Monday, December 8, 2008
Requiem for Black Jack
I have been blessed to have had a life filled with wonderful dog companions, from my first ... an Australian Shepherd that played hide and seek with me as a child, many outstanding Rottweilers that were wonderful show dogs and working dogs, to my current "little brown terrierist" who runs the household with an iron paw and consents to be a lapdog in the evenings in front of the wood fire.
But one I will always remember with tremendous affection and gratitude was Black Jack ... a true poster child for the abandoned, difficult to adopt "big black mutt". He was sitting in a snowbank by the side of the road on my way home to the ranch in the middle of a Montana winter, maybe 6 or 8 weeks old. I could not drive past.
A year later, he moved with me from Montana to Kentucky and settled in with great delight ... a born redneck at heart. He rode on the tractor up to the fields, was fascinated by the crawdad holes around the springs and never met a stranger. He learned who was supposed to be where and while he would do the usual "farm guarding" barking at strange vehicles, wandering coons and possums and the occasional stray dog or cat, he also had a "something's wrong out here" bark. It was very distinctive and he would not stop. On several occasions this announced horses that had gone through fences and were out and on at least 4 occasions his alert probably saved a horse from serious injury or death. We have portable panels for corrals and stalls and several times he alerted us that there was a horse tangled in a panel. The "unadoptable mutt" saved us losses of thousands of dollars.
You could believe he knew he had been rescued from a certain, unpleasant early death and was grateful for every day of his life after that. He was always delighted to see you in the morning. He was overjoyed at every little treat or "extra". Dinner leftovers were greeted with bounces and whirling, with the tail practically wagging the dog. Fresh hay in the house was tossed and pawed, with quick trips back out to wag and bounce, to make sure you knew he was just delighted with it. He greeted every little treat with an attitude that seemed to say "Mine? All mine? Really? I was a good dog?"
His big introduction to Kentucky was at a wedding held here at the farm, where he discovered a local product, Red Dog beer. We weren't even aware that Jack was quietly retrieving empty beer cans until fairly late in the afternoon. One of the boys suddenly noticed the half empty beer can beside his chair was no longer there to hand and was now completely empty. Sprawled beside the now-empty beer can, chin on the porch deck, Jack was the epitome of "Oops, maybe that wasn't such a good idea" with the Red Dog can beside his paw. For the rest of my life, that is going to be the first image in my mind's eye when I think of Jack.
On his last day he been delighted to be able to announce the UPS truck and the meter reader both with his "company coming" bark and "tail wagging the dog" wags. There was leftover spaghetti that evening, which he loved, so I walked out with the "Jack snack" and frowned when I realized he wasn't already in front of his house, waiting, as he normally was when he heard the house door open.
He was lying on his side in his house, as if he'd just fallen asleep, only it was the sleep from which he would never wake. He departed this life quietly and peacefully, as easily as you could hope for, no long debilitating illness, no visits to the vet. He did his job efficiently and ebulliently as always that day, as he had for 10 years, and then crossed the Rainbow Bridge as he fell asleep, knowing he had once again been helpful and earned his keep.
Jack, your memory will always remain bright and when we meet over the Rainbow Bridge, I won't scold if you jump up with muddy feet again.