Jake the Wonder Dog
To say that Jake was a good dog would certainly be an understatement.
Jake was an Alpha pup. The other puppies in his litter all had little
nips in their ears where Jake had been nibbling. This is the sign of an
Alpha dog, to be aggressive and the leader of his litter.
This title in itself would not fit the dog Jake. For all who knew Jake
knew that this couldn't be further from the truth. He undoubtedly was
the friendliest dog in the country. He called everyone "friend" and was so
delighted to see them that his tail never stopped wagging as long as
they were visiting us. The only time he barked would be at night if he
heard a noise outside. That's the mark of a smart dog.
But Jake was far more than that. He instinctively picked up on things
without us giving him any training at all. For instance, every morning
as soon as Helen or I got up and came out of the bedroom, he would be
ready to go out. Not just to go out, but for a purpose. You see he had
taken it on himself to go out and down the driveway, pick up the morning
paper, and bring it in and drop it in front of us. If there were two
papers he would bring in both of them. When I put out the trash in the
big trash cans on pickup day, Jake would insist that he pick up the top
to the can and bring it back in to the garage. Never taught to. He did
it on his own. If the mailman came before we picked up the trash cans,
Jake would first want a piece of mail of some kind. He always got the
junk mail. He would then take that piece of mail, drop it in the trash
can lid and bring them both in. Never taught him that. He picked it up
himself.When I emptied the recycle can in the container in the garage,
Jake would almost take the recycle can away from you to bring in and
drop in front of the cabinet where it was kept.
Jake and I would go out every afternoon to walk around the yard and play
fetch with one of his toys. He liked the old ball best because he could
catch it better. I never took a toy out with me. Jake would go by his
toy box on the way out and pick up a toy that he wanted to play with. We
would play outside in the backyard. Sometimes he played catch with me
and sometimes he just wanted to kind of sniff around at things. When it
came time to come back in, Jake would run, pick up the ball, bring it in
the house, and put it back in the toy box. The only instruction I gave
him was "Jake, in the box". Never had to say it twice.
Jake would lie everywhere in the house. He always lay where he could
see Helen and me at the same time. His favorite place was under
the big coffee table that we had. That was his safe place and he would
generally fall asleep under there. By the way, Helen had made him a bed
out of a child's sleeping bag filled with foam rubber to make it soft.
Jake went to bed on that bag at precisely 9:30 every night. I could
swear he could tell time.
When he heard the sound of the TV being turned off at 11:00, he would
come wide awake and ready to go out for his nightime tinkle. Then back
in the house. When Helen and I went to bed, we locked the bedroom door.
Jake would sleep against the door to make sure no one went in or came out
without his knowing.
Oh, I forgot to mention his family friend for eleven years. It was our cat
named Mikey. Jake and Mikey hit it off right away and were together for
the entire time. Jake loved Mikey and would put up with
anything Mikey would do to him. Most times I would come out in the
mornings and Mikey would be on Jake's bed. I guess he figured if Jake
wasn't using it, it was fair game.
So the two of them grew up together and were the best of
friends.(Actually I think Jake just put up with Mikey because he felt he
was supposed to.)
He was right. He was supposed to.
We always wondered how Jake would take riding in the car. The only time
he was in the car was when we took him to the vet. He was always ready
and willing to be helped into the car at these times and he was always
almost giddy to get to go somewhere even if it was the vet's. The reason
he was "helped" into the car was that Jake never got the hang of
jumping. I always thought that was a plus because he never jumped on
anyone at anytime. Good dog, Jake!
Jake was a very frisky dog. That is to say he always acted like a puppy.
Always jumping around when we had guests and always wanted to be in the
center of attention. Helen asked the vet if he would ever slow down and
be just a "lay around" type dog? The vet said, yes, when he gets to be
about five, he will start to slow down.
WRONG!! Up until he was getting sick, he didn't know what slow down
meant. We loved him for it.
One of his habits was to come up behind you and put his head between
your legs. I was probably responsible for that, because that was one of
the ways we played. Now we didn't mind that because we knew it was
playful. Everyone who knew Jake knew that and just ignored him. That
but the church ladies. They were not too used to that kind of behavior
and the unexpected approach from the rear gave them kind of a shock.
They would feign a laugh though and thank goodness it didn't happen often.
As was our custom or habit, Jake and I would go outside and throw the
ball. He got pretty good at catching the ball and the ones that I threw
for him to fetch were greeted with a flurry and a dash to find the ball
and bring it back. This went on for many years. As I look back in time I
should have been aware of the change in Jake. I don't know now whether
it was age or whether something was bothering him inside. When I threw
the ball for him to catch he gave it a half-hearted try. And when I
would throw the ball a good distance for him to fetch he would trot
slowly to the ball and then ignore it to look around the yard. A
different behavior for him and there again I wrote it off as aging.
He began to lie around more than usual and although his appetite was
good, he was constantly thirsty and drank large amounts of water. We
also noticed that he was developing a larger stomach area and while we
were concerned by the weight gain, we attempted to slow it down with
less food. This did not have much effect on the bloated stomach area,
and when his slow movement was even more evident we called the vet and
made an appointment to take Jake in.
On initial examination we were told that he was not certain what it was
and that an x-ray might be needed to isolate the problem. We readilly
agreed to this. The x-ray showed a mass in the stomach area but the
picture was not clear enough so the vet suggested an MRI for a sharper
image of the mass. The MRI was taken and read
and diagnosed as a tumor on the liver. The doctor advised us that an
operationwas not in the best interest of Jake and we were told to take
him home, that there was nothing they could do for him.
At home there was little or no movement from Jake. We called the vet to
ask him how long Jake had and he said anytime now.
With his life ebbing away Jake wanted to crawl into his hideaway under
the coffee table and we knew the end was near. I asked Helen to call the
vet and have someone come out and euthanize Jake. I sat down in the
floor next to Jake and held his head in my lap. I could tell he had only
minutes to live and he took his last breath and with a big sigh, he
died. I had just finished telling him what a good dog he was, just as I
told him every night on my way to bed.
We had Jake cremated and after several days they brought his ashes in a
pretty box. Helen did not want to take part in it, but we decided not to
keep the ashes but to spread them on the back yard where Jake had played
and run and rolled in the grass for all his life. As I walked the yard,
spreading his ashes I tried to keep a dry eye but the tears came
readilly so that it was hard to see where I was going. I kept thinking
of all the afternoons we would come out in the back and we would play.
Jake has been gone now since March first of 2010. We still feel his
presence here in the house.
He was everywhere. Even now when I go out in back in the afternoon, I
can almost see him running and playing and sometimes the tears come
again in my rememberence. I believe that Jake will always be here. It
was his whole life for eleven years. Helen and me and Jake and Mikey
together for eleven years. Jake will be sorely missed, but in the words
of an old song; "If dogs have a heaven, there's one thing I know, old
Jake has a wonderful Home."
Robert Ridings was born and raised in the Deep South.
He is a devout Southerner and author of published nonfiction stories
about the South.