Life is a funny thing

For the past two days, I've been in mourning. My weekend began with a shock when I came home Thursday evening and found my Jake dead. He was a very sweet dog. I didn't even realize how well known and how well loved he was until people came out of the woodwork to comment on my Facebook notification and I realized, nearly all those people had actually known Jake. He was the kind of dog who made an impression.

Jake really was a great dog. And that's not just normal owner hubris talking. Unusual, yes. Quirky, no doubt. Jake was, as they say, a special needs dog. (If you look, there he is listed under his rescue name "Keifer".) But Jake was a special dog in more ways than one. I was told when I adopted him that he had lived on the streets in Chicago for about two years. With the passion he held for counter surfing for loaves of bread when I first got him, I was certain that he had survived the lean times during those two years on day-old bread handouts at the bakery and restaurants in Chicago.

He was in rotten shape when they found him. He had three kinds of worms. Most likely from injuries resulting from trying to bite through chain link fencing during thunderstorms, he required several root canals. His canine teeth were worn down to nubs. I was told that if he further injured his teeth, he'd probably have to be put down because his mouth would lack stability and he'd be unable to eat. So for those of you who wonder why I never once boarded Jake at a kennel, that's the reason. He also had a collapsed lung. The fine folks at Wisconsin Border Collie Rescue (an organization I intend to remember in my will) saw something in Keifer worth more than the price of some dewormer, dental surgeries, and antibiotics. A volunteer at WBCR took in Jake, rehabilitated him, loved him, and found him a forever home. They had to talk me into Jake. I'm glad they succeeded.

The funny thing is that when I got Jake, I was in a very dark place in my life. I had lost my beloved Dakota in January of that year, and was going through a particularly nasty divorce. I was being terrorized by my soon-to-be ex, and my whole life was in flux. I was trying desperately to find a way to stay in my home, but when my husband began threatening me, I asked my mother to come and take the dogs until I could figure out what to do. So after only three weeks with me, Jake headed off to another house. As it turned out, I ended up moving to my mother's, returning to school, and that is where it began to sink in with Jake that he was "home". And that was when he really started to emerge from whatever dark place he had lived so long.

My fondest memories of him during this time were the way he regained his health and his strength and, my golly, you never saw a more dedicated tennis ball fetcher than this one. When he would finally wear out, he'd lay in the yard and no amount of activity could cause him to step foot away from our door. It was almost as if he was saying "this is MY yard". He actually looked proud.

The other funny thing about Jake was the way he enjoyed toys. He had a basket full of all sorts of balls, bones, and squeeky toys. One in particular was his favorite. Squeeky was his first toy. Given to him by the folks at Wisconsin Border Collie Rescue. No matter how many toys I bought, no one ever dethroned Squeeky as the mother of all squeeky toys. Over the years, Squeeky got old. It began to get sticky. It began to get gross. I washed Squeeky until I thought it would fall apart. Finally, I decided that it was probably leaching all sorts of awful chemicals into Jake and put Squeeky away.

Yes, Jake had thunder fear and it was pretty severe. Jake tore up more pillows, comforters, curtains, window blinds, screen doors, door knobs, and dog beds than I care to remember. I am sure the cost of replacing those items far exceeded any money I ever spent on his health care. But those were only things, and the money just didn't seem all that important. Jake taught me patience, tolerance, and unconditional love. Because, let's face it. Sometimes it can be hard to love a dog that has just eaten through 5 doorknobs, an expensive set of blinds, and has scattered the innards of a down comforter over three floors of a house.

He jumped out of windows during storms and I had to track him down in the rain. And hail. And howling winds. That dog hated any weather except snow. He loved him some snow.

But that's my Jake.

Jake never demanded anything. He never begged for food. He never hounded me for attention. He just wanted to lay in the yard. If I asked him for "huggy loving", he'd just sit right down and let me hug him until I got tired of doing it.

He loved traveling. He tolerated my research trips. He even tried to make the best of the sea shore. Ok. Barely. That dog did not like the sound of the ocean or the way the wind blows there. But he was happy to be along for the ride. He loved to hike. He loved chicken. He knew it was time for dessert every night at 10 pm. He loved getting snuggled in his bed at bedtime. He loved laying in the sunshine. He enjoyed chasing squirrels even if he never caught one. He was an expert mole catcher.

I got tennis elbow and a rotator cuff injury in both shoulders from throwing the ball for that dog. I accept the pain for the love of that animal.

The weekend before he died, we headed out to Pyramid State Park for a hike. This video isn't from last weekend, but I was sure reminded of it as we walked.

We had a great day. The night before he died, he and I played with his baby just like in this video from last October.

The morning he died, we threw some ball in the backyard. Jake played right up to the moment he died. My only regret with this dog is that he had to die alone. But honestly, I don't think he minded. He knew he was well loved.

Jake arrived with two passions. His favorite toy, Squeeky, and playing tennis ball. I had him cremated with both. I hope they serve him well in the afterlife.

And when I die, if there is a heaven, it will be where Jake and Nevada and Dakota are.

1 comment:

  1. I have a lump in my throat now and my eyes are stinging. So well written Liz, so honest, and such a perfect tribute to a great friend.


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