He came into my life just like the proverbial baby-left-on-the-doorstep.
It was a beautiful, cool, early spring morning in 1995 and as I pulled out of the driveway, I saw his little face peeking out from under the shrubbery in the alley. He was an adorable little puppy. Fluffy brown.
When I got to my destination I couldn’t stop thinking about him and after a few hours when I had a bit of a break, I drove home. He was still there. Hadn’t moved but someone had put down a bowl of food for him. He hadn’t eaten and by now the ants had gotten into it.
I brought out a bowl of water and a little fresh food. He was frightened, backed further under the shrubs and barked at me defensively. So I sat there and talked to him softly. After a few minutes he inched forward and took a drink of water. I had to leave again, but I thought he would probably be there when I returned.
He was, and I picked him up and took him inside. He was about the size of a cat and that first day I carried him around with me, singing to him.
Later, I named him Jackson, but always called him Jackie.
He grew fast, shedding his puppy fluff. His adult fur was brown with a black saddle. He had a sweet face and when he was happiest, his tail would curl up over his back.
In the summer in 1996, a homeless adult golden retriever came to live with us. Hemingway and Jackie were wonderful companions for many years. Watching them play together was one of my favorite things.
Jackie changed when Hemingway died on Winter Solstice, 2004. His grief lasted for months and he was inconsolable. The progression of his grief resembled the classic stages of human emotion processing through grief. But one day, in the spring of 2005, he seemed better. Not the same old Jackie, but better. It was as if he was now retired from his former position of Alpha male in the household that now included two younger dogs. He was Alpha Emeritus.
In the years that passed after 2005, Jackie rested more, but still enjoyed barking out an occasional warning to a pedestrian passing by with a dog on a leash. His mobility declined and it was apparent that he suffered from arthritis. He began a regimen of medication in 2007.
When Cristy and I moved into our present home last fall, the change seemed good for Jackie. He loved the enormous back yard. It was like a park and I watched him stroll beneath the myrtles and roll in the grass just like he was a pup again. I was so thankful that he was still able to experience this kind of enjoyment that had made him happy as a young dog.
But his decline in health continued and three months ago the arthritic inflammation around his spine left him without sensation in his hind legs. Thankfully, our veterinarian consulted with me over the telephone because she understood how traumatic it would be to bring Jackie into that office. She prescribed a steroid to reduce the inflammation and told me plainly that it was the medicine of last resort for him.
This past Monday was the last day of Jackie’s life. He was dying and spent most of the day beneath the kitchen table resting on the cool tile floor. I spent most of the day next to him. I carried him outdoors to the back yard a couple of times and he took a few sips of water. He also ate some chocolate cake.
The veterinarian made a house call and around 6:30, I said goodbye to my puppy on the doorstep. I believe, with all my heart that Hemingway was there to meet him at the rainbow bridge.
And one day, when I die, I believe that both Jackie and Hemingway will meet me there too.