He lived to be 112 years old. Well, in human years. 16 in dog. He was the last remaining part of our girls’ childhood. That sad reality hit us months ago. And it hit us like a ton of bricks. There were tears. Many. There are tears again and there will continue to be, I’m sure. The last part of that chapter in our life went home to Jesus on January 5, 2019.
Jack came to us on December 27, 2002. He was a late Christmas present for Brooke and Abbey. Santa couldn’t really bring a puppy on his sleigh, or so the note to the girls read. So, they were given notice from Santa that mom and dad had agreed to let them go and pick out a new puppy.
On December 26, first thing, the girls were dressed and ready to go look. We ended up at a pet store. We had no clue what type of dog we were even looking for. The girls looked all around at the sweet faces in that store. Then, they spotted Jack. He was a tiny, little fluff of black and white fur. A Jack-Ratt Terrier the sign read. Born on October 28, 2002 and ready for a forever home. They noticed him because he had the hiccups. It was the cutest thing. This little fluff ball, softly hiccupping in his little crate. We asked to look at him and we all enjoyed meeting him. We then headed home to discuss which puppy the girls would like to have. They both agreed. The one with the hiccups. So, on December 27, we returned to the store to pick up their brother and Jack went home with us. I remember him sitting on my lap, softly crying. I’m sure he was scared. He didn’t know us. Could he even trust us?
Fast forward. Jack became a constant in our life. He lived in all 3 of the houses we have ever owned here in Virginia. He was a best friend to his two sisters. He was a best friend to everyone in our family. In his later years, he became our shadow. Every single place we went, he followed. As if to say, “Where are you going, mom? Can I come too?” He always did.
I could seriously write a book about Jack. He was “one of the great ones” as my friend so aptly put it. He was. In so, so many ways. My heart aches writing this because he is now gone. But I write this to remind myself of the blessing he truly was.
I learned so much from Jack. He literally was Jesus in the body of a dog. What he did. How he treated others. How he graciously stayed on Earth long enough for us to hold him one last time. Jesus. Jesus, right there. So, instead of a book, for now, I, well for me mostly, want to share all that Jack had taught me in his time with us on Earth. He will forever be “one of the great ones”.
1. Jack SAVED me.
Don’t go crazy on me here. How did Jack save you? Jack saved me from myself.
You see. Jack was never meant to come to our family. Nope. This gal right here had “decided” that the days of having a dog were over for our family when our little dog, Doug, passed away suddenly in 1999. Brooke was only four years old then and Abbey was a baby. But, this mom had decided that she was too busy to manage a dog and two, little kids. Just too busy for that.
So, for three years, THREE, LONG YEARS, the girls asked for a dog constantly. They prayed to get a dog. They put a puppy on their Christmas list every year. They talked to Santa on the phone every year and asked for a puppy. Santa’s response was always the same. “No. I can’t bring a dog on my sleigh”. So, they waited and prayed and waited and prayed. The answer was always NO!
Then one day, I went to lunch with my older brother. I don’t know if he even remembers this conversation, but I sure do. Just in casual conversation, he asked me why we wouldn’t get the girls another dog. I matter of factly explained that I didn’t want a dog. I was a busy mom. I didn’t want the hassle. I didn’t see the need or the point. I – I – I. Me. Me. Me. See it?
He then, very patiently, asked me, “Why is this all about you, Nik?” He said, “The girls want a dog. Greg wants a dog. If you get the girls a dog, it will probably be around until they grow up. You will only have to get this ONE dog that your girls so desperately want.” You could have knocked me over with a feather. I was so taken aback. Not really at his words, but mostly at how TRUE they were. I had made it all about me. I really didn’t listen to the wants or needs of my family. I had made my decision.
So you see, Jack saved me. He saved me from the nasty, self-centered, stubborn, I’m first, only my thoughts count, world that I had created. Just the thought of him and then him changed this old girl. Boy am I thankful. So thankful. I am so afraid to even imagine what I would be like today without tearing down those walls that screamed Me – Me – Me. Thank you, Jack.
2. Jack taught me TOLERANCE.
He was 8 years old and king of our family when she arrived. His little, fur baby sister Holly that is. Holly arrived on December 24, 2010. Another Christmas pup for this family. See how much I had changed? No dogs at all, to yes, let’s surprise the girls with another dog. It’s funny now to think of it.
Well, Holly, our little mini Doxie, showed up under the Christmas tree, large and in charge. Seriously. That girl rules the roost and has ever since she came. Even poor Jack had to fall under her rules. If he was lying on the little bed that she wanted, well you need to move Jack. And he would. Graciously. No questions asked. If she wanted that spot on the couch, well you need to move Jack. And he would. Graciously. No questions asked. She stole his food, constantly. Stole his sleeping spots, his toys, his treats, anything he had, she wanted. It’s terribly funny really. We always tried to manage her, but that little Doxie is stubborn and really a good kid but wants what she wants. The running joke in our family was always, “Come on Jack. Put Holly in her place. She deserves it.” But, he never would. He always loved her and gave her what she wanted.
When I think about that, here’s what I think. Jack knew tolerance. Collins Dictionary says it this way, “Tolerance is the quality of allowing other people to say and do what they like, even if you do not agree …” Jack had that. He loved his sister so much that he tolerated the crazy, annoying things she did, and he loved her well. Always! There is so much we can learn from just that. That we could tolerate and love someone just because it is the right thing to do. Show tolerance and love others. Great life lessons.
And oh did he love her. Every single morning, he would jump off the chair he had been sleeping on and run to my side of the bed. He would wait to see her. Holly would emerge from under the covers and Jack’s little tail would start wagging as if to say, “Good morning, sis. I am so happy to see you!” It was the sweetest thing and a memory I will treasure forever.
3. Jack exuded HAPPINESS AND JOY.
When he arrived in our family, he fit right in. He was happy and go-lucky and always full of energy. Ha ha. Anyone who knows our family knows that he kind of matched us.
Disclaimer – Believe me, we are not always happy and joyful and energetic, but many have described us as bubbly, energizer bunnies, etc… and, honestly, we often are.
I know it’s odd, but Jack was always happy. He loved when people came to visit. He loved when the girls ran around to play. He ran right after them playing as if he were one of them. I sometimes wondered if he even knew he was a dog.
Case in point.
Jack loved to swim. At our second house, we had an inground pool and Jack loved it. Brooke taught him how to climb out of the pool using the ladder in the deep end. Oh yes, that was a sight to see. From that moment on, he would swim in the pool whenever he wanted. I thought he would only swim when the girls were in the pool. There are actually many infamous stories about Jack swimming with the girls and their friends. If you came to swim at the Chaplain house, you better dive under water quickly when you see Jack coming. Otherwise, he will jump right onto your head. It was hilarious. But, no, he decided that he wanted to swim whenever he wanted, so he did. I would glance out to the pool and there was Jack, swimming around all by himself. He just loved it.
That was Jack. Happy all the time. He loved to play. He loved to chase balls. If you threw the ball 500 times, he would go get it 501. He was relentless. At the school that our girls attended, there was always a Pet Day where the students could bring their pet in and showcase the pet.
Well, Brooke was so excited for the day her Pet Day arrived. Jack was always smart, so he easily learned a bunch of tricks and Brooke was so excited to showcase his tricks. Oh Lord. Pet Day was in the spring and Jack had been playing in our home pool for weeks. And, again, he was relentless. So, he would swim, play, and run around that pool until his feet would bleed. I know, but you couldn’t stop him. So, he had been running around the pool and his feet became so sore. He went to Pet Day with Brooke and literally couldn’t do any tricks. His feet hurt too badly. Poor kid. He did receive the “Tilted Terrier” Award though. I think because as Brooke tried to get him to do is tricks, he would just tilt to the side. It was funny. Poor baby. We remembered to keep him away from the pool for Abbey’s Pet Day a few years later. Yep. He was the star doing all of his tricks.
Jack actually went to seven Pet Days at NCS. While I was a Third Grade teacher, I would always offer Jack and Holly as pets to any of my students who didn’t have a pet to showcase. Everyone loved Jack, especially the boys. He could jump high, do awesome tricks, and chase a tennis ball at lightning speed. He was a legend.
Jack was always so fun too. He would play hide and seek. He would chase the girls. He would stand in line with the kids at the poolside, waiting for his turn to jump in. He would even run through the yard, jump up, and catch the rope swing in his teeth. Then, just like a kid, you would see him swinging through the air. That kid was so smart and so crazy and so much fun. He exuded joy. What a sweet boy and what sweet memories.
Writing this just reminds me that even the simple things bring joy, or, at least, they should. We do not need elaborate things or events to laugh and find happiness. For Jack, a simple ball chase or swim – LOL – brought such joy. I want to remember that. I want to learn from him that we can appreciate and enjoy the small things. He sure did.
4. Jack showed GREAT PATIENCE.
Refer to crazy sister Holly. Jack was always so patient with her. For those who do not know Holly, she is always large and in charge. Remember though, she’s a mini Doxie. The only thing large about her is her self-image, attitude, and appetite. But Jack. He always put her first. When we would take the dogs on a walk, Holly always rushed to be first, and Jack patiently let her lead the way. When it was time to go outside, Holly always had to barrel through the door first and Jack patiently let her. Feeding time? Yep, you guessed it. Holly had to be first, and Jack patiently waited always. I don’t think I ever recall a time that he didn’t let her go first. He was patient with her. Always.
It was only toward the end of his life that his patience changed a bit. Like a thief in the night, age had come. He could no longer be patient in some ways. In the last year of his life, Jack was the one who had to go out first. He just had to. And he had to drink tons of water, so bathroom trips were often. They just were. Jack had to eat all the time. He just had to. And as he changed, we changed too. We had to do more for him. We had to. It became a beautiful testimony to understanding and showing love. Sometimes we didn’t get it right, but I want to believe that our extra care, attention, and love let him know that we understood. We did.
Isn’t that so like Jesus? He’s always patient with us. He understands. We always want to be first and put him last and yet he patiently waits for us, loving us the entire time. Patience – easy to want, harder to give. Like the story of the prodigal son, a father patiently waited for his selfish, spoiled child to return. And when the child had grown, he returned just hoping that his father would welcome him. And just like God does with us on a daily basis, the father welcomed him with open arms. No questions asked, only pure joy that his beloved had come home.
Yes, PATIENCE IS THAT POWERFUL. Thank you, Jack, for showing that to our family every day. Thank you.
5. Jack was the Epitome of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.
From the moment he arrived, he loved. He loved life, food, swimming, tennis balls, chasing little girls, swinging on swings, and all the while showing love to us just through his presence.
If you have a dog, you get this. Jack was always there for us. If we were happy, he was happy for us. If we were sad, he would come and just check on us, as if to say, “I’m here for you.” Showing love always. When you left the house and came home, he would come and greet you. It did not matter if you had been gone two weeks or two minutes, his response was the same, complete love and joy – “oh thank goodness you’re home; I’ve missed you so much”.
Jack was like that to his very last day on Earth. Every time I came home and opened his crate to let him out, he would bound out of there, tail wagging, and that face saying, “Oh how I’ve missed you”. I know I will miss that the most. Dog owners get that. There is nothing better than coming home to a dog. They just bring so much love into a home and make you feel as if you are the most treasured person in the world. Something I believe God put into dogs so that he could pass his love onto us.
We are God’s most treasured possession – a workmanship of his. Beautiful and dearly loved. Dogs show that. That is how Jack made us feel. Loved. For that I will be forever grateful. That sweet Jack even loved us so much that he waited for us to come before he passed from this world to the arms of Jesus. He waited and loved us to the point that we could hold him in our arms one last time. I will forever treasure those last moments with him. We called him “son” because he was our only boy and simply a part of our family.
What I want to remember the most about Jack is this. There simply was not – nor will ever be a greater gift to our family. He was simply the best. I truly feel that God gave Jack those hiccups at that pet store. Those hiccups are what drew our girls to that sweet puppy. Those hiccups brought that sweet pup into our family.
Jack was the puppy who watched our girls grow from little kids to young women. The puppy who lived life to the fullest and played so hard that he couldn’t even walk. The puppy who always let us know that someone had come to the house. He was the original “Ring” doorbell. The puppy who welcomed a fur baby sister into our home when he was eight years old and he loved her to the day he went to heaven. The puppy who truly made this family better in every way.
There really are no words to describe what you meant to us, my son. You were and always will be “one of the great ones”. Thank you for being you. Thank you for all the love that you showed us even when we didn’t deserve it. Thank you for watching our girls grow and shepherding them along the way. And thank you for saving me from myself. The gift of your life, presence, and love changed our family forever.
Until we see you on those streets of gold, run free with Jesus, my friend, and know that I will hold you in my heart forever. ❤ ❤ ❤
XO – Mom