Our beloved dog, Jackson, passed away this week. He was 12 years old and had been diagnosed with cancer six months ago. Although we knew it was coming, nothing can prepare you for the heartbreak of losing a pet.
The kids have never known life without him and we have a hard time remembering what life was like before bringing him home and totally pissing off the cats exactly 12 years ago.
We’re doing our best to focus on the happy times instead of dwelling on the sadness of missing him. In that spirit, I would like to share with you some of the valuable life lessons I have learned from Jackson.
Learn how to accept a compliment: When you ask a dog, “Who’s such a handsome dog?” Their answer is always, “I am!” And the answer to “Who’s the best dog in the world?” Yep, “It’s me!” again. Dogs don’t bother with “Oh, but this collar makes my neck look fat” or “If only I were better at barking”. No matter how much praise and over-the-top compliments you throw their way, they gladly accept them and roll over and let you rub their belly while you tell them more about how fabulous they are.
Celebrate the small things: You could always tell when Jackson had taken a poop because he would prance around the patio, circling furniture like a barrel racing horse in a rodeo. Sometimes this went on for over a minute straight and included an invitation to come join him. Imagine how much more rewarding life would be if we all took this much pride in our small achievements each day.
Trust your gut: Oprah used to have a security guy on all the time that would say that most women end up getting into dangerous situations because they’re too polite to listen to their gut and tell creepy guys to buzz off. You know who would never fall for that? A dog. If someone you don’t know comes to your door, there’s no need to make polite small talk. Bark your ass off until they retreat! And if they come back every day for the next 12 years and keep bringing you envelopes and packages, just bark louder!
Make a decision and stand by it: If you asked Jackson if he wanted a walk, the answer was never “Ohhhh, I don’t knowwwww…what do youuu want to dooo?” It was “Holy shit, yes! You’re a genius for suggesting it! I’ll dance in circles for you while you get your shoes on!” Which kind of person would you rather hang out with?
Teach people how to treat you: Jackson used to just get treats for bribes or when doing tricks. In recent years, whenever he started coming inside he would alternate staring at us and staring at the treat jar until it became abundantly clear that he thought walking through the door was worth a reward. And sure enough, we started giving him one. Every damn time. If you’re not getting what you want from someone in your life, try following them around with intense eye contact for a while, it’s quite effective.
Don’t worry what others think: Jackson used to love going out and laying in the yard, ears back, eyes squinting up at the sun with a big smile on his face. It didn’t matter if it was 28 degrees or 108 degrees. We would think he was crazy and go out to make sure he wasn’t freezing/overheating and he would just respond with some happy panting and a luxurious stretch. I don’t know what he was thinking out there, but you can tell from this face that it made him incredibly happy.
Look out for the little guys: Despite having 60 pounds on them, Jackson was incredibly sweet and gentle with our two cats. (I believe he was technically common-law married to one of them). He put up with them butting in on his petting session and walking under him and inappropriately tickling his privates with their tails. Most amazingly, he regularly would wait for them to finish drinking before getting a drink for himself. It takes a special kind of strength to be gentle with someone you could easily push around.
Be selective in who you love & love them like crazy: Jackson was friendly to everyone but saved his out-of-his-mind-in-love affection for a select few. He waited all year for visits from Pop & Nana who were the best dog-walkers in the world, and for Grandma to visit and scratch his ears and have in-depth conversations about all the reasons he was a good dog. He loved our friends Nate & Connie so much that he even got excited whenever they sent something in the mail because he could smell them on the wrapping paper. Never be afraid to show someone how much you love them.
Protect the ones you love: Here’s a picture of Jackson ‘protecting’ my husband from me when I had a cough a few months ago (or one could argue that he was trying to protect me by making sure my husband was aware of my condition.) He did this every night for a week. Whenever I would have a coughing fit, he would get up from his bed and walk over and put his chin on our bed and stare at my husband until everything was okay. Even more amazingly, we once took Jackson on a trip to his favorite dog park after just discovering that I was pregnant with our first child. Instead of playing with the other dogs, he sat protectively at my feet not letting any other dogs near me. I’ll never understand how he ‘knew’ and I’ll never forget the love of a dog that chose protecting his owner over playing that day.
We’ll always miss having Jackson in our lives, but will never forget the valuable lessons he taught us while he was with us.
“Who’s a good dog?”
You are Jackson.