Jack The Dog

How I Became A Dog Person

I wasn’t always a dog person. Sure, I wanted a puppy when I was little. Just like every other kid on the block. But we had always had cats at home, and I knew nothing about dogs. In fact, they even scared me a little, but I knew for sure I really really wanted one (kids logic at its finest). Then, as we’re all told by our parents when we’re young: “NO”. Plain and simple. End of the story. So, I didn’t get a puppy and grew up dogless.

Fast forward to age 21. I moved to the States. -North Carolina, to be precise. I didn’t know many people there, started making a few friends, but didn’t have a “best” friend. I mean, trust and friendship take time to grow. And when you’re fresh into your 20’s, you start to notice that people get more and more busy with life, and friendships become slower to evolve than when you were a child, or even a teenager. I needed a little companion. A little creature I could be completely emotionally attached to. A constant presence at home so it wouldn’t feel so empty. I just longed for it.

Initially, I figured I’d get myself a cat. I had always had cats, I understood cats, I was totally a cat person. But cats are impossible to travel with, which was a potential issue at that point in my life. Then I thought, hey, I’m an adult now, I live on my own … nothing’s holding me back anymore from getting that puppy I always wanted. A few weeks later, my phone rang like it was meant to be. A friend had just witnessed something awful: a dog had been thrown out of a car in the middle of a road. He ran to get him so he wouldn’t get run over by other cars. The dog appeared to be fine and healthy, but he couldn’t keep him because his landlord didn’t allow pets. He asked if he could bring him over. So this was a classic example of “be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it”. I suddenly wasn’t so sure anymore, but agreed to check him out.

That evening, in January 2005, the cutest little brown fur ball came through my door, and peed on my kitchen floor. I was in love! He couldn’t be more than 8 weeks old. He was still very clumsy when walking, had the head shape and eyes of a tiny baby. I felt so bad for the little bugger. He was clearly too young to be without his mother. Alright, I was on a mission! I was going to raise that little pup and make sure such horrible thing would never happen to him again.

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And then started the nightmare … I now had a dog. A little 6 to 8 week old puppy who was a male, and thus clingy as hell. He wouldn’t let me do anything without him. Me taking a quick pee break in the bathroom instantly turned into a crying drama behind the door. He wanted to be with me, every second, of every minute, of every day, AND NIGHT. I was exhausted. It was literally like having a newborn baby at home. The feedings, the potty training, the leash training, the attention, the cleaning of all his mess, the vet trips and pet store trips … my God. What had I gotten myself into? I was exhausted, I looked like hell and I didn’t feel like we even had a bond. He needed attention and care, but I didn’t feel like he really gave a crap about me, and I started to feel that I didn’t love him either.

I had always assumed you were supposed to have an instant connection with your dog. I mean, you hear about all those dog lovers who love and adore their dog from day 1, and have such a great bond and relationship. I rolled my eyes and wondered if I should have just gotten a cat instead. It took me weeks to find him a name. Nothing sounded right, nothing suited him. And then one day: Jack. The perfect name. It sounds the same in every language, and every hero in every movie is named Jack. It wasn’t particularly original, but it felt right :-) That puppy finally started to have an identity. I was slowly getting attached.

It took another year for him to be fully trained and for us to be on the same page. Slowly but surely, we learned each other’s body language, mimics, sounds. All the subtleties that make you understand one another. I loved my dog to pieces and we did everything together. He had so much personality, it was like watching a little person trapped into a dog’s body. Our daily walks were sacred. And despite having a big yard, I always made sure to make time for our 30 minute hike together. That’s when a whole new world opened up to me … People started approaching me and talking. In just a few months time, I knew people in my entire neighborhood. Something that had never been the case in my life before Jack. I was a shy introvert, never one to walk up to strangers. But Jack was! He loved strangers! They saw this little four legged social butterfly and were instantly drawn to him. Naturally, we started chit chatting about him, and then other random topics. Within less than a year, everybody knew us as Jack & Lisa. As years went by, I slowly opened up. I was no longer shy. I approached people, started talking to them. Dog owners on their dog walks have the perfect ice breaker; something in common to talk about. I had really underestimated the power of that.

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After Jack passed away, there were no more walks. As weeks and months passed, I noticed I still talked to strangers with ease, and especially those with dogs. That’s when it finally dawned on me. Jack had changed me. He had brought me out of my shell like no human could have possibly done. I miss my little buddy and I’m so thankful for everything he’s brought into my life. All those people I got to know through the years, some of them became good friends. And I’m sure I will meet many more. I like to look at it as Jack’s legacy, which will continue to affect my life until my very last day.

No dog will ever replace Jack. He was my first, and I learned everything I know about dogs thanks to him. I still get teary eyed when I dwell on the memories. I’m definitely sure that I want a new dog in my life soon. Not as a replacement – because they’re all unique – but as a new chapter ready to be filled with new happy memories, and new human friends along the way. I’m still going to need a while for the sadness to fade a bit, but I know I’ll get there.

Dogs are such amazing creatures. I never believed it before I got a dog myself. I was like “yeah yeah, sure, whatever, other pets are just as nice”. And although in a way I don’t like to admit it, because I don’t want to make it sound like other pets such as cats or rabbits are worthless animals (they’re not!), I do have to say there’s something extra special about having a tight bond with your very own dog. It’s hard to put in words. They are so much work and such a pain when they’re young, but my God, is it worth it. After almost a decade with Jack, I can say for a fact that I’ve turned into a better version of myself. I’m more open, less judgmental of others, I talk to people easily, I’m more compassionate. The overwhelming love and loyalty he’s brought me were my strength in many dark moments. I was never alone. He guarded the house and protected me. I felt safe and loved. – After all, what more does a person need?

♥︎ Lisa

Choosing the breed

On my quest to find my new puppy, the first step – naturally – is to choose which breed I’m going to go for. I knew right away I wanted a small breed. My previous dog, Jack, was a medium sized terrier mix, which isn’t big by any means. But it did come with some disadvantages. I’m in Europe, so most of my activities are either by foot, by bike, or by bus. For my dog’s safety, I often picked him up and carried him in my arms to cross busy streets and walk through crowded places. I got especially nervous when I saw lots of high heels around, ready to accidentally impale my dog’s paws. When you’re carrying roughly 26 pounds in your arms (about 12 kilos), you quickly realize that there are certain places you just can’t take your dog to.

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After a lot of going back and forth between pinschers, bichons, small poodles, chihuahuas, pugs, yorkshires, and what have you, I finally settled for chihuahuas. They tick all the boxes for me. Tiny, lightweight, easy to work with, extremely sociable when properly trained. And did I mention they’re tiny? Plus, you have to admit, Jack kind of looked like a giant chihuahua, so I feel quite drawn to brown dogs with big ears :-)

My poor Jack had to fly in cargo when I traveled with him. It broke my heart, and I never wanted to put us both through that again. Now here’s the wonderful thing about chihuahuas (or any tiny breed for that matter): they’re allowed to fly in cabin. If you’re flying internationally, you obviously have some paperwork to worry about. But if you stick to domestic flights – or in my case, within the European Union – traveling should go like a breeze. I say *should* because I’ve never dealt with this first hand.

Then comes the question: where to buy? I don’t really have an answer to this yet. All my previous pets were rescues, so my first reflex was to check out shelters. To my biggest surprise though, shelters in Northern Europe are nothing like those I saw in the States. They don’t seem to have tiny breeds here like I’m looking for (except for an odd one here and there, but not a single chihuahua); and I started looking about 7 months ago. So I think it’s safe to say at this point that my next pup most likely won’t come from a shelter.

I think the other responsible option would be to check out registered breeders who have all their paperwork in check, and also should assure genetic diversity to minimize potential health risks. I’ve heard about pro breeder chihuahuas living up to 20 years. This would be awesome, obviously. I would have loved for my Jack to live two decades. He didn’t even reach the 10 year mark. So I can only hope my next pup will make it a little longer than he did. I can’t go through this ordeal every 8 years, it’s too heartbreaking. Which is another reason to think carefully right now before I settle for anything.

I definitely still have a lot of homework to do. I’m thinking about adopting in Spring 2014 at the very earliest. Or, ideally, after Summer 2014. It should be plenty of time to prepare the arrival of my next little companion!

♥︎ Lisa

Slowly closing Jack’s chapter

I wanted to create this blog with a special thought in mind for my first dog, Jack, who passed away on May 8th 2013.

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I got him when I was 21 years old. He left us way too soon, at the age of 8 and a half, and I feel like I will never stop missing him.

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The grieving process was hard. He was with me 24/7, which is more than any human ever is; including my husband. From the moment I woke up till the moment I went to sleep, and even while asleep, he was right there next to me. We did absolutely everything together. So when he passed away, my whole life fell apart. My daily occupations and habits suddenly came to a halt. I had to reinvent myself a new routine without him, after nearly a decade. I missed my little buddy. I realize that me being a stay-at-home basically put me in that position of having such a tight bond with my dog. Much more so than people who are out and about at their job all day. I literally lost a part of my being and was inconsolable.

After he died, I knew fairly quickly that I wanted to get another dog. But I realized that I needed to give myself at least a year to grieve properly. You can’t start a new chapter if you’re still dealing with the previous one. It’s hard, because I miss the company of a dog by my side every day. But it’s a necessary step. I also want to give myself time to prepare the arrival of my next pup. Jack came to me quite unexpectedly, and he was my first dog. So needless to say that the first year of his life was a chaotic mix of improvisation and learning, since I knew absolutely nothing about dogs. I also couldn’t believe how fast he grew up. I feel like I hardly got a chance to take pictures of him as a puppy. Within 6 months, he was already full grown.

This time, I really want to have everything perfect and ready for my new little companion. I also promised myself I would not settle for just any dog. It will have to be the right one for me. I mean, if I’m going to be spending the next decade with this little creature by my side at all times, it better suit me a T. That’s when the idea of creating this blog came to mind. I have a photo album of Jack filled with pictures in chronological order from when he was a puppy, up until the last week of his life. It’s a great keepsake. But this time around, I want a diary of our journey together with tons more pictures than a physical album could ever hold. I want every little moment captured, along with detailed accounts. And I want to share it with the world, instead of keeping it locked up in a cupboard.

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Time goes by so fast. The sad reality we have to face when we adopt a pet is that we’ll most likely outlive them. They’ll be part of our lives for 10, maybe 15 years if we’re lucky. Every day is a blessing. Every day counts. So here’s to the past, the present, and the future. May time be captured here so that all those precious moments can be cherished forever.

♥︎ Lisa