Eulogy For Jackson


To those that know him, you know the word “rascal” is the most apt descriptor.  He is known for barking at the neighbors for having the audacity to use their backyard, eating entire blankets, escaping into the woods behind our house, or stealing countless food items left unattended and sitting too close to the edge of the counter.  He even stole our Christmas treats:  the wedge of brie (2005); the three giant fudge brownies (2013).  He rarely came when called, sat only when there was a tasty reward to be had (and even then, only long enough to get paid), and never learned to behave at the vet.  He was basically useless as a fetch partner, refusing to de-mouth the ball, and he once peed on the Christmas tree in protest for the in-laws having the gall to bring their dog for a visit.

But for all his shortcomings (most of which can be traced back to his masters), Jackson was the best kind of rascal.  Yeah, he’d steal your sandwich right off your plate without batting his big brown eyes.  But after inhaling it, he’d nuzzle up to you with his tail all a’wag and melt you with those same, guilt-free eyes.  Always playful, rarely grumpy, it was almost like he was winking at you as he walked past with that dirty sock in his mouth.  “Chase me,” he would say.

The first six years in our house, he was Number One, getting lots of attention from Jen and me.  When Lily arrived, he was demoted, but never jealous.  When Henry came along three years later, I’m sure he felt his stature slip a little bit more.  He didn’t get to come along on as many trips, he was banished to the outdoors more than he probably would have liked, and he lost being-on-the-furniture privileges.  Still, he took it in stride, rarely acting out, and treating the kids like the older brother he was.

When I first noticed the hint of the lump about two years ago, I knew it was likely the beginning of the end.  Not having the financial means to pay for a surgical procedure, we just had to watch as it grew larger and larger.  Golf ball, baseball, softball, volleyball, and now, nearly basketball sized.  Despite the growth, Jackson was barely phased at all.  It wasn’t until very recently we noticed it effecting his mobility.  He gets around nearly as spry as ever, just with a slight hitch in his step.  He wasn’t in any pain and it did nothing to curb his napkin/paper towel/wipe thieving ways.  He was still Jackson.

About three weeks ago, the sores started to appear.  I’ll skip the grosser details, but a trip to the vet about two weeks ago confirmed what we already suspected:  the decline had begun, and it would be rapid.  We could probably put the inevitable off a little while longer–a month more, maybe–but it’s clear things are getting more difficult for him.  He pants almost all the time, the sores are getting worse, and it can’t be comfortable to walk around with a basketball sized growth hanging from your side.  The time has come.

Tomorrow will be a pretty terrible day.  There’s already been quite a few tears, and I don’t think it’s really sunk in for the kids yet.  I never look forward to taking Jackson to the vet, and this is one trip I especially would prefer to skip.

It’s easy to get attached to almost anything that’s been a part of your life for 12 years.  But when it’s a living, breathing companion, it’s all the worse.  Jackson has been with Jen and me for all but two years of your marriage.  He’s the first dog I’ve ever had.  He’s far from perfect, but he was my puppy and gave me a lifetime of stories and memories.

For the last three and a half years, I’ve worked jobs with weird hours, getting home sometimes at three or seven in the morning.  Whenever I walked through the front door, Jackson would be walking down the hall from the bedroom to greet me.  As much as I won’t miss the hair on the sofa and pooper-scooper duty, I will miss that every day.

Good bye, old friend.


Dogs Will Be Dogs

Jen and I have had our dog Jackson for a little over six years.  He was a pound puppy that we rescued from the local shelter .  The first time we saw him he was about four months old and he was lying down in his kennel, gnawing on the metal gate.  We were actually looking at the pup in the kennel next to him, a little black curly haird pooch of some sort, that seemed very reserved and maybe even a bit skittish.  But we kept looking over at that goofy dog in the next kennel that seemed to have a taste for iron.  We came back to the shelter several days that week to see if the black dog we’d been eyeing was available for adoption yet, and everytime we couldn’t help but laugh at the puppy next door.  One day he was chewing on metal, the next time he was leaping straight up in the air repeatedly for no particular reason, and the next time he must have just finished his bounding exercises because he was passed out of the floor looking at us with one sleepy eye.  The little black dog we had been looking at ended up being adopted by the person that found it (finders get first dibs) so we decided to roll the dice on the manicly spastic dog next door, who we quickly christened Action Jackson.

He’s never been the most well behaved of dogs.  He’s always had a penchant for thievery, especially napkins and kleenex (used only), dirty socks, food wrappers, and consumables of every kind.  Over the years he’s stolen off the counter, the table, and occasionally right off our plates.  A few of the more memorable items, which were usually inhaled in the space of about 15 seconds max, are a box of Jr. Mints, a dozen chocolate chip cookies, half a loaf of garlic bread, a stick of butter, some Hershey’s kisses (foil still on), several slices of pizza, and the infamous wedge of Christmas brie.

He’s mellowed a little with age, but not too terribly much.  He knows how to sit, stay, come, get out, and get off, but whether he actually does it or not is always a surprise.  Actually, he is pretty good about following commands, just not sustaining them.  It’s like when we give him a command his little doggy brain adds “for three seconds” to everything.  So if we say, “Jackson, go sit on your chair,” he hears, “Jackson, go sit on your chair for three seconds.”  He’ll go sit on his chair, but only long enough for you to turn around.  Every night we go through the same bedtime routine, “Jackson, get off the bed.”  He hears, “Jackson, get off the bed for three seconds.”  We end up playing this game five or six times before he finally gives up and goes to his bed.

Of course, we are to blame for some of this.  We did take him to obedience school, but we haven’t always been the most diligent of trainers.  Part of it is that, as much as it frustrates us sometimes, we kind of like his mischieviousness.  We’re like those parents with the slightly bratty five year old that everyone else knows is almost out of control, but we just smile, shake our heads, and say, “Well, boys will be boys.”

We were a little concerned about how he would take to Lily’s arrival.  He’s hard to read on new people.  Some he loves instantly, some he warms up to eventually, and some he will bark at constantly until they leave.  There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it.  At first he just kind of ignored Lily, but within a few weeks all he wanted to do was lick her face off.  Lily loves him just as much.  Lately she’s been starting her mornings saying something approximating, “Hi, J,” as soon as she sees him.  Its enough to make a dad’s heart melt.

The other evening Jen and I were both in Lily’s room getting her ready for bed, when I heard the clanging of dishes out in the living room.  I rushed out to find Jackson standing on two legs at the dining room table eating the leftover peas off Lily’s dinner plate.  I was ticked.  I scolded him and sent him to his chair.  I may have even broken out the squirt bottle and gave him a wet barrage (he hates that).  A few minutes later (actually longer than three seconds) he slinked off his chair and walked over to where I was sitting on the couch.  He sat down and looked up at me with those big, sad, brown eyes.  Oh well, dogs will be dogs.

Buy Two, Get One Free

JacksonOne of the cleverest ploys a retailer can pull is the ol’ buy X number of items, get one free.  The allure of the “FREE” is vastly more powerful than the reality of the “BUY.”  It doesn’t matter what it is, shoes, entrees’, books, real estate, if we see that brightly colored sign its all over.

“Wow, I only have to buy two pair of $100 sneakers, to get a third of equal or lesser value for free?!  Sweet!”

But hey, I’m not here to put down the retail establishment.  They know what our weak spots are and how to make a quick buck, and we get something for “free” and a sense that we’re sticking it to The Man, so, win win.  In fact, I think this type of marketing needs to be expanded to other areas of the business world, other than retail.  Namely, the medical establishment.  In particular, the animal medical establishment.  Specifically, my neighborhood pet hospital.

Last Sunday night, Jen, Jackson, and I were downstairs in our office, Jen working hard, Jackson reclining on his blanket, me playing Call of Duty.  Our office is more a combination office/laundry room that is half underground and adjacent to the garage.  Our dryer doesn’t vent to the outside, so when it runs we have to leave the door between the office/laundry room and the garage open or the room will turn into a steam bath.  Due to prior episodes involving the garage, Jackson, and boxes of rat poison, we are vigilant against letting our mischievous canine in there.  However, the dryer was running and to avoid shrouding ourselves in steam while we clicked away, the garage door was left open.  But I knew this, and made sure to keep a sharp eye on the boy.  Not sharp enough.

 Jen had gone up stairs, and when I came back to reality after a particularly intense CoD game, I turned my chair around to find Jackson with a mouthful of rat poison.  The whole box actually.

“Jackson!  Aaarrrrggghhhhh!!”

That was all I could say.  In an instant visions of vitamin K bottles and wary veterinarians and charcoal syringes and gnashing teeth and vet hospital invoices and dog vomit flashed before my mind’s eye.  After my man scream, Jackson set the box down, and for an instant I thought perhaps we could avoid all those horrible visions.  But only for an instant as Jackson then plunged his nose into the bright green pellets and helped himself to a mouthful.


I grabbed him by the collar as he swallowed the last of the apparently tasty morsels and we ran upstairs.  I told him to sit on his chair and told Jen we had to go to the pet hospital.  She was already in her pj’s and was none too pleased.  Not that I blame her, it was midnight on a school night.  As she changed her clothes I grabbed Jackson’s leash and hooked him up, as he stared at me dumbly.

“You don’t know what you’re in for buddy.”

 We rode to the vet in virtual silence, none of the three of us happy to be there.  The only thing I think any of us said was when Jen worried, “They’re going to think we’re bad owners.”  As we waited in the lobby as the nurse found our paperwork, I could tell Jackson was remembering that this was not a fun place to be.  He ought to know, having been here twice before for the same thing.  His tail was tucked firmly between his legs and he was nervously pacing around, sniffing everything.  He could smell the storm coming.

As the nurse came to take him to the back, I called out a warning, “He’s been here before and doesn’t like it.  And he will snap at you.”

We were led to an exam room where we waited for the doctor.  He arrived and told us Jackson was a grumpy boy.  Duh.  They managed to give him the barf medicine, but he was going to need to have the charcoal to soak up any remaining poison.  Let me fill you in on what this actually means.  The charcoal is in the form of a liquid and looks like black paint.  The easiest way to do it is to mix it with food and get the dog to eat it.  But who wants to eat food covered in charcoal.  Its not quite the same as BBQ.  If they won’t take it that way, the other option is to load it into two giant syringes and force feed it.  Needless to say this is a difficult and messy proposition.  Jackson had needed this procedure once before and, lucky me, I was in Ecuador.  Jen had to do it herself with the assistance of some very good friends.  I wasn’t so lucky this time.

One of us had to try to restrain Jackson enough for the other one to stick the syringe in his mouth and squirt his innards full of delicious charcoal.  Actually, I think it must not be very delicious since every time we managed to squirt a little bit in, he would thrash his head back and forth sending black goo all over us and the room.  Jackson started to look like some horror movie monster with black slime dripping from his jaws.  Had we been thinking at 12 AM on a Sunday when our dog had just eaten rat poison we would have grabbed the camera.

After about twenty minutes, we finally had emptied the two syringes and to anyone who came into the exam room after us it would be apparent that Jackson had been there…Jackson Pollack.  By the time we finished the room looked like a master work from the famous artist, black puddles and splatters everywhere.  We cleaned up ourselves the best we could, paid our $200 bill (!!!), and made our way home, vitamin K in hand.  Jackson needed a good hosing off before bed, so we gave him a quick bath and finally hit the sack at about two in the morning.  So, yeah.  Shouldn’t we have gotten a discount?