t seem fair that he would now continue his life mostly blind. Tears were running down my face, and I could all of a sudden feel Guber licking my hand. He’d felt my sadness and he was trying to console me! Blood still trickling out of his nose, and hardly able to stand, and he was trying to comfort me!
I learned something that day. Guber may have been in pain, but he wasn’t suffering. He didn’t have thoughts like the ones coursing through my brain: “why did this have to happen?” and “this isn’t fair!” He may not have been feeling too great, but he was content being with the people that loved him. He wasn’t feeling sorry for himself nor did he have regrets the way people do; he was simply present in the moment, and in the moment things were well, because he was safe with his little pack. I understood in that moment that suffering really comes from resistance, from wanting things to be different. By not accepting what is, we create our own suffering. I would have ample opportunity to practice that insight when Jack died a year later…
Guber was my consoler, and constantly by my side in the months that followed Jack’s death. He even came with me to work, till it became clear that wouldn’t work anymore. Probably a good thing for Guber, since it must have been exhausting for him to be my constant comforter! My daughter stayed with me for the first six months, but after that it was just me and the dogs. Life was pretty amazing though, considering that I had the dogs to help me through. I had never had a dog before we adopted Guber! He turned out to be the best thing that happened to me, and even with his handicaps we had many adventures together before he got ill in 2015, and I had to let him go. In the last weeks he was alive, I tried to repay him for his loyalty. He again got to go with me to work, and I walked him and Pia separately. When he was too tired to walk, I carried him. When it rained, I put him under my jacket, but we walked around the block anyway, so he could sniff some air. The last day he was alive I carried him the whole way, and I knew it was time. Yet we made the long trip up to the Veterinary Internal Medicine Clinic in Colorado Springs in the hopes that they might be able to give Guber another lease on life. That didn’t happen, but he got to leave with dignity, outdoors on a beautiful piece of lawn, in the shade of a big tree, and with the wind in his face. And while he slipped away, I was caressing that spot on his left cheek, the way I had the first day we met…
Other dogs have come into my life since then, but I’ll never forget Guber. He really was something else! And because of him I know that my suffering is optional. I can choose to accept what is, and when I do, peace descends. Like Guber I then am present in the moment, and suffering falls away. Do I master this? No! Not yet! But I’ve seen enough to know that when I allow it, the bliss is there. That is a huge gift from a dog that lived so much of his life mostly blind, limping, and in his last year even deaf, yet spread love and healing wherever he went. ❤
Featured Image of “Guber in the Snow” by Monica
Information about lens luxation in Jack Russell Terriers: