Not like that time years ago back in Cleveland when he disappeared during a frosty, snow-blanketed February pre-dawn run in Forest Hills Park with me and his sister Scout. When I finally found him, he came out of the woods covered in blood and whining in pain. According to the vet, a larger animal, perhaps a coyote, had grabbed him first by the butt, flipped him over and tried to rip his throat out.
But he made it out of the coyote’s jaws of death and back to us. In the waiting room at the vet’s office, Becky said she could feel the rhythmic movement of air on her lower leg. It was coming from the holes in Jake’s throat when he exhaled. The vet had to keep him overnight and offered no guarantee of survival. He came back to 100% eventually, although his bark was forever raspy where the coyote got him in the voicebox. I like to think that coyote has a few scars to remember him by as well.
Nor is this like the time he got lost in the woods behind our house in Pepper Pike. He loved to chase deer and there were plenty to chase in those woods. But he always found his way back – breathless and still thrilled from the effort. But this time he had gotten turned around and didn’t come when called. Our family was in a panic. I took to the woods while Becky and the boys took to the streets in our minivan. I trudged through the woods yelling “Jake!” at the top of my lungs.
People came out of their comfortable homes to peer into the darkness at the shouting madman in the woods. A woman asked me what I was doing. “Looking for my damn dog!” I replied to her disdain. We found him after a few hours in a development a few blocks away from ours. He ran over to me crouched low to the ground with his ears back like he was feeling guilty. I scooped him up and called the family. Daddy was a big hero, the star of the big reunion.
He wasn’t gone very long at all the time he swallowed a ball and collapsed from lack of oxygen when it blocked his throat. Becky had carried him to the car and gone back in to retrieve her phone when one of our boys yelled, “He spit it out! He’s breathing now!” It was just a few seconds that time but it seemed so much longer.
And it’s not the same as when he wandered off after we relocated to Taiwan. By that point at 16 years of age he was pretty much deaf and couldn’t see very well either. It had gotten dark and we were worried he might get hit by a car or fall into a ditch. So Becky took the boys and I went on around our Taipei neighborhood on my scooter yelling his name and asking any locals I encountered if they had see a “small white dog” in Chinese (小白狗). Thanks to the microchip under his skin, he was identified and returned to us later that evening for yet another tearful reunion.
Then he disappeared once after we moved into our new home in Taipei. It was maybe half an hour before one of us asked, “Where’s Jake?” And not five minutes later he strolled onto the back patio dripping wet and shivering. We had let him out into the front yard to do his business and he must have gone through the fence slats (getting skinnier as he got older) and fallen in the pool. We don’t know how that 17 year old blind deaf dog ever found his way to the steps at the far end of the pool all we know is we’re glad he did.
Jake was the best running buddy anyone training for a marathon could ever have. He and his sister would jump up even from a deep slumber, trembling with the possibility to get out and run. The two dogs were really our first children as Jake was already 5 years old when Griffin was born. And Jake was obsessed with catching a Frisbee. I would throw it as hard and as far as I could but he would always catch up to it and leap into the air – sometimes turning somersaults in the process – to make the catch. A passerby walking in the park once remarked, “I wish the Cleveland Browns had a receiver like that.” He was equally obsessed with fetching sticks from any pond or lake no matter how cold it was at the time.
But our loving Jake had a temper too. He never failed to growl under his breath when following directions he didn’t agree with. I have three scars on my hands from disciplinary run-ins with Jake. Now I cherish those scars as part of his memory. Jake has left us to chase that big frisbee in the sky – his final departure after all those threatened in the last 17 years.
Scout, his sister is still with us. Arthritic, mostly blind and deaf and occasionally incontinent. We clean up her accidents, carry her up and down the stairs, snuggle with her in spite of her rancid breath and tell her everyday how much we love our sweet little girl. Just like we still love Jake.
It doesn’t matter that he’s really gone now…