jacksonsugar3After my dear dog of 11 years, Ranger, passed away, I had a month or two to contemplate what having a pet meant and how special the bond was. And the long shadow of it surprised me.  The amount of silence and the vacant holes of space that used to be occupied by my faithful companion, were all at once glaringly empty.  I rarely thought of hiking the old trails on my own because I associated all of them with being co-shared with Ranger.

My world kind of shrunk and compressed itself after Ranger passed away.  Whole networks of trails went untouched for several months and seemed wrong to consider doing solo.

And then just a day before my birthday it happened.  Joy came barreling out of the bathroom in the form of a black and white streaking blur of a puppy.

My wife had completely caught me off guard just in time for my birthday and changed the trajectory of my life.

Instantly the house was transformed back into a home.  This change in status has paid immediate dividends on my social life.  No longer did strangers seem impossible to greet.  I had a built in conversation starter as well as spiritual counselor.  No longer were distant forests and streams off limits anymore or not worth going to.

This doggie needs me.  And I need him!  No time to think about it or back out.  We had fully committed ourselves and jumped into the deep end of the pool.

And before I could even process it–I was getting licked directly in the face by this over powering reality!

The new gift came with the usual anxieties and “what if” questions—such as: “What if I can’t keep up with this young whipper snapper of a little doggie?”  “What if we don’t bond as magically as my past dogs?”  “What if this dog has some behavioral dark secret that I can’t tame well enough?”

On top of all this there was the first time jitters of having a much smaller dog.  “Would this one be too yappy and nervous and “UN” LAB like for my sanity?”

Of course my mind was conveniently forgetting all those many nuisance growing pain periods we had endured with our previous black lab mix in HIS younger, teeth cutting days.  It’s funny how you only think of the fully formed, finished product when you think of your beloved and recently deceased dog.

But my wife did it on a wing and a prayer and I’m very grateful that she did.  It was the best gift I could have ever planned for, or in this case—been completely blown away by.

And as it turned out, it WAS a major challenge picking a Jack Russell mix out of the doggie draft this past year.  We had to add accessories like an indoor cage an indoor leash, and a steady supply of dog bones to chew on so as to buy us a few minutes of TV watching peace.

And of course, when it came to the tranquility of the house and the golden ME time I had to watch TV and type on the computer– it took some major lifestyle adjustments getting used to the unavoidable reality that Jack Russell’s “JUST DON’T DO DECAFF” as my brother Andy sympathetically offered.

But then JOY came barreling out of the bathroom anyway.  A new era was dawning thanks to my wife’s grant surprise gift.  And I must admit to being very teary eyed and speechless at the dramatic suddenness of this spontaneous gesture!

And that new dog Jackson now feels indispensable already and a deep part of our family ties.  And I wouldn’t change one asymmetrical color pattern feature or single, solitary white spot in the midst of his inky black flank.

Joy comes barreling out of the bathroom when you need it the most.  What a great life lesson on love and the inclusive room we have in our hearts for new beginnings!  What an affirmation of the circle of life and the continuity of different seasons that we all face.

Right when we feel we are at a dead end and can’t possibly dream of the future and overcome some sad situation—joy comes barreling out of the bathroom unscripted to wake us up and force us back into doing what we do best.

And I for one am very glad to be witnessing this new “Jacksonian era!”



About John Watts

I like to write transcendental community based essays and stories along with photo journalism pieces.
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