That’s why we threw our dog a full-fledged birthday party, complete with a paw print cake and human friends singing to a dog. Jack turned 15 this month.
If I’m looking through pragmatic eyes, Jack doesn’t do much—honestly, anything—to contribute to our family. During most of the day he finds a quiet place out of the traffic of three kids to sleep. His eyes are shrouded with cloudiness, and often when he walks past as I’m folding laundry or giving my 5-year-old the “just swallow the meat rather than chewing it for 15 minutes” lecture … I wonder just how blind he is.
We don’t love him because of what he contributes.
We love him because of who he is.
For the past fifteen years he’s been sitting, playing, napping next to us. On the days when laughter echoed in and out of rooms, he dropped chew toys in our laps and wagged his tail. In the hard seasons when laughter came less quickly but from deeper places of our hearts, he still simply dropped chew toys in our laps and wagged his tail. Oblivious to everything except his love for us, he invited us to enter his world for a few minutes where nothing was more important than sitting close and contemplating his ongoing pursuit to get squeakers out of stuffed squirrels.
Now that so many years have passed, I can laugh about him picking up a nylon stocking and running in circles while I chased and bellowed and threatened. I remember my horror as I heard him swallow and saw his eyes bulge in surprise. My memory of writing a check to the vet to make him vomit it back up isn’t one of my favorites.
He’s the same puppy who heard me flipping on hall lights in my slippers, bending down to open his crate, and pulling him onto the bed when we were both lonely for my traveling sound engineer husband. He’s the adventurer who burrowed under the bedcovers to get trapped in the pillowcase of my body pillow. He’s the patient long-sufferer who welcomed three babies and a puppy into his house and immediately included them in his pack.
Jack doesn’t care about squeakers any more, and we don’t put him on the bed unless we can sit next to him to make sure he doesn’t fall off. He brings about calls for concern more than laughter from us.
But we all treasure him. My youngest squeezes herself next to wherever he’s lying and tells me to take their picture. I have countless photos of my kids and Jack together … and I’m grateful for each one. I’m grateful for every memory.
I’m writing this tonight when he’s still with us rather than processing it all when our Jackie-boy is gone. If I wait until he passes on, I know all I’d be able to get out is a page of hundreds of the crying/sad emojis…which isn’t exactly the goal of writing. So tonight I’m going to sit in front of the decorations the kids and I made for his party, rub his head and neck the same way I have for fifteen years, and enter his world where nothing is more important than the joy of sitting close.