Finnegan was 16 and a half years old, which is quite up there for a Jack Russell Terror Terrier. Most of his life he was everything you’d expect: feisty and full of bravado, snuggly and in need of comfort. Jay says that as a puppy Finnegan charged out into the back yard, barking fiercely and wildly at a baby raccoon. He put on quite a show, but when called back inside, he came. And fainted dead away.
Jay took this as a sign that they were made for each other, and they were.
When I met Finnegan he and Jay were quite the established couple, and I quickly realized Finnegan would need to be won over as much as Jay for this to work. Luckily we bonded (who wouldn’t love that face), and rather rapidly Jay and I turned to our project having-children-at-the-last-possible-moment. You know that story. After three months I told Jay I was ready to sell the cottage I said I’d never sell and get a place together. He said no (or rather not yet). Then at six months he was ready.
At this time I had a quite-old cat, Lillian, who’d been my companion for a very long time. Luckily she liked dogs, or didn’t mind them. And Finnegan seemed terrified of her. Several years before a vet told me she had maybe six months to live, so she had already defied expectations, and it seemed perhaps she might live forever. Yet soon after we got settled into Berkeley, she was increasingly frail, and ready to go. She had seen me settled into the next phase of my life. Jay assured her before she died that he and Finnegan would watch out for me, and they did.
I loved Finnegan deeply, and both being work-at-home guys we spent a lot of time together. But I missed having a cat, and I persuaded Jay to visit the Berkeley Humane Society. Just to look. Lillian had been a Siamese-stripey cat mix and I had a feeling I should get an orange cat. Or a black and tan cat. The first cat we saw was a Siamese-stripey mix named, of all things, Tillie. I told Jay I refused to have a “mini Lillian” me-too cat, but it was too late, she had rubbed up against his shins and given him that look. He refused to meet any other cats.
Tillie and Finnegan turned out to be solid companions, and when we found our house-for-kids house they spread out into the yard (and Tillie into the surrounding turf) and made it their own.
When the kids came, Finnegan worked them into the pack. It was a blow to his ego I’m sure, but aside from a few testy exchanges, he seemed to accept that they ranked slightly above him, and decided he loved them the way perhaps only a dog can: fully, unconditionally, with gusto.
I blinked twice, and the kids were well into school, the little one out of diapers, and Finnegan was becoming an old dog. His eyes got cloudy (corneal thickening, which prompted a doggie opthamologist, which led to me knowing Dr Dennis and his wife Jenny, who have since retired and are writing his and hers blogs about their yearlong adventure in Africa!)
Finnegan went deaf. But he stayed Finnegan. He got quieter and a bit more internal, yet himself.
We noticed when people brought dogs over, he’d perk up, walk around a little more, take more interest. Which led to our crazed Terrier mix Gizmo. Yes, we got a dog for the dog, and the kids, and… well you don’t need a reason for a dog do you? We didn’t need a reason.
Gizmo did perk Finnegan up quite a bit. He also got on his nerves, so Finnegan perfected a grumpy old man face and growl.
His hearing loss and vision loss accelerated. He was nearly deaf and nearly blind. He started losing weight. He was officially an old, old dog, and in the last six months it took more and more effort to help him remember to go outside, and clean up after accidents. But he was himself, always happy to eat, and to be with his pack.
Then he stopped eating dry dog food. We switched him to wet. Soon he wouldn’t eat that, and we went to rice. The end was coming.
For awhile it seemed like it was taking forever, and I worried it was too soon to think about the end, but being a planner I wanted to talk about it. Jay would not discuss euthenasia. It made him too sad. Then suddenly Finnegan wouldn’t drink anything, and I worried we’d waited too late and that he was suffering. He had a rough night Saturday, and Sunday morning we were both clear. It was time. Thankfully we both agreed that the kids should be there if they wanted to be. I’d worried this might be a thing, but it wasn’t.
So a vet came to our house, and talked us and the kids through the end. She wrapped Finnegan in a fuzzy blue blanket. She answered Jaden’s questions about death and assured Shayla, who didn’t want to ask questions, that everything she was feeling was normal. The vet helped Finnegan out of this world gently and kindly. Finnegan relaxed, eased into peacefulness. We were all able to say goodbye.
Today I’m shocked at how loud an absence it is, our deaf, blind dog who didn’t make a lot of noise in his last years. The places where he would hang out seem bare, the house strangely quiet.
Rest in Peace, dear Finnegan. You were a good, good dog.