The moment we first met you, you stood up on two legs and raised a paw to greet Kimberly. It was like you recognized her. It was like you picked us.
You were maybe 8 or 9 months old. Just quietly hanging out, while all the other dogs were noisy and barking in their crates. It was October 4th, 2003. Your crate had your name on it: Jackson. We instantly wanted to take you home with us, but you were on-hold for an adoption. We were crushed. We spent a little more time with you, then we had to say goodbye.
I called that shelter twice a day for a week. Your reservation date came and went…and we drove two hours to come get you and take you home with us. I am still trying to find words, to explain just how happy you made us that day nearly 15 years ago. I will never forget it.
I remember the first few days when you settled into your new home. You were pretty quiet and reserved for a puppy. Too quiet, until we found those perfect chew toys and tug-ropes for you. Then you really let loose. I think Mr Carrot, and his 5 incarnations over the years, will miss you especially. Pink Pig and Blue Snake will miss you as well.
You were so whip-smart. You could fetch those toys just by hearing their nicknames. It took all of 20 minutes to teach you to sit and speak, though I am pretty sure you stretched it out a bit for the extra treats. And we learned just how strong and wild you could really be when you discovered squirrels and rabbits on those early neighborhood walks.
Speaking of nicknames, Mommy gave you many, and you answered them them all: Pumpkin, Pookie Bear, Little One. You were very generous and never offended at the names, you even wagged your tail at hearing them.
You knew whenever I called out “Mister Jukes!!” from across the house it was play-time, and I would hear your paws scampering down the hallway. I can hear those paws making tracks RIGHT NOW, clear as day. Mommy loved to play hide & seek all the time with you around the house, and you ALWAYS found her. I remember how you always hated loud thunder or fireworks, and how you barked and whimpered at the noise. Hold the puppy, hold the scary noise at bay, live for that thankful face lick when the storm passes. Even when storms were no longer scary, you still gave out those licks. It was so fun watching you figure stuff out and see you grow up.
And we grew up with you, too, Jackson. You were there for our big life changes: getting married, buying our first house, getting through losing two parents. And you changed one guy’s cold heart, during all those firsts. You and Mommy got me out of my own head, settled me down and made me loosen-up and live a little. And you filled our house with such great noise: collar tag jingles, proud and loud barks, the zoom-runs across the floor when it was time for a walk. You helped us make our house a home. Thank you.
And that bark! I can still hear your bark right here and now, as I struggle to write this. “Time to go for a walk!” and your excitement was vocal. You had an attention bark, a snack-request bark, a Mailman bark, you name it. You never had a problem getting our attention. You also never had a problem getting anybody else’s attention either: you took your watchdog duties very seriously. Inspection of all guests was mandatory, and woe to anybody who made sudden or odd movements around your pack, they got checked. You could be serious, goofy, and loving within the span of a few minutes. You made us laugh and smile so much all these years, Jackson.
Oh and Mister Jukes? I never knew a dog who mastered the art of human eye-contact as you did. Seriously! You would look people straight in the eye, and it was like you were reading them or sizing them up. But, mostly, I think it was because you were fascinated with your Humans. Your pack. Your Grandma once told your Mommy, “you’re his Person!” when she was marveling at how in-tune you were with us. She was right. You loved to just gaze into the eyes of your Humans. Especially your Mommy’s. I don’t think I ever told you just how it made us feel, seeing you wag that tail whenever we looked into your brown eyes. It was truly something.
You were always down for a last-minute road trip or adventure. So many trips that by any time you saw bags being packed, you got so excited. We took you everywhere across the country with us. You would sit high in our laps, wanting a commanding view of the road. Other times you liked to just nap and let the miles roll by. We knew who was in charge of those vacations. You loved seeing our family and parents, and you generously welcomed them into our little pack.
And when our pack members were sick, or sad, you were always there to help them feel better. You had puppy super-senses, because you would be right there for petting or a lick if somebody was down, especially Mommy. She called you her Soul Mate. A husband might take offense, but I never did. It was true.
I remember when Kimberly cried at news of Grandma’s illness, and you jumping up and nuzzling her and furiously licking away her tears. You accompanied her to Michigan, standing guard during the flurry of doctor and hospice visits. And the day her mother passed, you were right there at our side. Calm, settled, you kept watch over the pack during vulnerable times. And when we kept vigil over you these past few months of illness, and especially this heartbreaking week, I hope you feel we somehow lived-up to your boundless affection and loyalty…as should any good pack member. Everybody should have a friend as faithful and giving as you are.
As the years went on, you got a little slower. A little less agile. Your fur greyed bit. You knew times were changing, but you were still always down for playtime or a road-trip. Lap-time also became more of an intense interest on your part, along with naps. And we loved being “those people” who wanted to do nothing on a Saturday but hang around the house with our dog napping in our laps.
You were still every bit as loving and fun even as you grew into our Little Old Man, Jackson. Your pack rallied to keep life comfortable, even if you felt our adjustments around the house were probably silly. We were only too happy to be two settled-down Humans enjoying time with our Little Old Man.
And did you know you were a Zen Master in your older years, Jackson? You were! When you gave up the squirrel-chasing hobby, I recall times when you would just sit quiet and still in a sunbeam. Your eyes closed, like some meditating K9 monk. We would sometimes sit right there with you, waiting for you to open your eyes, look up, and wag that tail when you saw us.
You were a real guru, Jackson, because you taught me everything about living in the present moment.
You and I know more years passed, too quickly, but you were so determined to enjoy yourself…and your pack. Your health was so great for such a long time. You loved your morning ritual more, and craved routine in your pack. We lovingly obliged, and enjoyed every possible moment with you. We were both so, so grateful of those extra days. And you let us know that were too.
So when the time came closer that you had to say goodbye, we knew you didn’t want to. You fought so hard these past few months, stayed so happy in each present moment. We stole many extra belly rubs and nuzzles together…determined for all the time we could get. Right up until today, when you had to leave your pack. May 12, 2018, 3:15pm, peacefully resting in our arms. A long road from that day in October 2003, when you raised that paw and looked Kimberly right in the eyes. You gazed at us the very same way today before you left. I’ll never forget seeing you lift your beautiful muzzle…and touch Mommy’s face, then touch mine. Our hearts are shattered today, but somehow our hearts also overflow with the love you gave us.
I like to think you’re on the other side, hanging out with your Grandma and my uncle Claude and cousin Mark. No pain or discomfort from the ailments you escaped. Just hanging out with another pack for a little while, until we can be with you again someday.
Thank you SO MUCH for that high-five back in 2003, Jackson. It changed our lives. Thank you for everything. I miss you. We miss you. We love you.
Good boy, Jackson.
Mommy and Daddy