Amidst the many tasks I was trying to accomplish this evening, my daughter Aubrey asked me to read her essay for English. Aubrey is a high school junior and an emerging writer. She wrote about our old dog Jack and her older brother, Geoffrey. I brought Jack home as a little puppy when Geoffrey was 5. I had seen his litter for 8 week vaccinations and he was one of the puppies that didn't have a home yet. He came home with me that night. Geoffrey is off at college now and Jack has been gone for several years. As Aubrey writes, he was always Geoffrey's dog. I was there for his passing that she writes about and remember it like it was yesterday. It is interesting to hear it reflected on through someone else's eyes. I was so moved by what she wrote, I asked her if I could post her story as a "guest blog".
A Peaceful Companion by Aubrey Kraabel
Jack was our old wise guard dog. From the moment he came into our family, he fit in. He was a big silly lab as a puppy and a calm, stable companion in his later years. Jack was a family dog. We all loved him but none of us could deny the fact that he was really Geoffrey’s dog. Geoffrey used to let him sleep on the beds and couches and could spend hours on the floor playing with him. It wasn’t hard to tell that Jack felt the same way about Geoffrey. Jack was loyal to us all, but the rest of us were like distant relatives compared to Geoffrey.
Jack stayed with us for nearly twelve years, through moving to a new house, the addition of our younger brother and several changes in our cast of pets. Jack died in the fall, as the days were getting colder. We were all there when he let go. It was cold out on the grass of the lawn, but there was a heavy chill in the air that had nothing to do with the temperature. We said our last goodbyes, petting his soft black fur and telling him we loved him. My parents had done everything they could for him, but there was no cure for his old age.
The afternoon ticked on after Jack’s heart stopped, oblivious to the pain in our chests. One-by-one, my family and I trickled back inside, all except Geoffrey. Geoffrey stayed curled up next to Jack. Geoffrey remained there for hours, spread out on the grass. Jack was at his side, finally peaceful and free of the pain from his joints.
I had never seen anything like it before. My closed-off, “tough guy” brother was laying in complete silence next to his companion’s body. Geoffrey has never been an emotional person, nor has he ever been a “family man”. He spent most of his high school days either at work, school, sports or a friend’s house. He was rarely home. So much so in fact that it became the family joke that he really just stored his stuff at the house and stopped by to change and eat the contents of the fridge.
That day, however, he stayed home. He was at Jack’s side until the light faded to a soft grey against the surrounding trees. Geoffrey returned all the favors that Jack had done for him, protecting Jack and staying faithfully at his side until the last moment.
I remember standing on the smooth wood of the kitchen looking out into the yard. Seeing Geoffrey show such loyalty and love for Jack gave me a new understanding of my distant older brother and brought us together. I knew exactly how he felt. Although Jack was not really my dog, I’d been through it all before. My family has always had pets. We learned from a very young age what it’s like to lose them. My brother will always remain a mystery to me, but I know we can always find a common ground when it comes to our pets.
When Geoffrey finally came inside, we didn’t say much, just letting him have his space. That night at dinner we ate together like always. Somehow we found ourselves smiling and laughing as we shared all the old stories about Jack. Today, Geoffrey still has Jack’s ID tag on his keychain, carrying a memory of his best friend with him wherever he goes.
That Fall day, Geoffrey was there for Jack in his final hour and my family and I were there for Geoffrey afterwards. Jack’s health had been rapidly declining. We all knew there was nothing else that could be done. Jack had reached a point where he didn’t need anymore fancy treatments or anymore fighting for what was already lost; he just needed a loyal friend to be by his side at the end. Geoffrey fulfilled that need. Although my brother has never been as good at being there for his human family, I know that he can rise to the occasion when he needs to.
Geoffrey’s actions demonstrate a lesson for us all. We should all remember to be there for each other. Whether that means keeping a friend’s spirits up when all they want to do is eat ice cream and cry over The Notebook for the hundredth time, or just having a presence within your family. We all have hardships and challenges. Facing them is much less intimidating when you know you are not alone. The world is a much better place when we work to understand and be there for each other.
After all, I think we all need someone who will be there for us until the very end.