My family's (arguably) most beloved dog, Jackson, died suddenly on Wednesday. He happened to be at my house, and spent a lovely morning outside playing with our two willing playmates and chewing a bone while they played in the sandbox. Then one minute he was sneaking the dropped mac n cheese noodles from under their picnic table as we lunched, and the next minute, he fell over in what looked like a seizure or stroke to me. After about 20 minutes (and much internal panicking on my part), he got back up and seemed fatigued, but fine. Later that afternoon Mom decided she should come get him and watch him overnight, and while she was on her way, he dropped over and had another seizure-like thing, after which he never really regained cognition. He wasn't unconscious, but was unresponsive, to be sure. Mom and Dad took him to a vet who felt a tumor in his belly and heard his lungs full of fluid - and while they were waiting for x-rays to develop, he died on the doctor's table, presumably that the tumor had burst. Quite a shock for all of us, since he never once (even up to the last few hours) had seemed anything other than healthy and happy. As my Uncle Bob put it, Jack woke up every day thinking "Wow! Today is going to be the best day ever!" - and his absence will be acutely noted in our family for quite awhile. I'm not sure if there was ever a more beloved Golden. He was so calm, so fun and easygoing, so gentle - Claire would often pull herself to stand while holding his coat, and Gabe always wanted him to sleep in his room whenever Jack was here overnight. He was the epitome of what you want in a family dog, and we will likely look a long time before we are able to fill his shoes with some new paws.
This was the first time we had to explain death to Gabe - when we put our dog Paddington to sleep a few months ago, we just told him that P's wouldn't be living with us anymore because he bit Daddy. That situation was more complicated, since he wasn't outwardly sick, and we weren't sure where to start and stop with making sense of it for a 3-year-old. This time, though, Jack got sick right in front of his eyes, and as any of you parents know, not much escapes their eyes. He took the news surprisingly well, and was better at comforting me as I tried to comfort him. We read a book together called "I Remember" by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos, which I highly recommend if you need to explain death of a pet and the circle of life to a small child. He gave me a big hug, wiped my eyes, and said, Here Mom, let's sit down and watch Wall-E. That will make you feel better (which is what we often do if he gets hurt, to help take his mind off the pain.) I'm so proud of my compassionate little man.