Jack came to us as a two week foster care arrangement. He was lodging in the Glendale animal shelter at the time, and being eternally hopeful, extended his paw into the adjoining cage to say hello to a much larger dog. So his leg was in bandages and his head wrapped in a cone when he arrived at our door.
“He’s not staying,” I announced. “He doesn’t fit the color scheme of the house. Our other dogs are brown and rust colored.”
I was in my Aesthetic Fascist period then.
He trotted in this weird sideways canter, probably due to the injury, one paw crossing over the other, ears flopping up and down like antennae. He had terrible breath. He wasn’t very bright. The first time I let him off leash, at Runyon Canyon, he skittered straight down the hill, out the front gate, down Vista Street, and kept running until a samaritan intercepted him wandering Hollywood Blvd, “looking confused”.
Despite his apparent dimness, he knew instinctively to place his head on Mrs. U’s bosom whenever I tried to initiate a discussion of What To Do About Jack.
And so a third dog bed was purchased and he took his place in the menagerie. He was already down to only a few teeth at that point. I figured a year or two, at most. It was 2004.
Dogs and cats came and went at Chez UpintheValley, but Jack, like some canine version of Dick Clark, refused to age. He outlived them all, even Woody. He remained eternally hopeful. He proved to be the lowest-maintenance house member we ever had. No vet bills but annuals and teeth cleaning, which did little to assuage his halitosis. When we took him to my parents house, he rode in the car all the way to Mendocino County standing up, staring out the window. He jumped into San Francisco Bay. He forded the Eel River. The first time he saw snow, he pranced through it like a gazelle.
Two years ago the arthritis set in and he began clicking around the house like Nosferatu, at all hours. But he always gobbled the kibble.
To our amazement, there were another 30,000 miles left on his tires. He made it around the block with the others on the morning walk. More recently, when he no longer could, he still gimped his way to the front door when you came home. He yipped indignantly if he got stuck in the back yard. Even to the last week, he roused himself for a pepperoni stick. When he stopped eating, it was time.
We have no idea how old he was. Our best guess was 17.
I’m glad we kept him.