I hated Jack at first.
My dad and brother brought him home from the pound and he was a tiny, squirming, ghost-white puppy. They’d wittily called him Casper at the pound, but my dad asked me to bestow a new name on the little creature. I have no memory of thinking hard on this name. I was in college, probably around 19 or 20 years old, and my mind was usually on boys. Specifically the roguish, eye-liner wearing, Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. Hence, Casper became Jack and my disdain for him began.
My parents went away for a weekend trip and left my brother and I in charge of the house and the new puppy. Looking back, I don’t know why my parents thought an oblivious high-schooler and self-centered college student would do a good job of taking care of a new puppy, but possibly the were trying to get away from us. Leaving us with Jack was the punishment or perhaps an attempt at a life lesson. The lesson I mostly learned was that puppies cry and poop A LOT. My dad recalls a phone call with me, in which I am shrieking, “DAD, he pooped EVERYWHERE. There is poop EVERYWHERE!”
I was not exaggerating. In between constantly crying, Jack had somehow managed to poop everywhere in our living room and take my mom’s collection of yarn and spread it all over the room as well. It looked like some kind of demonic easter egg hunt. Thus, his new name was born: Demon Dog.
My parents came back, life went on, and my parents decided to raise Jack themselves, as it was easy to see that their human children were incompetent. My brother focused on soccer and school and I went off to live abroad and teach English. But, a few years later, living in South Korea, something inside me changed. Something clicked.
South Koreans are known to enjoy a summer delicacy called bosintang or dog soup. I was horrified to learn that dogs were eaten like farm animals and even worse, treated like them. On my walks to school, I passed by nureongi, or the breed of dog used for meat, and they were chained up, dirty, and usually downtrodden or angry. I learned that they were beat before being used for meat, as it made them more tender. It made me sick and I would carry treats with me on my walks, hoping to befriend one of them or to show them some kindness, but they usually snarled at me. They didn’t know love and mistrusted humans. I thought of my own dog, Jack, and how ignorantly happy he was, even when ruining our family Christmas photo by covering the lawn with poop. I started to miss him and with that, came love.
I can hardly believe there was ever a time when I didn’t adore Jack more than most things in my life because once I started loving him, I went full-steam ahead. I would talk to him on Skype while living abroad and when I came home to visit, I would take him to the river to go on runs with me, play tug-of-war with him, and have him perform his party tricks of running after squirrels and shaking hands for all my friends. I cuddled him and called him aptly called “pet names”. He was “Jacky”, “Jackal”, “My Sweetheart”, “My Baby”, and of course, “Jack The Dog”. He was part of my family and my heart swelled with joy when I would come home from living abroad and see him.
I moved in with my parents in 2016 and it was hard for me adjusting to American life. I felt extremely depressed and a lot of my friends couldn’t understand. My parents couldn’t even understand. But, I had Jack. When I was home by myself, he would curl up with me when I was reading, or lay beside me as I practiced yoga. When I would stretch for a run, he would copy me by going into downward dog pose; something that always me very happy. I would put him in my car, turn on the music, and he would be so stoked with his head hanging out the window, as we headed off to a river adventure. At this point, I started calling him my “Doe Doe” and that is when you know you’re really head over heels for a dog; when their nicknames become totally ridiculous.
He was my protection out on hikes, my running partner, my adventure partner, and my friend.
I had unknowingly given Jack the perfect name, for he was a pirate dog. Despite several measures, Jack would constantly wander from home. Many of our neighbors knew him by name and one family even became his “other family”, as he would go on walks with them and show up at their front door begging for treats. He even ended up in their family Christmas photo and we felt slightly betrayed. Jack was extremely loving and friendly, but he was fiercely independent. Sometimes on our runs, he disappeared on a solo adventure or out by the river, he’d go off running about with new dog friends. Yet, Jack always came home and he always came back to you.
Jack passed away last month and it is still so painful. Just writing this blog makes me cry again. I have been lucky that so many friends and family have sent their condolences and fond memories of Jack and not one has made me feel stupid for caring so much about a dog. Because Jack was more than that and that is why we also called him Jack Smith. He was a part of our family and we loved and love him so much.
But, he was always the happiest dog and I’m sure he still is: up there in dog heaven, chasing squirrels and just pooping everywhere.