The Home that Jack Built

For such a little guy, our beloved Yorkie Pomeranian has left a gaping hole in our home.

It didn’t take long for Jack to become the most important family member in the eyes of our kids. It became clear within the first week he arrived, when I accidentally fell down an entire flight of stairs.

My daughter (age 10 at the time) was my “first responder” running from her room down the stairs after me. But instead of tending to her mom, laying in a heap of agony on the floor, she stepped OVER me in search of her new puppy in another room; to ensure he wasn’t ‘frightened by the ruckus’ I had made.

Generally, he was a typical dog and like all dogs he had his own quirks:

Like, Jack’s idea of how a game of fetch was played wasn’t quite the same as other dogs.

Other dogs: 1) Owner throws ball 2) Dog chases, 3) Dog comes back and gives ball to owner. Repeat.

Jack’s version: 1) Owner throws ball, 2) Dog chases, 3) Dog comes back 4) Dog keeps ball and taunts owner with it 5) Owner puts down remote or iPhone to chase after Dog with ball 6) Owner catches Dog 7) Owner and Dog engage in tug of war over ball  8) Dog releases ball. Repeat.

Like other dogs he’d do tricks for treats, his most impressive act was rolling over on demand. Even though, sometimes, he’d confuse rolling with spinning and in his eagerness to get a treat would do both at the same time in a frenzied bizarre maneuver resembling a seizure.

But it wasn’t all fun and games, he was serious about his duties of property surveillance and beach patrol. He tirelessly kept watch for life-threatening rabbits & squirrels around the cottage and fended off sand pipers and gulls attacking our shoreline.

It should be noted here, there were days Jack felt unappreciated for his dedicated work. Especially, when he’d find his water or food dish left empty by mistake. It was during these times when I found it necessary to become his ‘whisperer’ to remind family members of his basic needs. It could also be mentioned here that he may or may not have ranted on his twitter handle “citydawg in the 6ix”.

Online or on the beach, Jack enjoyed celebrity-like status as everybody knew his name and the rest of us became known merely as “Jack’s owner”. He pranced like a prized pony and I’m quite certain his Pomeranian tail would curl tighter when complete strangers would swoon over his resemblance to the legendary Toto from Wizard of Oz.

So sure, he was adorable, he was cuddly, he was the perfect companion but somehow his absence feels deeper than that. So I found some recent research on the benefits of dog ownership to explain the human/canine connection:

  • They’re our our personal Buddhas.  When Jack insisted on going out, I’d feel too busy and grumble as I’d grab his leash and rush the poor little terrier along to ‘just get it over with’. But, within 5 minutes of being outside, I’d appreciate nature like Jack did, and always found I had needed the break. Apparently, these ‘pet pauses’ anchor us into the now. Whether its playing, petting or talking with our furry friends, these regular  mindful moments are said to boost our immune system, reduce stress & anxiety, and give us better focus.
  • They love us for just being us. Jack showed the same exuberance to see us if we had been away for 5 days or away for 5 min. putting out the garbage. He made us feel missed, appreciated and special and didn’t care if we messed up on a math test, we didn’t return email, or lost in the finals of a hockey tournament. In a world where we’re compared and bombarded with expectations, being loved for just showing up is powerful.
  • They are furry Pharmacies: I was blown away with studies establishing that when we interact (handle, play and pet) with our animal pals we release powerful chemicals (Endorphins, Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxycotin) associated with the feelings we get from chocolate, pleasure, love, runners high and pain killers.

Couch potatoes will take delight in knowing that sitting around with Fido can slow down our heart rate and breathing, lower our blood pressure, stop us from ruminating, inhibit the production of cortisol (stress hormones) and lowers our risk of cardiac disease by as much as 4%!

The research is so compelling, ‘dog therapy’ is being applied in nursing homes, rehabilitation programs, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome therapy and drug addiction to name a few. Insurance companies have been considering ‘Pet Ownership’ to be a viable factor for premium consideration and there is even progress towards pet expenses becoming tax deductible. Workplaces are catching on, too, and have found  improved productivity and morale when pets to to work with employees.

However, the scientific community has just proven what, we dog owners, have known instinctively forever; dogs are just good for us.

But here’s the thing, we didn’t get Jack because he’d lower our blood pressure, nor do I feel we miss him because of what he did to our brain chemistry or because he made us calm and focused.

No, their value isn’t something you can scientifically explore and as  Dr. Seuss would say perhaps, dogs, are just a little bit more.

As a mom, it made me smile when we spoke to Jack in our own special “jack voice”. A pitch and tone we reserved for magical moments with a baby or gazing into the eyes of a wild animal feeding from our hands.

That voice is really our own from a time when we, too, were that innocent. A time when our hearts were just as open and we saw the world as a place of harmony & happiness and without harm or hate.

Maybe the canine connection is that they remind us daily of who we were and can be.

Thanks, little fella, perhaps we’ll fill this hole in our hearts with memories of you and of our best selves.
RIP our little Jack.

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