A dog's life in Southwest Portland: Coyotes, Gabriel Park and dodging traffic on Multnomah Boulevard
No reminiscence about "Jack," our Jack Russel terrier, who succumbed to canine diabetes 10 years ago this month, would be complete without mention of Gabriel Park's off-leash area, a place that provided the happiest and most rewarding experiences of his life.
After only a handful of visits, Jack had the park on canine radar. He knew where the fun was, could smell it on the wind, and couldn't wait to get there. Once my daughter came into the house crying, in near-hysterics. Jack had gotten out of the yard and was high-tailing it down the street. I jumped in my pickup and found him gauging the Multnomah Boulevard traffic across the street from the post office, ready to make a run for Gabriel Park.
Thereafter, and for all but the last year of his life, you didn't dare utter the phrase "dog park" unless you fully intended to take Jack for an outing. This I can tell you: Jack Russell terriers are capable of a very obvious sulk.
One hot afternoon at the park, an older gentleman came up and offered to paint a portrait of our dog. He said that if we provided him with a photo and a phone number, we could meet up when his portrait was complete. I gladly accepted. The artist said there was no charge, but I insisted he accept a $20 token of my appreciation, for art supplies.
That portrait still occupies a special place in our living room.
We almost lost Jack one night, when three coyotes came into our yard. It was the only time I ever saw him scared. Another time he hiked with us to the top of Neahkahnie Mountain near Manzanita on the Oregon Coast. He found his way to a rocky outcropping and sat looking at the panorama of sea and sky. It was the highest geographic point he ever reached in his life.
The diabetes came on suddenly in his 10th year, May of 2009. He gained weight, became sluggish, and spent most of his time curled up in bed. We wrestled with homecare, to the point of injecting him with insulin.
The only option became intensive care at a pet hospital. The veterinarian counseled against this, saying that Jack would have to be managed for the rest of his life. She asked me to think about whether having him alone in a hospital with tubes sticking out of him was really the humane choice.
My daughter and the children's' mother simply could not be there, so my son and I brought Jack into a quiet examination room in the busy clinic. The veterinarian said that sometimes people talk to their pets at the end, so I did. I was amazed how quickly it was over.
I went to Gabriel Park a few times after that. Watching the dogs in the off-leash area frolic, chase Frisbees, and check each other out at both ends, I felt the spirit of the best dog a family could ever have.
Multnomah Village resident Mark Ellis is the author of "A Death on the Horizon," a novel of political upheaval and cultural intrigue.
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