One of my best friends died on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013. Jake Farrell was 12 years old, when he passed away from a heart attack in my backyard. Jake was doing what he liked, living life, running around.
I didn’t know Jake very long. We met only in December 2011. In the short time we knew each other, we became great friends. See, that’s the way it is with dogs; if they like you, then you are in their pack. Jake became a member of my pack, and I would like to think I was a member of his pack.
Jake was good boy. That’s not to say he and I didn’t have our issues. He ate my doorknobs. But, honestly, the indentation of his teeth on the knob actually makes the knob easier to grip. He picked on his sister, Puffin, all the time. Jake and Puff are related only by genus and species, not blood relatives, but they share the same “Mother.” Jake loved to chase Puff, who, at 14 years, wasn’t amused with being chased, swatted, pounced upon, bulldozed, harried, or harassed. Jake took great pleasure in taunting Puff, though; you could literally see the smirk on his face.
His mother would scream, “JJJAAAkkkee!” when he took off after Puff. The intent on his face was very clear and his body language unmistakeable. “I’ma gonna put a spank on that white fuzzy butt.”
Puff would have her back to him, sniffing a mystery odor in the yard, while Jake, like a terrestrial shark, would line her up in his sights and sidle-up behind her and give her a firm swat on the rump with one of his giant paws.
Jake had strong, powerful jaws. I’m not sure what breed Jake was, or breeds, but to look at him one might think he was Akita, at least in part. He had sharp, intelligent eyes which softened when he was tired, grinned when strutting while on a walk, and narrowed when he was caught by an idea.
He and I would wrestle in the yard. He loved to wrestle, tussle, tug, chase, and be chased. My dogs don’t do “The Stance,” the butt-in-the-air, tail-wagging, head-down with eyes ready look. But, Jake had The Stance down. Jake was like the rough-and-tumble wrestlers of the old days who would work the ropes for while to get themselves revved up before the match. When Jake hit the yard he would strut around, bark, and get himself revved up. Then, butt-up, face-down, “Michael, I’m getting ready to bring the pain.”
Jake and I would wrestle and run from each other, over and over again. For 12, Jake had enormous energy. Jake would claw and nip and jump, and break out all his tricks during play. But, all of our matches ended the same, with him on his back, getting a belly and chest rub.
I will always remember Jake for his positive attitude. Jake wasn’t hyper or over-active. Jake simply enjoyed life. He wanted to be active. He wanted to walk, play, smell, spank Puff, cuddle with Mom, run on the beach, bite the waves, swim in the pool, whatever. If doing something was involved, Jake wanted to be a part.
I could see the toll his love of life had. Getting into the car was hard after a rough day of play. Getting up the stairs was hard after a long day of play. Jake’s Mom would caution me against playing too rough with him. I tried, and being the adult, I should have known better. Jake’s exuberance was hard to ignore, at times, and I overdid it.
Jake marched to his own beat often, though. If I backed off from playing, Jake would run with Abby, one of my greyhounds. Sometimes, Jake would create his own fun and simply run until he was exhausted. He loved cool, crisp wintery days. His nose would rise into the air, and he would strut like a Field Marshall on a morning before a big battle, almost as if to say, “This is a good day to play.” And, then he would. If bits of old stuffed animals were laying about the yard, Jake would pick them up and toss them around, run over and slap Puff or Abby (I think because they screamed the most), or he would get up in Sadie’s face (one of my other dogs, a Shepherd/Huskie mix) and bark at her to “Bring it, bitch!
And, Sadie deserved what Jake-aboo was cookin’, because Sadie gave Jake all sorts of undeserved grief. Sadie is super-possessive, even stuff which doesn’t belong to her, belongs to her. She’s that type, “What’s mine is MINE, and whatever you think is yours belongs to me, too, and I’ll bite your face off to prove it.” She doesn’t get that from me … I’m pretty sure, anyway.)
I miss Jake. He and I had plans for the summer. He was going to help with yard work. Both of Jake’s back feet have 6 toes. Yep, 6. When Jake would spread his scent after peeing, he could thatch a yard something fierce. Standing behind Jake while he scratched the yard was like standing behind a woodchipper. He was going to help me get my flowerbeds cleared out.
Jake loved life. Anyone who met Jake automatically realized his love of life, and as much as a dog can infect a person with appreciation for life, Jake did that. Jake would make you appreciate your life, like it or not. He would leverage himself up with his front paws so he could look you in the eye and paw you, to say, “Hey, we’ve got to go do something.”
One lesson I think Jake learned while he was part of my life was a little bit of patience. When we first met, he would immediately eat his Milkbones. “I’m going to love my bone right now! Then, I’m going to go do something!”
Jake would watch Carson, Abby, and Sadie retreat to their special bone chewing spots, whether indoors or outdoors. At some point, when I have gave Jake his Milkbone, he didn’t eat it right away. He gently took the bone from my hand, then watched Carson, Abby, and Sadie find a spot in the yard where they would lay down and munch. He scanned the yard and moved off the deck to a place not too near Sadie, but closer to her than the rest. After that day, Jake always took his treat with great enthusiasm and ran out into the yard with the others and ate his bone.
I love Jake. I think he liked me, too. When he came over to visit, he would run to the backdoor which led to the backyard and if I weren’t right behind him, he’d come get me or wait. When I let him outside, he would rush out and turn around, waiting for me. When all the dogs were out, and Carson, Sadie, Abby, and Puff had enough, I would let them inside and Jake and I would explore the yard. He would look at me, head cocked to one side, “Aren’t you coming out?” Anyone who has seen that look knows the look is hard to refuse.
Jake was impervious to weather. Sort of. At 60lbs, Jake would be reduced to quivering jelly in the moments leading up to a thunderstorm, and throughout the duration of any storm. Benadryl works well for helping dogs who experience storm anxiety relax. But, for gentle showers Jake would stand, statue-stiff, nose into the wind, during downpours, as if nothing was happening. I have my dogs mostly trained for having their paws cleaned once they come back inside. If Jake’s mom wasn’t around, he would follow suit and get his paws cleaned. Then, like a kid playing in winter-snow, he’d be back outside getting wet again. “Jake …” I’d say, shaking my head. He might look back at me. “It’s only rain, Michael. I’m not going to melt. Besides, in North America, I’m top of the Food Chain.”
What ever enthusiasm Jake had for me was amplified by 100 when his mom would play. Kathie raised Jake from a 5-week old pup. They were a duo. To catch one was to catch both. Tennis, swimming, driving, hiking Kathie and Jake and were nigh inseparable. Jake liked me; Jake loves his mom. “How are you, Jake, and Puff this morning?” I would text Kathie. “Jake’s up my ass; he’s not satisfied with the amount of mommafication he’s gotten this morning.” The happiest moments of Jake’s life were spent with his mother, whether at the beach, on the tennis court, or in my backyard playing chase. We’ve all heard the gleeful cries of surprised children at playgrounds when their parents sneak up or chase them unexpectedly. Jake’s barks were joyful and ecstatic; “I’m gonna get you, Momma; come on and chase me. You’re too slow. You wanna catch Jakie, you gotta be quick.”
Dogs have an amazing ability to generate empathy in most everyone. Those immune to the empathic nature of dogs have something wrong with the wiring of their brains. Dogs are like children who can’t grow up. They keep us young, keep us thinking young, help us remain active, help us socialize while we keep them socialized. I’ll never understand the person who has a dog, chained alone in a yard, or fenced alone in a yard. Dogs are social animals, just like people. Wolfpacks ostracized members, throw them out of the pack. Those solitary wolves, if they don’t find a new pack, or form one, don’t live long.
Dogs love people, love other dogs, love to socialize, crave socialization. Jake typified these traits. He loved life, gave 100% all the time. He loved his mom, his sister, his car rides, his bed, his couch, his belly scratched, and his legs rubbed. He didn’t like sharing his mom at bedtime, though, not even with his sister. And, I’m not sure he loved Sadie. He tried his best, though.
Dogs are meant to be family; they’ve been bred for 10,000 years to be part of people’s families. We’ve bred them to be more compliant, smarter, safer, cuter, bigger, to fit in small apartments, to bring down antelope, deer, bears, to hunt ducks, rabbits, foxes, squirrels, and raccoons. We’ve bred them to help the physically disabled, and we’ve bred them to help protect us. We’ve bred them to depend on us, too, and unavoidably, us on them.
They are as much a part of our family, as we are part of their pack. We are their pack. You are the Pack Leader – or, better be. Your family is your dog’s pack.