Bring on the lizard…or turtle…or…

My family is having a hard time adjusting to the death of our 14-year-old Basenji, Jack. He had seizures for the last 4 years of his life, but we had learned to manage them. They were just one of his many quirks, though not nearly as fun as the family sing-a-longs or the regular “conversations” we’d have about his begging at dinner time. (I speak fluent Basenji. Sadly, there’s not a whole lot of marketability in that….)

Since we had him for 13 of his 14 years, I knew Brian and I would have a hard time adjusting to his death, but I wasn’t really prepared for the difficulties the kids would have with it, especially our son. While Jack was alive, both of our kids often lamented his lack of enthusiasm for stereotypical dog games like fetch. (I mean, can you really blame him? You threw it, you go get it. If you didn’t want to go get it, why did you throw it in the first place?! The Basenji and I are of one mind on that particular inanity of dog-ownership.) And they weren’t too thrilled with having to track him down after he escaped from the front door, the back yard, the barrel heading over the falls. (Okay, we never tried the barrel-over-the-falls gig, but I’m pretty sure he could’ve escaped one way or another. He was just that good. Much to our chagrin and frustration.) And really, they could probably have lived without his regular usurpation of their beds. (This got more frequent as he got older because their beds are lower than ours, so he could hop up on them easier. And though the bed-share might start out well, it usually ended with a lot of growling by both dog and kid.) Life with the Basenji wasn’t easy, but, as is often the case, it was still good.

It’s the good times that the kids remember, and it’s the good times that they miss: chasing Jack up and down the halls at full throttle, dropping the leash so he could try to catch a squirrel (he caught one once and was so surprised he dropped it…for which I was thankful!), going on long, meandering walks through the neighborhood. Fun times! But our son, in particular, seems to miss the little things. Apparently, even after he got really sick, Jack would make a regular trip up to the kids’ rooms and check in after they had gone to bed. Christian said he misses hearing Jack yawn and shake his collar at night after lights out. And so tonight, after another round of tears, Christian finally asked for a turtle or a lizard. (Mackenzie has a fish named Pebbles.) “Something all my own to keep me company.” I don’t even know if you can buy a turtle, we always just found them in the yard or fields when I was growing up. Nonetheless, this weekend we’ll head over to the pet store and see what we can find.

In the meantime, we miss Jack. I don’t know when or if we’ll get  another dog. Basenjis as a breed are escape artists and we can’t really secure the house we’re currently in. And there just aren’t too many other breeds out there that can match them in personality and quirks. Yet even if we could manage to Basenji-proof the backyard and what-not, Jack was even quirkier than most. I’m not sure another dog would do. But Christian is right: the house is awfully lonely without him.


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