When my husband and I first decided to move in together and buy a house, I made sure he would agree to getting a dog. We hadn’t lived in the house for a full month when we went to a Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation adoption event at a PetsMart and came home with Jake. Jake was eight weeks old, born on January 31, 2002, and one of two or three left in his litter. Dave picked him up to meet him, and he never left our arms. He was a happy puppy, full of kisses, with soulful eyes. We passed him back and forth while we filled out the paperwork and brought him home that night.
The following weekend, I took him to the Pet Expo in town. Because he was a puppy, I didn’t want to make him walk through the whole thing, so I carried him through the Expo. His rear end rested in the crook of my elbow and his head just reached my palm – he was so small. My favorite memory of that day is when a man at a booth looked at Jake and complimented him on his kind eyes.
Jake was crate-trained, and except for some crying the first night, settled into it like a dream. Once he was old enough and knew enough to behave himself, we gave him the run of the house when we weren’t home. We completed a few obedience classes, and I even took an agility class with him.
I will always regret never trying fly ball with him because Jake loved to run and catch balls. We would go to the local dog park and throw tennis balls with a Chuck-It. Jake would fly down the field, paws thumping on the ground, leaving a kicked-up dust cloud behind him. He would launch himself into the air to catch the ball.
When it snowed, he would leap for balls in such a carefree way. He seemed to know the snow would cushion his landing and he didn’t worry about what would happen on the way down. He loved catching snowballs.
Often, I wondered if Jake was part cat. He was always very independent, not needing to follow me from room to room as Brinkley does. He could sit in the front window for hours, watching the world go by and barking when he felt he needed to (which was pretty often).
Jake also loved to walk along the back of the couch, which is fine for a ten pound cat but a different matter for a 60 pound lab mix! He’d also walk on the built-in benches on our deck so he could have a different view into the neighboring yards.
Somewhere along the way, Jake became afraid of people he did not know. I think part of this was due to a family friend who was a cop. The first time he met the cop, the officer was wearing his uniform and had a Jack Russell who went after Jake. Jake was only about 10 – 12 weeks old at the time, so the Jack Russell was bigger than him, and the uniformed officer quiet intimidating. Despite years of seeing this guy out of uniform, he never won Jake over. Later that year, we hosted a Halloween party, and I think the people in costume frightened him (maybe association with the police uniform). But once Jake decided you could be trusted, he loved you forever. We have friends that he would only see once a year or so, and he never failed to greet them with tail wags and kisses.
If Jake felt you were questionable, the fastest way into his heart was a round of fetch in the backyard. My sister and her husband dog-sat for us a few times. The first time, Jake was so afraid of Keith, he would run outside and refuse to come in until Keith left the house. When he would eat, Jake would take a bite and then walk into the other room to look down the hallway to make sure Keith wasn’t coming. But after a few days, Keith won him over by tirelessly throwing the ball for him.
Jake had several characteristics that I am sure he shares with other dogs, but to us these are what made him unique.
- Dogs are known for liking to roll and rub on things that smell bad. Jake preferred to rub on things that smelled good. He loved clean, wet laundry, a towel used after a shower, dryer sheets, the Pledge I use on our coffee table, and hair products. In the morning, when I blow dry my hair, I always start with it flipped upside down to dry the underneath. Jake would come into the bathroom and try to dance in circles in front of me, snout lifted up to twirl into my hair. More than once I had to prevent him from crawling into the dryer to rub on clean laundry. I’d have to chase him away after I Pledged the coffee table to stop him from rubbing on it and licking the Pledge residue. My husband took this picture of me laughing while Jake rubs in my clean hair (and Brinkley wonders what the heck he’s doing):
- Jake was always so gentle – a gentle eater, drinker, player.
- One thing that was just between Jake and me: he would walk between my legs so his head was behind me and his rear in front of me so I could scratch his rump. He loved to have his rump scratched, but it was only my legs he went between to achieve this.
- One thing not shared between me and Jake: kisses. He would kiss everyone else, but he did not like to kiss me. Even when I smeared peanut butter on my face, he wouldn’t do it.
- He loved to snuggle around our heads at night. I’d wake up to find him on my pillow, curled around my head. He’d tuck his head against mine and I would rub his ears, neck, and head, and Jake would press his head hard against mine. He would do the same thing to my husband, although my husband says he never did the head-press thing to him. Even when he pressed so hard it gave me a headache, I always loved this.
- About three years ago, we had one of those trash cans with the sensor that raises the lid when you wave your hand in front of it. I started finding trash around the house that I knew had been in the can. I soon discovered (when he did this not realizing I was in the kitchen) that Jake had learned if he moved his snout in front of the sensor, the lid would open. He’d stand on his hind legs and reach in to pull out some treasure. We thought we’d outsmart him with a trash can that claimed to have a dog proof lock on it. This lasted a day in the house before he learned how to knock it down and pry it open. After that, if we didn’t remember to put the can on top of the washing machine, we’d be sure to come home to a mess of trash. Once, I found him with the pad from a steak package stuck to his chest with a wad of chewing gum. I had to tire him out with the ball in the backyard before I could get him to hold still long enough for me to cut it off. It was pretty funny to watch him run through the yard with this thing stuck to his chest.
Jake’s cancer progressed very quickly. He was diagnosed December 2nd, and by January 18, his quality of life was no longer good, so we put him to sleep. It was two weeks shy of his 8th birthday. He was a very special dog; of course, all dogs are. But he was an “old soul.” We miss him terribly, but it is good that he is no longer in pain, and I am forever grateful for the time Jake was in our lives.
Special thanks to the staff at South Paws, where we took Jake on his last day, and also where he was diagnosed with cancer. Every person we dealt with there – the receptionist, nurses, and Dr. Antkowiak – were caring, gentle, warm, and comforting. If you live in the Fairfax, VA area and ever need an animal hospital, I recommend them highly.