Friday, April 22, 2011
Part seven: Dogs of the Empty Nest, Jane and Jones
Time passes. In a blink Kristi, Beth, Todd, and Sarah were grown and off making lives of their own. The day I took Sarah to
Kansas State to begin college, I arranged to meet a friend on my way home to buy my first dog since died. I chose a Jack Russell terrier. Her name was to be Jane Russell. I had done some homework and knew what I was getting into. Some claim the breed is misnamed: they should be called Jack Russell terrorists. Terriers are bred to be busy, easily distracted by anything that moves, aggressive toward varmints, independent thinkers, quick, strong, athletic, and stubborn. The Jack Russell is the ultimate terrier. Jane, the ultimate Jack Russell, was only eight weeks old when I brought her home, and she could leap up on the couch from a flatfooted start. Her quick turns and sprints meant she could outrun Dammit Max. She learned to play fetch with a knotted sock in about three minutes and would never bother a sock without a knot in it. (If you were to see my laundry room, bedroom floor, or TV room, you would understand the importance of this fact.) She watched television. Flint Milo and Otis was her favorite movie. If anyone yelled, “Dogs on TV,” she would rush in and sit up in front of the screen until the dog scene was over.
Jane loved to make up her own games. If she could not get one of her humans to throw her tennis ball, she would take it into the hayloft and drop it down the stairs or out the loft door, then retrieve it herself. She also played soccer solo by rolling a soccer ball full speed around the yard and pasture. Jane pursued a packrat into the engine of our car and did $800 worth of damage to the wiring.
Jack Russells are smart, spunky, cute, and engaging. Unfortunately, they are so dedicated to “varmint” hunting that they are often self-destructive. Many do not reach a ripe old age because they get trapped in holes trying to dig out a rabbit, dive from a moving car window when they spot a squirrel, or run in front of a passing car when chasing a cat. When she was just five years old, she was with Duane out by the road helping him fix fence. She flushed a rabbit and was killed by a passing car as she chased it across the road.
I cried. I missed having a dog around, but it took about a year before I could look for another dog. I couldn’t bear the thought of another Russell so I decided to look for a corgi. I found Miss Jones. She’s Welsh, you know. What a cute little ball of fluff. The Pembroke Welsh corgi is the smallest herder. I quickly understood why The Queen is so crazy about them. They smile, chuckle, bounce, fetch, herd anything that moves, and clean themselves like cats. Jones loves to go walking and is a perfect lady on the leash. She brings me the paper. I’m never alone. She follows me from room to room. She likes to be boarded at the clinic when we go on vacation because all the vets, techs, kennel cleaners, and secretaries love her and take her on errands to the post office or to make bank deposits.
And you know what? She reminds me of Skipper. Perhaps she will be the one my grandchildren remember as their first favorite dog. Perhaps memories of her will jog recollections of grandpa and grandma, their house in the country, the funny stories they used to share at the dinner table, the joy of laughter, and the warm security of aunts, uncles and cousins who love them without condition. Perhaps Miss Jones will foster in them that amazing bond between a person and a well-loved dog. Who knows? Perhaps they will also grow to measure time by the lives of their favorite dogs.