I posted this on Facebook last Friday night: “Bored. Wife’s at work. Boys in their rooms playing video games. I’m on the couch flipping between mindless TV shows, FB and solitaire. Don’t feel like writing or reading a book. I think I need a dog.”
I then opened my laptop and started writing.
I’ve always had a dog until recently. We had two dogs growing up, a black French poodle named Twiggy, and then Maggie, an English setter. Why my parents named a black French poodle after a blonde British model, I have no clue.
I’ve always had a cat too, and still do. I only had one cat growing up, a pure white Maine coon that lived to be 18. Her name was Cotton. My parents weren’t as creative with this pet name.
While I like cats, they have no utility and have domesticated themselves, which explains their aloofness. Dogs, on the other hand, are more charitable. With dogs, I at least get the sense the relationship is a two-way street.
I’ve had four dogs of my own over the years; all Hungarian vizslas. Of the four, Jake stands out the most. He was my companion as a bachelor.
We went everywhere together. That’s not unusual for mountain towns like Truckee, but far from the norm with a large breed dog in the suburbs.
Jake was up for anything. We went to gatherings and festivals together, camped, hiked, biked and went on runs, but his favorite activity was playing fetch at the beach.
I had to be careful how far I threw his tennis ball into the ocean. He was fearless, never hesitating to jump straight through waves, popping out the other side frantically searching for his green ball in the white foam.
It was entertaining to watch Jake make his way back to shore. He’d look over his shoulder, wide eyed and panicked as he sensed the undertow of an incoming wave pulling him out to sea. He soon learned to stay calm and just let the swell push him in.
We’d come home after a long day out, each eat dinner (I’ve always only fed my dogs kibble, never scraps or wet food) then watch some TV on the couch before crashing out. I slept on the right side of the bed, coincidently the same side I sleep on now with my wife, and Jake slept on the left.
When my wife and I first met, she wasn’t sure Jake and I would ever be apart long enough for us to have time alone, but it didn’t take long for Jake to win her over. She soon become as attached to Jake as me.
So now we were three. One of our favorite hikes was up the floor of a deep canyon with a small stream running over sandstone at the bottom.
Jake did twice as many miles as us, constantly running through the stream going from bank to bank, often disappearing to scout the trail ahead, or lagging behind to follow his nose instead of us, requiring him to do double time in order to catch up and then zoom passed.
On one occasion, Jake started limping while hiking out. Thinking he had a thorn in his paw, I lifted his leg to discover his pads had worn through from running in the stream and on the rocks. So I hoisted Jake over my shoulders and wrapped him around my neck for the last couple miles to the car. Jake just laid there enjoying the view as his head bobbed up and down in sync with my stride.
Jake died too young. I’ll skip the details, except to say he got hit by a car, and his death was the first time I sensed absence of the spirit. I brought Jake home and laid him at the back door to go inside and call the vet. When I returned, he was gone. I could feel Jake’s spirit had departed.
Now that our kids are more self-reliant and my wife’s back working after being a stay home mom, I’m more often left to my own. I think I need a dog. A dog like Jake.
Nick De Fiori is an actuary by profession and holds a bachelor’s degree in earth science. A Truckee resident, he enjoys exploring the wilderness with his wife and two young sons in the summer and skiing in the winter. He can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.