To a friend
I have been fortunate to make many friends in my life. And by friends, I mean an actual emotional and physical connection beyond the cyber sharing memes and cat videos on Facebook. People we meet in elementary and high school and college. As a result of our work and moves that may result. Some are casual and passing. Others are close and long-lasting and survive the test of time and distance. Each friendship is different. Because we all bring something unique and different to friendship and we all take something unique and different away.
Out of all those many friends, there are those whose presence is stronger and who hold a more significant place in our lives. Not to diminish the importance of any one person, but just like whiskeys, cigars, and chicken wings, all friends are not created equal.
Jake was one of those friends.
He was kind and gentle. Present and supportive. He didn't judge, and he didn't assume. He understood he wasn't my only friend and he allowed room for others in my life. He was there for good times and bad. We sometimes bickered. Barking back and forth at each other, stubborn, but loving each other regardless. But there was something that set him apart from all my other friends.
He was a dog.
There were obviously things Jake needed me to do for him. And when you do those things for a dog, you get their attention in return. But I got more than Jake’s attention. I wasn’t just his alpha, his caregiver, the conduit through which food and water got to his bowels. A person to open the door so he could go outside and relieve himself, chase the neighbor’s dog up and down the fence, and sit and enjoy a snowy afternoon. I got a companion who through his presence, a look, and a hug; let me know he understood how I happened to feel that day and he wanted to let me know he was there.
I knew our lives together would be short. It’s the nature of a dog’s biology. Jake’s DNA was largely Newfoundland. We recently learned there was also some lab and collie in his bloodline. Ten or 11 years is average lifespan for the larger breeds. December 27, 2018, was Jake's sixteenth birthday.
By early January Jake could no longer climb the stairs to our second floor, and he needed middle of the night trips outside to relieve himself. To keep him company and help him respond to the call of nature I spent most of January and February sleeping on the first-floor family room couch. In those weeks his hearing, eyesight, and thought process diminished, and I knew our time together was coming to an end.
Friday night I hosted an annual charity event that requires me to be engaging and quick on my feet. Jake and our two other dogs greeted me when I got home.
When Saturday morning came though he and I knew our time together here was over. He held on past Friday, but his energy was gone. My wife and I hoped Jake would pass quietly from this world in his sleep. I am glad he didn’t. I got one last chance to tell him how much of a friend he was to me. And before the bright light in his eyes dimmed he was able to share as much with me.
Jake bounded into my life as a puppy and a stranger in February 2003. He quietly left it in February 2019 as an old man and a close and dear friend.
God speed Jake. Thank you for being my friend.