He was the best boy. The very best boy.
We did not know that when Jacques entered our lives 12 years ago. We only knew that he was deaf and that he’d been abandoned by his owners—presumably because they wanted to raise him for fighting, but a deaf dog wouldn’t hunt (or something). Our friend, Ken Foster, thought he’d be a great addition to our household.
Jacques’ trial play date went well: the humans and the hounds fell immediately in love with him. But we knew he was going to be a handful. “Just look at the size of those paws”, I said. “That boy’s going to be huge.”
Little did we know.
Training Jacques was surprisingly easy. Verbal cues were obviously out, but he took to hand signals quickly, and he looked to us for guidance all the time. It was winter when he arrived, and we spent weeks in the living room, him and the others on their warm tuffets. When the Saints won the Super Bowl that year and the neighborhood erupted in cheers and music and car horns, the three other hounds ran for cover, but little deaf Jacques slept through all of it. He was a joy.
As the years passed, Jacques traveled widely. He enjoyed walks and treats and licking the bowl (whatever the bowl contained). And he occasionally enjoyed cuddles with us. Given his 115 pounds, spooning with Jacques was like spooning with a person.
He was the best boy.
On a Friday night, not long before Fat Tuesday, Jacques lay down after dinner and had a hard time getting back up. He’d been a little sluggish the previous couple of days, but that was nothing new for a 12-year-old dog, so the humans felt okay going out for a bite to eat. We came back to find that Jacques was still pretty lifeless. Peter and I moved him onto a dog bed and tried to keep him comfortable, but something was clearly wrong.
John and Peter woke me around midnight and told me to come say goodbye. Jacques was where I’d left him a couple of hours earlier: quiet and still and taking shallow breaths. His nose and gums were cold. By the time I called the 24-hour vet, he was gone.
It’s selfish to say this, but I have to get it out: you spend so much energy trying to protect the ones you love. You have nightmares and daymares about horrible, profoundly unlikely scenarios, and you do everything in your power to prevent them from happening. My own recurring fear is that when I go for a run, one of the hounds will find a way to get out of the house and follow me. And so, every time I cross Elysian Fields or Esplanade or some other busy street, I take a long, slow look over my shoulder to make sure that none of them are on my heels, ready to rush into traffic.
Of course, it’s all for nothing. The end inevitably comes, and even though it may not be as awful as you’d imagined, it’s still awful. It’s enough to make you wonder why you put yourself through it—and yet we do. And we will continue to.
Two months later, and I miss him every day. Forever the best boy.