I adopted Jack as a healthy, one-year old Pit Bull mix. He was an abandoned stray, who I met at the Andover Animal Hospital in Andover, Massachusetts. I remember that day — it was the closest thing I have ever experienced to love at first sight. He came right up to me as I sat on the cold hospital floor. I looked him in the eyes and asked, “Would you like to come home with me?” Jack lowered his large, square Pit Bull head and thumped it into my chest. I took that as a yes.
From that day on, Jack and I were inseparable. I took him everywhere with me — walks, work, to my hometown of Staten Island, trips all over. He was my partner in crime.
A couple years later, on December 28, 2007, I noticed a lump on Jack about three-fourths of the way down his spine. I brought him to a local 24-hour animal hospital. They looked at him (no X-ray) and said it was some swelling that would subside shortly. So Jack and I went home.
The next day I went to work and kissed Jack goodbye. I could tell he was still in visible pain. I left him with my girlfriend at the time; she had the day off and could monitor him. At 1 p.m., I received a phone call that Jack’s legs had completely given out. I jumped in my car and sped home, not knowing what I would be coming home to.
Entering the house, I saw Jack gazing at me helplessly. He had himself propped up on his front legs while his back legs were limp and lifeless. I immediately scooped him up and drove to a nearby vet.
They took him for tests and X-rays. When the vet came back, she told me that he had extreme trauma to the spine, to the point that his likelihood of walking again — even with surgery — would be less than 5 percent. They recommended euthanization. I broke down like I never have before, and asked if I could see Jack. They led me to the back room where other vets, vet techs, and staff were running around.
Amongst the chaos I saw Jack, who was drugged at the time, holding himself up and staring at me. I knelt in front of him and cradled his face in my hands. I asked him, “What do you want to do, buddy?” With those words, Jack lowered his head and once again thumped his large, square head into my chest. I felt he was telling me he didn’t want to leave this Earth yet. We decided to roll the dice.
I took Jack to another hospital about an hour away, where a specialist was ready to perform the surgery. They told me it would cost more than $10,000, and helped me apply for a specific credit card meant for these emergencies.
After surgery, we tried to see if we could regain some use in Jack’s legs though water therapy, acupuncture, and massage. Nothing helped. And so it was.
Life is very different now. Sure, you can look at our story and feel bad. You can think how tough it may be. You may even see Jack and I walking around and let out an audible “awwwww” and shake your head.
But look harder. There’s something more here. I am a blessed man. I was given a best friend with an unwavering and courageous spirit, which continues to teach me every day what a true love of life is.
Sure, there are some challenges. Jack needs his bladder expressed four times per day. He needs to be stimulated to defecate. He can’t stand in one place for too long, and he can’t walk outside without the use of his wheelchair (from the ultra-amazing people at Eddie’s Wheels). But Jack has handled all of these issues with ease, and he is only getting better as the years go by.
As a result of Jack’s story, we have started a T-shirt company, JackyWheels, where you can order a Jacky Wheels shirt and help abandoned dogs at the same time. Proceeds go to the Sato Project, which rescues dogs from Dead Dog Beach in Puerto Rico and flies them to the U.S. to be adopted. Check it out and please like us on Facebook.
Jack also has a documentary about his journey:
So, that’s the story of my boy Jack, whose message and spirit shines through despite all his challenges and hardships. Keep rolling, Jack!
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About the author: Bobby Kleinau is a nutrition counselor, personal trainer, fitness manager,baseball fan, and crazy dog person. He lives in Newton, MA, with his best buddy Jack. Watch Jack and Bobby’s documentary and follow them on Facebook. You can also check out how to purchase a Jacky Wheels T-shirt — proceeds go to dog rescues.