Today is a day I have dreaded for years: Jamie is no more. For nearly 13 years, he's been my sidekick and the leader of our little canine pack, but those days are over now. What an amazing journey it has been, taking us all over North America and enjoying our time with so many people, dogs, and animals. While I'm sad that it's over, I'm also overcome with gratitude for having the opportunity to see life through Jamie's eyes so many times.
I've put together this post within hours of his death because I want to let his many friends on Facebook know what happened. There is a true community of people who have loved Jamie for many years, and I know many of them will cry as hard today as we have. If you're one of them, this post won't make it OK, but I hope it will answer a few questions and help you begin the process of healing and moving forward.
Jamie had a scare last week, when he was suddenly unable to stand or walk after a truck ride back from the mountains. But he seemed to be recovering slowly and steadily. Then today he had a long-scheduled vet appointment, to have them take a look at a bump on his eyelid.
Megan loaded him up in her car and drove to our vet, about 60 miles east of us near Three Forks. On the way, he vomited forcefully. That's not like him: he has never gotten carsick or had any negative reaction to rides. Then he just lay down in his own vomit, which is also not like him. Something seemed very wrong, but since he's been on meds for his back issue last week it seemed possible he was just reacting to the meds.
At the vet, they quickly determined the eyelid bump was just a stye and nothing to worry about, but they wanted to figure out why he was vomiting. He was also struggling to stand up when he got there, which hasn't been the case the last few days.
Then he started struggling to breathe, and his gums grew pale (indicating anemia). So they did X-rays, and found that he had what appeared to be some liquid in his chest. But when they went to investigate what it was, it turned out to be air: one lung was leaking air into his chest cavity. They released the air and he seemed a little better, but then more air leaked into his chest and they had to do it again.
If he were a young healthy dog, they might have done surgery to remove part or all of the lung that was damaged. But at his age (nearly 13, the high end of the expected lifespan for Samoyeds), it's unlikely he would survive anything like that, and even if he did his quality of life would likely be very poor. So we made the hard decision to end his suffering.
In hindsight, Jamie has been slowing down quite a bit this summer. He has struggled to get in and out of the truck, and I often need to help him. His weight has dropped to just 60 pounds, and it seems that he has lost muscle. And he has been confused and disoriented often lately.
That said, he has also been a trooper about continuing to enjoy life. His appetite never wavered, and he has been quick to put the other dogs in their place. After rarely coming upstairs to the bedroom at night since we moved to Butte in 2020, this summer he has come upstairs to sleep with the rest of the pack almost every night, even after his back injury last week, which made coming up the stairs a slow (and likely painful) process.
While Jamie has been fitting in whatever joys he can this summer, I've also had a sense of urgency about his signs of aging. I've taken him on so many early morning drives in the mountains, and we've gone to stay at cabins together several times. It's hard to believe that just a few days ago I woke up with him at a cabin in the mountains and watched him joyfully run across an alpine meadow. When Megan and I hiked up to Highlands Lookout last weekend, I realized that I could look in nearly every direction from up there and see places I had been with Jamie this summer.
A life well lived
When Jamie turned 5 years old, I wrote a blog post about how he was about to become the oldest Samoyed I'd had, and was still young and strong and healthy. The 8 years since then have exceeded my expectations in every way. I can't believe how much we've seen and done. It's sad that he's gone, but I feel like we fit in everything we possibly could. Countless times, I've let other "important" things slide so that I could spend time with Jamie. And I am so glad that I did.
Folks may wonder how the other dogs are doing. They clearly know something sad has happened, and they're being quiet this evening. Dogs tend to bounce back and get on with life, but Alice will probably struggle a bit since she and Jamie have had each other almost every day for nearly 12 years.
We're glad we took Nancy and Isaac on a fun hike a week ago in the Tobacco Root Mountains, because we probably won't do anything like that again soon. We won't be leaving Alice home alone, and she's too old for big hikes now. So we'll be just hanging out at home together, enjoying life as Jamie taught us to do.
Will we continue to have Jamie's Facebook page? It's much too early to know, but if we do continue posting it will be different. I enjoyed channeling Jamie's joie de vivre for all these years, but those days are over as of today. Maybe I'll post occasional photos of the pack, in my own voice. We'll see. First, the pack needs time to mourn and heal.
Love you, Jamie. Thanks for being so fucking amazing for so long. All five of us are better for having known and loved you.