We said goodbye to Jackson yesterday, and the nest feels very empty right now. It’s been 10 years since we adopted him as an adult, but it seems like yesterday.
At the time, we’d just moved into a new house and were dog-less for the first time since 1986. That lasted about three weeks. I started looking at rescues in the paper, then moved online and spotted an ad for Red, a black lab coming from a kill shelter in Rawlins, Wyoming. His name came from the color of his collar; they had so many black labs that that’s how they identified them.
We arranged to meet him at a park near our home, just to consider adopting him. The consideration lasted about 90 seconds. He stuck his big head out of the window of the van and looked at us. I sat down on the pavement, and he was curled up in my lap less than a minute later. As we were leaving with him, the rescue volunteer made us promise not to name him Satan, Demon or anything similar. I laughed it off.
For the first two weeks, he wouldn’t leave my side and just loved us. That’s about the time we realized that we couldn’t leave his side. At all. If I had to leave the house, I dropped him off at Scott’s office. Hello, separation anxiety! He wouldn’t go in a kennel willingly and tried to chew his way out if we forced it. We tried leaving him in the garage, but he chewed off the wires on my garage door so it wouldn’t open with the remote. Scott had to refinish the door leading into the house as well.
Fortunately, it was soon warm enough to leave him outside. An invisible fence kept him in, and he spent his days chasing ground squirrels, making rounds of his two acres and lying on the bench on the front porch watching for us.
We know that someone had owned him, had him neutered and taught him to sit. The shelter guessed that it was someone working on the oil rigs in the area that either lost a job or couldn’t find lodging that allowed dogs, apparently that happened a lot. He was on the street for months and in the shelter six more months. He weighed 49 pounds when we brought him home. He gained 30 pounds in the next year.
In addition to the separation anxiety, Jackson had no boundaries. Various family members found him in odd places…standing on the dining room table howling, standing on the bathroom counter looking at himself in the mirror, both of our nightstands looking out windows. He stole food from the kitchen counters, once a pound of raw bacon, another time a bunch of frozen fish fillets that he hid all over the house. That’s a smell you don’t forget. And he had a thing for chicken like I’ve never experienced. We had to put childproof locks on the trash cabinet because he figured out how to open it. Soon after, he figured out how to open our interior doors.
That boy could jump, too. One day, I was cooking beer cheese soup in a tall pot on the back burner. I heard something and came running. He was sitting in front of the stove looking very innocent, with cheese soup on the end of his nose. As recently as Thanksgiving 2014, he could still jump a six-foot-tall wooden fence. That’s the same day he run up a kids’ climbing wall and came down the slide.
About the time he started settling in, we sold the house and took him on a 10-month RV road trip around the country. Listen carefully. Do not, under any circumstances, do this with an 80-pound dog with separation anxiety.
While Scott and I roamed the country, hitting 27 states and covering 23,000 miles, Jackson was miserable. We couldn’t leave him alone in the camper for more than a couple of hours, which severely limited the sightseeing we could do without him. When we’d return, he’d have destroyed his bed, strewing thousands of pieces of foam and so much drool around that we had to mop. We were very fortunate to have a wonderful vet at home who kindly sent us doggie antidepressants. They helped, but he was only happy if he was sitting at our feet or riding in the truck. That he excelled at. Ten-hour-day driving? No problem. He was with us and he was content.
We were able to leave Jackson at doggy daycare facilities from time to time, which allowed us to do some longer sightseeing jaunts. Sometimes it even went well. In Bar Harbor, not so much. We planned a carriage ride through Acadia National Park for my birthday and had a wonderful day. When we asked the woman who’d taken care of him how’d he done, her response was classic Jackson. “Well, he crapped twice, knocked his water bucket over three times, unlocked the gate on his run, then ran around the building and looked at me through the window.” Anyhoo, we had a lot of fun that day.
Fortunately for us all, he settled in immediately once we were back in a house with a yard.
His destructiveness when left alone was hard to bear. I don’t know how many doors and pieces of trim Scott had to refinish, but it was a lot. Same with screen doors. Sometimes it was because he didn’t seem them, but mostly he was trying to claw his way out of the camper. We just kept rolls of screen on hand.
Jackson chewed the seat belts out of the truck when we left him in it for 20 minutes to taste some wine in Virginia. It was 60 degrees out and the back and side windows were open wide enough that he could almost have escaped. What harm could he do? Well, namely, chew the front and back seatbelts out of the passenger side. Do you know how much it costs to replace a seatbelt attached to an airbag? We do.
Fortunately for him, he had lots of redeeming qualities. First, he was very, very cute. Those big brown eyes got him a lot of forgiveness.
Second, he was funny. He ran the best hot laps I’ve ever seen. Sometimes, he’d get so low to the ground you couldn’t see under him and run around you in the crazy circles. Other times, he’d jump the long way over a sectional couch during a Super Bowl party. He had a lifelong war with Magpies and squirrels but was terrified of snakes. We once heard him barking like he was being attacked by a bear, but it turned out to be a six-inch-long garter snake. Thank goodness he was there to protect us.
Finally, he just wanted to be with us. He loved us unconditionally, even when we dragged him around the country in an RV. He was happiest when all of his kids—Anna, Andy and Dalton—were home and he could keep an eye on everyone at once.
We’ll miss him forever. What a good boy.
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