November 1992 ~ January 5, 2007
On January 5th, suffering from failing kidneys and liver, the last member of our original "pack" crossed the Rainbow Bridge to be with Scout, Beamer and Dickens. T.J.'s struggle was mercifully brief lasting only a few weeks. In his final days no longer able to stand, and unwilling to eat we knew that despite our veterinarian's best efforts it was time to say good-bye....in his last moments Maureen & I honestly feel T.J. was asking us to let go and help him crossover.
T.J. was 5-6 months old when he joined our family in March of 1993. We adopted him from the Animal Rescue League of Pittsburgh a few days after his owners had surrendered him. T.J.'s name is taken from the famous confederate general Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson. Maureen felt my rescue of this little guy was an act of rebellion....I had been strongly warned that there would be "No more Dogs!" added to our family....since I had failed to listen he should be named accordingly.
He was unnaturally timid from the beginning and we suspect he had been abused. In our experience most dogs...especially as puppies...are naturally trusting and playful. Not T.J....he was afraid of so many things...noise, sudden movements and men. Any attempt to touch or pet him was met with cowering and urination. Raised voices sent him into hiding. Fortunately Dickens seemed to sense T.J.'s anxiety and fearfulness. Over the course of the next ten years Dickens never stopped mentoring T.J. He taught T.J. playfulness, he literally would tug at T.J. to "come" or "go". Dickens taught T.J. to trust through example....by interacting with our family and showing him that people could be trusted and were loving. To a great extent T.J. overcame his fearfulness...When Dickens passed away some of the old anxiety returned and you could sense he seemed lost. However during the three years since Dickens' passing and as we added new members to the pack, T.J. seemed to have found a new peace. He began to enjoy human contact more than ever before...he became more trusting and in some ways more confident in himself and family. he also enjoyed wrestling and romping with Radley and Lionel. He would walk with Lionel and I, unleashed, bounding beside Lionel with legs younger than his 14 years...
T.J.'s final week was the battle we've sadly become too familiar with...Everyday I took him to the Vet on the way to work for fluids and blood work....all in the hope that somehow we could stop time and rejuvenate his body. On the way home I would pick him up...always hoping that this was the day...this was the treatment that would "bring him back" Of course I knew better..... In the final days he couldn't stand and stopped eating. On Friday Maureen and I went to work knowing that at days end we would meet at the Vet's and have to make a decision. As I lifted him to carry him to the car for our morning trip to the Vet and another round of fluids...and realizing this would probably be the last time he saw his home and companions, we visited each member of our pack to say goodbye. They licked T.J.'s nose and face as I held him...they all seemed to understand. That evening after work I drove to the Vet's anguishing over the decision that I knew must be made. It began to rain....as I drew within a few miles of my destination strong sunlight burst through the sky that only moments before had been filled with dark clouds...and suddenly a rainbow appeared stretching from horizon to horizon...spreading its glistening colors before me...directly across the road I was traveling. The Rainbow Bridge...it was God's affirmation that T.J. would soon be with Scout, Dickens and Beamer in paradise. At the Vet's Maureen and I spent time holding T.J. and talking to him...as we had done with Beamer and Scout. Reminding him how much we loved him...thanking him for his companionship...telling him again the stories of his youth and reassuring him that he would soon be well and whole again....we could see the pleading in his eyes asking that we let go....and so we did.
As I write this and reflect on his life, I remember the cute puppy that he was when we rescued him...actually stunningly handsome with his beautiful fawn colored coat and doe eyes....I remember with great sadness how he struggled with almost everything around him and smile when I recall his moments of happiness with Maureen, Shelly, Scout and Dickens...and as with every companion's life I share, I learned something....Throughout the early part of T.J.'s life I was frequently frustrated by my inability to connect with him and his sometimes bizarre almost neurotic behavior. In those early years my frustration sometimes gave way to impatience and rejection. "As long as he was happy with Maureen or Shelly I won't bother with him" I reasoned. Anyway I had Dickens, Scout and Beamer as loving canine companions. But relationships take work...human or canine...Canine tend to come more easily because dogs are generally more trusting...more forgiving than people. But in life...whether human or canine...when one can't reach out...can't teach...can't be patient...the other must... accepting the other for the life they are. In later years I know T.J. and I both did that for each other...another life lesson learned. In the end he found peace with his life...he was no longer the timid, unsure dog of his youth.
T.J. now rests next to Dickens and Beamer in The Rolling Acres Pet Cemetery.
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