Jeff

Jeff in New Orleans, the photo used to create the iconic sticker and T-shirt

April 6, 2022

We adopted Jeff from Austin’s Town Lake Animal Center in early 2008.

I don’t know what month he was born in 2007, but he’s definitely nearing in on 15. When people ask his age, I just tell them 15 now. He’s earned it.

A dingo

We sent in saliva samples to get a DNA reading on his origins that pegged him as a mix of everything you’re not allowed to have in an apartment: Pit, Rottweiler, Chow-Chow and African hunting dog (we think Basenji because, for most of his life until he became exceedingly vocal toward the end, he mainly grunted at us and rarely barked). For most of his life, though, people asked if he was a Dingo. (Update: Even Dr. Birdwell mentioned his ears making him look like a Dingo.)

His white fur is about an inch long over most of his body with brown/golden spots. The giraffe-like look inspired his name. His fur is super-short on his head and feels like velvet. Some have noticed there’s a line on the top of his head where the thick white fur just seems to stop and his dark skin begins to show through the hairs.

Jeff’s tan spots faded over the years. He also developed terrible skin allergies that would get infected and cause patches of hair to fall out. These small patches would then regrow a new whiter patch of hair. I joked he was regenerating, molting. So, while the spot didn’t specifically fall out, their gradual fade and the new hair growths caused people’s attention to shift to the tufts of new hair from his unique coloration.

Jeff’s spots while young (and sitting on Misty) and while older

His ears always stand up. Some of the thickest, strongest ears I’ve ever encountered.

His feet are like a monster’s. They’re vicious-looking with their long individual toes with little fur and claw-like toenails. But he has the skinniest little legs for a guy his size. And a thin little rat tail.

He has the best smile.

He’s lived with us all over Austin and in Horseshoe Bay, San Antonio and New Orleans. He also lived with my parents in Leander for a bit while we were in New York and New Orleans.

As a pup, he ate a box of rotten tomatoes and Misty’s hammock (while he sat on it) on 45th 1/2 Street in Hyde Park, Austin, and he chewed up a variety of lawn furniture and the windowsill in the master bedroom of our house in University Hills, Austin. He despises high-pitched sounds (look at his ears!) and will eat through wood and concrete to escape them.

Carl on the blanket I set out for Jeff’s old bones and arthritis, which he won’t sit on, of course.

He’s kind and curious and has never attacked another dog or person, despite having scars from mean dogs at dog parks. He aggressively sniffs new dog friends. He’s welcomed tolerated our bringing six other dogs into the household during his lifetime. Despite his rat terrier brother, Carl, seeming to consider him his nemesis, he always protected him from bigger, tougher dogs when he started trouble.

He loves going for car rides, hanging out at coffee shops and by turns sleeping and people-/animal-/car-watching. Once I started taking him to coffee shops regularly, he got into such a habit of it that he would bark at me each day to take him for a visit. Sometimes, he’d get so frustrated with waiting that he’d grunt and grunt and then a bark would erupt out of him that made his whole body jump off the floor.

Jeff with his grandparents, 2015

Jeff is one strong dog. I’ve always known it  —  sometimes we call him “the junkyard dog” because he looks so rough. Years ago, he used to chew everything, including two-by-six blocks of wood and our bedroom windowsill. He’s eaten entire igloo-shaped doghouses. His stomach can take a beating. And, also, apparently, a flood of urine.

In 2015, his bladder exploded. After emergency surgery and a hospital stay (see the GoFundMe page for it here), he fully recovered. In 2017, he had a mast cell tumor removed from his leg.

In early February 2022, we learned Jeff has thyroid cancer — most noticeable by the large lump on his neck as if he had an engorged Adam’s apple.

He’s also started freaking out at night with what seems like extreme anxiety attacks, likely due to the pain and cognitive decline (doggy dementia).

It’s clear our time to say goodbye to Jeff is rapidly approaching. I’d hoped not to have to make the choice to help him along, but unless the increase in medication dosages we’re trying calm him, I’m afraid I will.

It doesn’t seem fair that we get to decide for them.

Many people have fallen in love with Jeff. Quite a few have stickers of him on their laptops. Some folks even have T-shirts with his face on them. (And it’s possible to get a pillow with his face on it, too.) At least one person has asked for more pictures of him. So, I’m posting a bunch of him below for posterity.

If you didn’t get to meet Jeff, you missed out on a great guy.

Pictures of Jeff

April 25, 2022

The weekend before Jeff’s scheduled euthanasia (May 1st, 2022), we met his grandparents at a park in Austin to feed him hamburgers.

May 1, 2022

Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve given Jeff a few previously forbidden food items, like the remnants coating my finished ice cream pint’s packaging.

Yesterday morning, Misty bought a variety of breakfast tacos from Tyson’s Tacos. Jeff ate a breakfast taco for breakfast. In the afternoon, when he got anxious, I took him to Epoch for coffee and then walked him around the empty lot behind the record shop to empty his upset stomach. For dinner, he had most of a personal pizza. This morning, Jeff had two chicken paws and finished off his special diet of wet food mixed with a bowl of dry food.

A little after ten this morning, we went outside under the carport with Jeff to let him wander the front yard and hang out doing his favorite thing: sitting outside surveying and thing-watching. He was breathing heavy — his anxiety had hit a couple of hours earlier and he’d already had all the meds he could have until early afternoon. We’d set up a couple of beds for him but, in keeping with his Jeffrey-ness, he preferred to lay on the cool cement.

Around 11:30, Jeff’s grandparents arrived. He was so happy to see them he got up and crept his way over to greet my dad as he got out of the vehicle. My mom brought the soothing lamb’s hair blanket on which both of her parents both died on (separated by about three decades), so we moved him onto that. Then my mom sat with him and told him how he was her favorite grandson.

At noon, Dr. Amy Birdwell with Pawsitively Healing Veterinary Housecalls, who had been referred by our veterinarian at Crestview Veterinary Clinic, backed into our driveway.

I don’t know which would have been worse: saying goodbye to him while he was awake but anxious or saying goodbye to him while he was passed out from meds and exhaustion. His being so alert until the sedative finally took effect was hard, but it also slightly assuages the pain and guilt to clearly see him fall into the deep, calm sleep of puppies. His light snore told me he was getting the nap he’d been needing. I think it would have been more difficult had we spent all last night waiting for one of the anxiety episodes to pass and he’d spent today passed out from pain and sheer exhaustion, as was becoming more and more frequent.

Instead, he was awake, alert and breathing heavily but not so anxious as to be getting up and roaming around. That he sat there so calmly even with a new person, the vet, visiting is what I think caused my mom, Misty and others to say it seemed like Jeff knew it was time.

We fed him a little chocolate left over from Easter while he received the sedative shot. I hugged him and kissed him and told him he’s a good boy and that I love him and I thanked him for all the years he’d given me to spend with him. It was sad to see the sedative take hold and put him to sleep — given he’d just been so awake, looking around and heavily breathing. Misty and I loved on him for a few more minutes and then Dr. Birdwell administered his final shot via an IV. I held him held and petted him and talked to him until she said he was gone.

May 15, 2022

Jeff,

It’s been two weeks since we said goodbye to you. I haven’t full-on cried about never seeing you again since the third day after your death. The tears flowed easily Monday and Tuesday. I wish they still did.

I know I haven’t finished mourning you. The things I miss about you have already grown more varied even with the short passage of time:

  • I miss being able to cuddle with you as baby-spoon on the couch (and also as butt-spoon with your head resting on my leg);
  • I miss your smell (not your farts but the scent I’d get when I’d bury my nose in your fur and breathe in deeply);
  • I miss our trips to Epoch and your smiling face in the rearview mirror . . .

A little while ago, I had my first Domino’s pizza in 14 years without you here to drench my thighs in drool. I immediately felt your absence by the lack of anyone pushing against my legs to get to the slices in my lap. Most saddening, you weren’t here to get your crusts.

Lots of changes are coming, Jeff. In fact, your death sorta inaugurates a period of drastic change(s) for your mom and me. I wish you were here to share it with us and see us through it (though, honestly, I doubt they’d let you move to Uruguay given your genetics — their loss!).

I love and miss you, Jeff — my dingo.

Love,

William

P.S. Your mom told me she cried about you just yesterday. –WOPII, May 23, 2022

Dr. Amy Birdwell Review

I highly recommend her for at-home euthanasia. She didn’t rush us at all. She was very kind.

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