Saying 'goodbye' to the dog on the wagon

Residents of the foothills communities have often wondered what kind of animal my wife and I were pulling around on a wagon; perhaps a lion, a small buffalo, or even a bear? These were actual questions from people we met.

His name was Jag, and he was simply a dog. Although a pure bred, we purchased him as a pup with a cast on his right leg, the result of a severe bite from an adult male dog at the breeder. After removal of the cast, surgery to the leg followed. Unfortunately, the leg never healed properly, and he limped and appeared sore during his walks. Even with the injury, he enjoyed his walks and logged thousands of miles in his lifetime.

I mentioned above about Jag being mistaken for a bear. Last year, the first sighting of “Meatball” the black bear was in our neighborhood. My wife and I were out for our nightly walk with Jag, only to be stopped by the county Sheriff’s Department personnel who, for a brief moment, thought they may have found the bear and solved the mystery. Although Jag was an impressive 140 pounds and appeared to be even larger due to his thick winter coat, a closer look by the deputies made it clear he was not the 500-pound bear they were seeking.

Over time, Jag endured more injuries, including being attacked by a swarm of bees, a lung ailment, a torn ligament and severe arthritis. The ligament rupture affected him the most. (For those of you with large-breed dogs, never let them jump into your car. Invest in a ramp instead.) Even with this injury, he wanted to going on his nightly walks, but simply could not go very far from home before collapsing. One day, we came across a garden cart at Costco and thought we would give it a try. Lo and behold, Jag stepped onto the wagon the first time he saw it. The wagon enabled us to take him out in the community and make him a part of the family.

Over time, the injuries began to take their toll. He slowly lost interest in his nightly walks and eventually was resigned to simply riding around on the wagon. Last month, he could not gather up the strength to walk at all, and we quickly ran him over to our vet.

We all know where this story goes and ultimately ends. Jag’s lung ailment had progressed to levels where it was very difficult for him to breathe. He was in distress. We, of course, could not put him through that and decided, with heavy hearts, to put him down.

Pulling Jag on the cart was not without its personal toll. At close to 60 years of age, lifting a 140-pound animal onto the cart, often several times per day, resulted in aches and pains that I never felt before. In the days since his passing, the physical aches and pains have all but gone away. Getting rid of the pain in our hearts, however, will take much longer to heal.

It’s a small consolation to get 15 years out of a dog. The vet told us it was due in part to the care that we give him, which was comforting. People would marvel about his size, beauty, coat, gentleness, but more than anything his perseverance to overcome his injuries.

My wife and I have owned and will continue to own other dogs, each of whom have been or will be special in their own way. However, Jag had a uniqueness about him that put him at the top. He will forever be missed. As I said to him moments before he was put down, “Jag, you are the best!”

CRAIG REEVES is a resident of Tujunga. He can be reached at creeves@wwfi.com.

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