Our daughter has had a best friend for years now, about nine years, if memory serves.
The friend’s name is Jack, and of all the friends our daughter’s brought home — boy or girl — Jack was the one who seemed to connect with the whole family. He is smart, athletic with a winning personality. Other friends have possessed similar traits but not such a strong combination as Jack.
Over the years, my wife and I have watched Jack grow and mature. We are proud of the adult he has become and the influence he has had on our daughter.
Now, I am not only writing to praise Jack but to mourn our eventual loss. Jack has terminal lymphoma, and doctors have given him just weeks to live. Since his diagnosis, Jack has slowed down a bit. He is living with us in Goldsboro, and we are witnessing his gradual decline. In his eyes and when he speaks, it is easy to see the same ol’ Jack we have known for years. When he was young and running around the yard, swimming in the pool or gigging for frogs, Jack was always at the top of his game. As a quick study, Jack proved himself to be an educational powerhouse. He always was quick to learn and hard to fool most of the time. That’s one of the things that makes his health condition so unbearable for our family. When talking to Jack, we see the life in his eyes and hear it in his voice, but the lethargy that comes with his disease has slowed him down quite a bit.
When we learned that Jack only has a few weeks to live, we made sure he came home with us. Doctors said the cancer had spread to the point that medical treatment would do little else than make him comfortable. So that’s what we have tried to do. Jack seems to appreciate it, although he doesn’t say anything or offer thanks. We don’t expect any signs of gratitude from Jack. We can tell that he is thankful to be with us rather than in a hospital receiving useless treatments.
Now I have gone on about what are Jack’s last days, but I have failed to tell you how he and our daughter met. She was a home-schooled seventh-grader. A decision was made to home school Jack, as well. He didn’t take well to the classroom; never did. When the two met, they hit it off right away. They seemed to enjoy the same things: watching TV, listening to music, running around outside — especially playing on our daughter’s trampoline — and preparing and eating kid favorites, such as hot dogs, mac-’n-cheese, cookies and others. The two seemed inseparable. Both seemed to depend on each other. My wife even took to acting as a surrogate mother to Jack. He was separated from his mom a month or so before we met him.
As Jack and our daughter grew up, their connection became stronger. You know, with some friends, the relationship starts to wither with each one finding different interests. Not Jack and our daughter. They have remained inseparable. And with technology, the two remained close even when miles separated them.
So we don’t know how much time Jack has left. Whether it is hours, days, weeks or months, it will not be long enough. What we do know is that when the time comes, and Jack leaves this world, it will be our daughter who will be most affected. After all, Jack’s her best friend, confidant and as a Jack Russell terrier mix, he is the only dog she has ever owned. Until that day, we will all continue to care deeply for him.
Duke Conover is editor of the News-Argus. Email Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 252-676-6813.