I have sat down several times over the past fortnight to write a goodbye to my best friend, but have not found the words. Jacob-pup was the best friend a man can have. He was not always well behaved, but he was fiercely loyal to me and to his family.
Jacob joined our home when he was only seven weeks old, and he stole my heart that day. It was funny… nobody thought I could be soft and kind. A friend of mine visited from Montreal and after spending an evening with us at the house he told me he came up with a new equation:
MITCH + PUPPY = NICER MITCH.
That stuck with me… I’ve spent nearly the last decade trying to be a nicer Mitch, and it has been a tough road… I don’t know how much of my success can be attributed to Jacob (and Bailey and Gingit and Gunter), but I think I am a much better person today than I was in 2006.
My initial plan to get a puppy was really as a way for me to bond with Aaron. I was dating his mother and things were getting pretty serious between us, and I thought that if I got a puppy I could share it with Aaron… the dog would live with them during the week when I was traveling and with me at the condo on the week-ends when I was home. I guess the intent was to adopt a means to an end.
The week before the Saturday when we adopted him I was in Omaha teaching for Microsoft, and during my down time I would skim Craig’s List and Kijiji for puppies. I did not know then that adopting from the Humane Society was the more humane way, but that is a different story. Theresa and I exchanged several ads for puppies throughout the week, and we narrowed it down to three that we would go to see on Saturday.
Saturday morning I drove to Oakville to collect them, and realized I had not written down the addresses of any of the dogs we were going to see. I went down to her computer room and logged onto Craig’s List. The first ad I clicked by accident because I had bookmarked all three that we were going to see… and I saw Jacob. Of course, Jacob wasn’t his name yet… He was just the oldest of a litter that was birthed on August 31 (which made him about seven weeks old). He was a Boston Terrier/Beagle cross, and he was the cutest ball of fur I had ever seen. ‘That’s my puppy!’
Theresa and Aaron fell in love too, but being the practical woman Theresa is we decided to go look at one other puppy first – a Jack Russell/Pug cross if I remember correctly. It didn’t matter, we would go look but I knew that our last stop would be in Hamilton where Jacob was.
Jacob was definitely a family dog… but from the very beginning it was clear that he was my buddy. When I was in town he was attached to me… When I was on the road he missed me terribly. There were a couple of longer trips when I would get an e-mail telling me to call home because Jacob wouldn’t stop crying. As soon as he heard my voice he would calm down and be happy again. Theresa would bring Jacob to the airport to pick me up, and he would be so happy he would go nuts… until he was in my arms, and then he would just snuggle in. That is where he learned his favourite trick… Whenever we said Puppy Power he would start licking my face. He did that right up until the end… when I went to visit him in the hospital.
I came home from Asia sick as a dog, and I needed to essentially sequester myself in the bathroom. Jacob would not move from his spot outside where he sat vigil crying for me.
From the very beginning, Jacob seemed to take it as his primary job to lick my legs dry after I got out of the shower. He did it as a little puppy… he did it last week. If he was in the house (and later the condo) when I showered, he was ready to fulfill his duties. My legs would not leave the bathroom wet if he had anything to say about it!
Because we were always cognizant that a new puppy coming into the house would disturb the balance, we took Bailey (our Wheaton terrier) to Hamilton with us to meet Jacob before we brought him home, and Bailey approved. The two would later fight for dominance, but they loved each other from the beginning. When we said goodbye to Bailey a few years ago Jacob was very sad.
Just like we had brought Bailey to meet Jacob, six months later we took Jacob to the same house in Hamilton to meet Gingit. He approved of her right away, and they became lifelong friends… but it did not take us a month to realize who was dominant in that relationship. Gingit never backed down from any dog, he always stood his ground; but Gingit could walk all over him… and did from the very beginning. He loved her, and just like we took Jacob to meet her, I took Gingit with me to the hospital to say goodbye to Jacob. She was very sad… and still is, and I suspect she will be for quite some time.
Jacob was not always the best behaved dog… but he was always my best friend. He was always happy to be as active or lazy as I wanted. When I took up jogging a few years ago he was always excited to see me put my runners on, and would go nuts because he knew where we were going. He even learned to behave on our runs… and it didn’t matter if we ran 2km or 15km, he was just as happy. The only difference would be how much water he would drink when we got home… and how long he would nap.
The outpouring of support from friends far and wide has been amazing, and I want to thank every one of you who reached out. Some have been dog lovers who understand exactly what I am feeling; others are people who may not understand why, but know nonetheless that a dog is a member of your family, not a possession.
I have spent the last two weeks telling people stories about my beloved Jacob, and yesterday for the first time I was able to tell some of those stories with a smile and no tears. I have looked at all of the pictures and videos, many of them that much harder to watch because they showed me happily married to Theresa, reminded me how young Aaron was (and how much he has grown!), reminded me how much I still miss Bailey and what life was like before all of the changes.
Yesterday evening my friend Dimitrios came over for a chat. We were sitting at my kitchen table talking about this and that, but as we chatted I saw a picture pop up on my screen saver… It was one taken of Jacob the day he came into our lives. Dimitrios always joked that whenever Jacob would see him he would greet him by jumping at his groin. Of course
this was an exaggeration, Jacob was just jumping up looking for affection… but it reminded me of the not-so-well-behaved dog who Jacob was perceived to be. Like many of my friends, Dimitrios met Jacob after his second birthday… a grown dog. I showed him the picture that displayed on my screen, and his face changed in a heartbeat. ‘Mitch, now I know why you fell in love with that dog. What a gorgeous puppy he was. I wish I had met him at that young age as well… I would probably have fallen in love the way that you did.
That’s what it was… Pure love. But as with my sons, Jacob did not remain small. I loved him every day of his life, and even when he misbehaved (also like my sons) that love never diminished. My period of mourning Jacob is over… but I will remember him forever.
Goodbye my friend.