No matter how prepared you think you might be, the loss of a beloved pet is always a hard blow to absorb. It doesn’t get easier the older you get, or the older they are when they pass or how long it’s been since they’ve been gone. The emptiness they leave behind is felt in the quiet of the house, the hole in your morning routine, and the extra space on the bed.
Nearly a year has passed since we said goodbye to our loyal Labrador retriever/garbage disposal mix Jethro Bodine. I take comfort in knowing that he passed away silently in his sleep at a ripe old age of 13. Although we only shared our home with him for five short years, he will live on forever in the memories he left behind.
Not long after he passed, my husband, Scott, and I received a note from his grandmother where she reminisced of the first time they came to visit us in Wisconsin. This was just a month after Jethro had moved in with us.
“I will never forget how I found him up on the kitchen counter and I pointed my finger at him to get down, and he just kept jumping from the table to the counter,” she wrote. “He was a good boy and will be missed.”
That same visit, as we stood outside saying our goodbyes before they headed back to Florida, Jethro, fresh from a mud puddle, jumped into the front seat of their brand new, freshly-washed truck. Needless to say, their departure was delayed.
He was stubborn as a mule, as inquisitive as a toddler, could eat like a goldfish, and could destroy the house in three-seconds flat; he was Jethro.
Friends and family were constantly delighted and amazed at the various videos and photos I posted online of Jethro’s happenings. (Check out “Jethro’s Big Mess” for a taste.) One photo depicting him “helping” take out the trash has circulated around the web, turning him slightly Internet famous. The photo eventually caught the attention of a photo researcher and can now be found as reason No. 43 in the book “67 Reasons Why Cats are Better Than Dogs”, available at a book store near you.
There is a certain comfort I find in knowing that others, even those who never met Jethro, found joy in his activities. If I was to write about all the crazy antics that lovable mutt pulled over the years, I would have a 1,000-page tome. Instead, I’ll let you in on just a few, and I hope you can share in the joy that was Jethro Bodine.
Up until the day Jethro moved into our home, he had been an outside dog in Michigan. Needless to say, living in a house for the first time was an adjustment. He was very intelligent, sometimes too smart for his own good, and was potty trained easily. Jethro was a perfect angel - as long as someone was home - but as soon as he was left to his own devices, watch out.
Separation anxiety, coupled with an insatiable hunger, meant many “fun” adventures. He would climb on counters to get to food, empty out the sink of any dishes, he even carried the toaster and a frying pan to his dog bed once (I think he just wanted to make us breakfast, he was so thoughtful). And if you forgot to close the door to the garbage bin, oh boy.
We eventually bought him a kennel as a way to keep him out of trouble while we were gone. However, Jethro quickly learned how to open the gate (see? Smart.) My husband blocked the handle with a piece of wood attached by zip ties, but it didn’t take long for Jethro to snap each tie off, systematically one-by-one.
I once came home to find a whole bunch of bananas peeled and eaten; yet they were all still attached at the top. I still scratch my head in wonder of how he managed that one.
On more than one occasion he got into a bag of dog food, eating nearly half the bag in one sitting. Never seen a dog with a stomach that large, or a dog so happy with himself.
Another time I came home to discover Jethro had found a bottle of baby aspirin and ate the entire contents. That bought him a trip to the vet’s office. When I picked him up a few hours later I was told he would feel lethargic for a while. I admit, I felt bad for the poor boy. But once I opened the car door he was up the hill running and chasing our other dog without a hitch in his step.
That same year he got his head stuck in the cat door and broke out of the house and took an unsupervised stroll down a busy highway.
His whole life, Jethro refused to swim, even going so far as to just let himself sink under the water instead of attempting the doggie paddle. Then, during a trip to a dog park, he randomly jumped into the water after another dog. He quickly realized his mistake and tried to turn back, but couldn’t resist the urge to sniff this new friend. So he swam in circles, for a good long while, following his new buddy. And ever since, he could swim.
He refused to go outside if it was raining. He once held his bladder for over 12 hours because of inclement weather. Another testament to his bladder control was after we learned he had Lyme disease. The vet required a urine sample in order to test his kidney function. My mission, if I chose to accept it, was fill up a small plastic cup with Jethro pee. I followed him around the yard holding a pie pan... attached to a yardstick. When he started to lift his leg I would sneak the pan under him. But, as soon as he saw it, he stopped mid-stream and walked away. I even tried turning my back to him and pretend I didn’t see him. The neighbors must have thought I was insane. I swear he held it in for 24 hours, the little stinker.
We always take our dogs (sometimes cats too) when we go to visit family in Michigan. Having learned our lesson, Jethro was never left unattended during pit stops. Then one day, we both really had to use the restroom and thought “he should be fine for a few minutes.” He must have been eyeing up the cooler the whole ride because in five-minutes flat, he had it opened and eaten a whole package of venison jerky.
On our last trip to Michigan with him, the dogs rode in the back of the truck. Since I knew we were going to be gone for a while, I had cleaned out the fridge and packed up whatever perishable items that could be used during our visit. Including four sticks of butter. What I didn’t know was Scott had put that cooler bag in the back with Jethro. Jethro’s good fortune, not so much our’s.
When we arrived at our destination sometime after 1 a.m. and opened up the back, we were greeted by a grinning Jethro and an overpowering odor. Words cannot accurately describe the smell that is butter vomit. The dog bed and blankets were beyond saving, and after a few trips to the car wash, the monstrosity was gone… however I swear I still get a whiff every now and then. Lingering reminders of Jethro.
A few years ago Scott and I went on a canoe day-trip with my parents on the Wisconsin River. My folks were in one canoe, Scott, Jethro and I were in the other. After a few close calls where the old boy nearly capsized us, it was smooth sailing, until my parents tipped over their ride. Their paddle went rushing down the river so Scott and my dad hopped in our canoe chasing after it, leaving my mom, Jethro and me on the sandbar. Before I had a chance to grab him, Jethro went running full-speed down the bank, I chased after him but he ignored me and dove into the river paddling after the canoe. He had to save his boy. I could hear Scott yell “don’t let him get into the boat, he’ll tip us” as Jethro approached. The chase for a lost paddle then turned into avoidance maneuvers. He never caught them.
One of my favorite memories of Jethro is one my husband will never let me live down. After a particularly difficult day at work, he came home with a “white trash burrito” from his favorite burrito place. In case you’re wondering, it’s spam, Velveeta, baked beans, tater tots and ketchup rolled in a tortilla. Who could resist? Scott set his meal down on the coffee table and told me to watch it (I still maintain I didn’t hear him). I turned my back for a second and that’s all it took. Jethro snatched it up and in no time, it was gone. I laughed so hard I cried. Scott just cried.
Jethro was a small dog in a big dog’s body. No matter how much space there wasn’t on the couch or bed, he found a way to sneak in. Always had to be on your lap or next to you, especially Scott. Those two could be inseparable. They went for daily two-mile walks around town, watched hours of Trailer Park Boys, and, when it came close to dinnertime, they both gave me the same “I’m hungry look.”
He used to love crawling under the blanket at night and lay between the two of us. I woke up many mornings feeling chilled because Jethro was on his back with his feet in the air holding the blanket up like a tent.
Jethro was also not a fan of storms. If the clap of thunder didn’t wake me at night, his 50 pounds standing on top of me with his nose inches from my face surely did the trick. He wouldn’t go back to sleep unless he was under the covers lying in my arms. He was our big, furry baby.
Cooking was always an adventure with Jethro because he loved to stand right behind you and drool. Oh boy could he drool. I have become a master of avoidance maneuvers in the kitchen, and after more than a few near-split experiences, I learned how to navigate around slippery puddles. Preparing dinner seems less exciting now that he’s not there.
Life with Jethro was one of patience, forgiveness, and cleaning… lots of cleaning. But in the end, it was worth it to have that fuzzy troublemaker in our lives. He made life interesting and taught me that no matter how much you want to, you can’t control everything in life. Sometimes, a little chaos is worth it for the memories.