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A damn good dog

Geiger’s Champale Jenna January came into our lives in 2007. We knew her as JJ. She was born in the shadow of Phipps Plaza in Buckhead and located for us by Jenny Woodlee, thus the last portion of her registered name. JJ was a yellow Labrador Retriever weighing in at just under 100 pounds in her prime. Our daughters May Melton and Livia Lanier, now 21 and 17 respectively, grew up with JJ. Though technically a ‘˜yellow’ lab, JJ was almost pure white in color. When she was about two, a male dog who was not from Buckhead got to JJ through a fence and, some time later, she delivered 13 illegitimate puppies all of which were almost completely black. JJ and the runt of that litter, a female the girls dubbed Chanel to lend class and shore up her questionable social standing, have been part of the family, sharing three different homes with us. JJ loved being with the Geigers no matter what we were doing. She retrieved hundreds of doves for me. She watched soccer games always keeping her eye on the ball. She lived to swim. She loved to ride in the back of a pickup truck and would go anywhere at anytime just to feel the breeze blowing in her face. JJ wore a dog’s smile on that sweet face almost all the time and had a heart as big as the entire animal kingdom. She also had a big appetite. She once ate the entire net that encircled a very large trampoline one bite at a time which made for same very interesting yard art to be enjoyed when I mowed the grass. JJ was very laid back until I walked outside with a gun or wearing camouflage. Then, she would jump in the back of the truck with her blood up and ready for the killing to begin. It is an odd dichotomy bred into hunting Labs for generations. Like us all, JJ slowed down as she aged but she walked for miles every morning with Laura until about two weeks ago. One day she refused to walk. We took her to the vet and Dr. Alex Zilliox did some x-rays which found an enlarged heart and multiple cancerous tumors. JJ was on borrowed time and we took her home to say our farewells. She was brushed, pampered and lounged in a kiddie pool Laura bought for her. She ate like a king. I didn’t know they had filet mignon dog food but they do. Our sweet neighbor brought her some. On a Sunday evening, I took JJ to the farm she had grown up visiting. She rode in the back of the truck. I got out a gun and we did a little mock hunting. I fired a few shots at the water. Her blood got up as she looked for game I had no intention of shooting. She couldn’t last long but she stayed at my side until I put that gun down. No amount of filet mignon or pampering could stop cancer, however, and JJ’s breathing became labored. One morning we realized her time had come. That afternoon, JJ took her last ride in the back of the truck. Laura and I knelt beside her, rubbing her and cooing in her ear as Dr. Alex gave her an injection that quickly brought those labored breaths to a merciful end. We were with her when her sweet spirit left for another dimension. It was bittersweet for us but liberating for JJ. We all knew we had done the right thing. I know in my heart that JJ felt the same way. As we dried our tears, the four humans in the room agreed that our society needs to come around to the idea of similar euthanasia for any willing, coherent human being whose quality of life has deteriorated to the point of no return. Why prolong suffering when you have the means to end it humanely? Rest in peace JJ! You were a damn good dog and I will miss you in the dove field this weekend. I will spread at least a few of your ashes there.

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