Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jack Is Back

I have a Golden Retriever named Jack who will be 14 in December. It always upset him a little when I packed a suitcase to go on a trip, so last August, to spare him the big trauma of moving out of my apartment, I took him permanently to his new home with my former wife Mary, where he would be able to live out his days with two cats and someone who already knows and loves him.

The problem was, I missed him. I wrote a piece called “Missing Jack” a couple of weeks later but never quite finished it and never posted it to the blog. In it I talked about how he slept much of the time, and how he’d become so hard of hearing that he often didn’t notice me come in the door any more, and how much of our interaction had come to consist of a certain nearbyness and an occasional sigh.

In the busy-ness of getting ready for the trade show and preparations for Peace Corps departure, I accommodated myself to Jack’s absence. But now Peace Corps has been postponed, and last week, as I was beginning to settle into a routine here at the cottage, I again became aware of my aloneness and the emptiness of this big house. Coincidentally, and thoughtfully, Mary suggested that Jack move back in with me for these five months till I leave for Morocco.

“He’ll be happier with someone around all day,” she said.

“And so will I,” I said to myself.

 So yesterday, I picked up Jack and all his things and moved him up here to the cottage with me. He’s always loved the beach. As soon as we got here, he headed off toward it. It’s amazing how it quickens his step. For about 10 minutes he walks with a regal prance, races along the water’s edge, chases a seagull if one is handy, and screeches to a halt to sniff at something half-buried in the sand. In general he acts like the young dog he probably still, in his mind’s eye, imagines himself to be. I’ve included some pictures of our very windy beach walk. I also included one – more typical – of what greeted me this morning as I came down the steps from the top floor.

In one of his books, Henri Nouwen talks about the quality of the profoundly disabled people who lived at the home where he spent the last decade of his life and career and what it gave him. He calls it Presence. It's what I get from Jack, I think.

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