21, 2002 Sharing one's life with a Great Dane brings tremendous
joy, countless amusements and some unique challenges. Danes are
beautiful, spirited animals. Their flame burns strong and bright.
It's a flame that warms you. It's a flame that comforts you. It's
a flame that adds sparkle to your life. It's a flame that illuminates
you and your household in countless ways.
the Dane-Flame is a temporal flame; you want it to last forever,
but it doesn't. It can't. When your Dane's flame begins to fade,
your mind wanders to brighter days. Your heart feels a chill as
you realize that all too soon you will be losing that bright, wonderful
flame. Too soon you will have to say good-bye.
flame has been flickering since March, 2001. Those of you who have
visited this site on a regular basis know all about that. On Tuesday,
January 15, the flame was extinguished by the prick of a needle.
With tears in our eyes and a lump in our throat we
said farewell to our beloved Jabberwocky.
Jabber was the son of CH Amherst-Harlewood Bubba Rondo and CH Amherst-Harlewood
Gabrielle. We brought him home along with a mischievous merle
littermate named Merlin when he was 10 weeks old. I
remember the day clearly. It was February 4, 1995. Our household
was instantly transformed into a raucous playhouse.
Both puppies grew up to be lovely dogs with superb temperaments.
Merlin was blessed with wonderful health, but Jabber was not so
lucky. I won't waste time documenting Jabber's health problems.
They were many and varied. We weathered them together. He seemed
to take every setback in stride. This past year was the hardest.
In March Jabber underwent TPLO surgery to repair a failed cruciate
ligament in his knee. The surgery was a disaster and left Jabber
crippled. (See details here.) Somehow
Jabber persevered. He seemed to be telling us that it doesn't matter
what you can't do it's what you CAN do that matters most.
During the past several months Jabber's rear legs became increasingly
weak and uncoordinated. His neurological problem was accelerating
and there was nothing we could do about it except watch carefully
to make sure he was still comfortable and happy. He was. By December
Jabber had lost the ability to rise without assistance although
he could still walk reasonably well. Running, which he did frequently,
was a modified bunny-hop. Jabber seemed undeterred by his motor
problems, but by Christmas the strain of lifting him was getting
to be too much for my slight frame. The clock was ticking. We decided
to put Jabber on Prednisone. We hoped that a low daily dose of steroids
would restore some mobility. It worked. Jabber was stronger and
required less lifting. His coordination didn't improve, in fact
it continued to deteriorate, but he was more mobile and lively.
It was a reprieve for both of us. Right after New Year's Day we
had a significant snowfall, the first in a decade. It shut down
the city for two days. Jabber and Merlin frolicked in the snow.
They had a grand time. It was a delight to watch.
Jabber was happy right up until the end. He went out several times
Monday to chase animal scents with Merlin. He did so with great
enthusiasm, rapidly bunny-hopping up the hill behind the house and
exploring all around. Later in the day Merlin, Jabber and I went
for a walk halfway around the pond feed corn to a large flock of
Canada geese. A walk to the feeding station was always the highlight
of Jabber's day. He liked to sniff along the forest edge, picking
up fresh scents from passing deer, raccoon, and whatnot. He liked
to wade into the pond and see the geese scatter as he took a long
drink of water. He loved being outdoors because that's where the
wild things are. Jabber was always fascinated by wildlife.
Late Monday night, as I was getting Jabber up for his last potty
break, something seemed to "let go" in his rear legs.
He needed a lot of assistance, even to walk. We realized then that
Jabber was nearing the end. I stayed with him for most of the night.
He was shaken by his condition, but comfortable. By morning he had
lost the ability to move his hind legs and he was incontinent. We
knew it was time to let him go.
It was early Tuesday morning. Jabber was incapacitated, although
fully alert. We felt the gentlest thing would be to euthanize him
at home. Unfortunately our veterinarian couldn't come out to the
house on such short notice. She offered to send somebody to help
us with Jabber if we were unable to get him into the car. Somehow
we managed to do it how I don't know and we drove
straight to the clinic. To minimize the trauma we decided to keep
Jabber in the back seat of the car where he was laying in my lap.
He was totally alert right up to the end. He tried to get away from
the needle as he felt the solution entering his system. That was
the hardest part, but he soon lost consciousness and then he was
Jabber had a very strong will to live. That's probably why he survived
everything he faced until now. Wherever he is, and I do believe
his spirit endures, I'm sure Jabber is at peace and he knows how
much we loved him.
Arriving home, feeling very alone without Jabber, I immediately
walked over to the feeding station at the edge of the pond to put
out some corn for the geese and swans. I thought about all the times
Jabber was with me for the feedings, of how much he loved doing
that. I was thinking to myself that Jabber will always be there
with me in my heart when I cast out the corn. Suddenly
a big white Mute swan from the other end of the pond took to wing
and flew across the pond towards me. With utter shock, I realized
this was a stranger. Our other two Mutes were right there in front
of me. The "new" swan flying towards me may well have
been one of the two offspring that left us last January. We haven't
seen them since. Or maybe the swan was from another place entirely.
Whatever the case, I like to think it was a sign from Jabber. Maybe
it was his way of telling me that his spirit is soaring free. Or
maybe he was trying to tell me that in his own way, he has come
home. Perhaps both.
That beautiful swan stayed on the pond for the rest of the afternoon.
When dusk fell he took to wing and we have not seen him again. After
Jabber's death, we transported his body directly to Clemson University's
Veterinary Diagnostics Center for a complete necropsy. We asked
that specific attention be given to his spine, urinary tract and
right rear leg. We are still waiting for the report. I will share
the results as soon as we have them.
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