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Message in a Bottle, June 2011
My Life With Jack
Column By Don Coppock
Jack (pictured) has been my companion about 10 years now. Friends gave him to me after I lost my pound hound Mac to cancer, and I reluctantly accepted him. I definitely didn’t want another dog - Mac was the love of my life, and his death broke my heart, and it took awhile before I ceased comparing Jack to his beloved predecessor.
Mac was an extrovert who needed to investigate everything, as his frequent visits to the vet after bouts with porcupines, coyotes and bears will attest. Jack is quieter, slower, less overtly friendly and more introspective. Mac cavorted with stars such as Robin Williams and Alicia Silverstone, who occasionally came in my music shop in Lake Tahoe. Jack was content to lay behind the counter for the day's duration. But somewhere along the line we bonded, as is inevitable with any companion. You come to accept each other’s flaws and eventually become dependent on those flaws. He accompanied me to my music store daily, made the move with me to Reno , Nevada , and ultimately joined me here in Thailand.
I share with you bits of our diary.
Jack arrived at Suvarnabhumi airport near Bangkok, Thailand from Reno, Nevada via Los Angeles as filthy as the crate which housed him. His chief complaint, I suspect, was his inability to articulate his myriad other complaints. I can’t begin to imagine his terror and confusion as he was shunted from place to place all the while wondering what the hell was going on.
Still, when he finally arrived he immediately recognized me approaching his cage, and once released, everything was forgotten. Life regained its clarity, and he rediscovered his mojo. Suddenly he was a dancing machine, bouncing and skittering about, doing his own version of the moonwalk as life was once again a celebratory affair. Bygones were bygones and everything was good, better than good, life was wonderful, and Jack was drunk on sweet freedom. ‘No hard feelings, dude, let’s party…’
Once settled into our rental not far from Jomtien Beach, Jack found himself lying on the floor contemplating exactly what this move meant, wondering how to atone for imagined sins, something that would explain why he’d been forced to endure what he’d just been forced to endure; the appropriate shots, a night in Los Angeles, a seemingly endless flight in a loveless crate, customs in a Thai airport and then the damnably hot journey to Pattaya. He knew it had to be something, and whatever the hell it was he wants to make damn sure he doesn’t do it again. Now he’s on his absolute best behavior…no sense in provoking me.
Lord knows what else I’m capable of.
Our first stroll down Jomtien beach Jack immediately attracted notice. Dogs in Thailand are generally small, and Jack, weighing in at about 100 pounds, dwarfs most. People eyed him nervously, and while numerous smaller beach dogs had to keep up appearances by yipping, feinting and performing half-hearted acts of intimidation, they rarely got close. Jack was imperturbable, he’s generally good-natured (hell…I’ll be honest…he’s lazy) and aggression requires so damn much effort. Eventually a few courageous dogs did summon the courage to actually approach him, and most encounters ended in excited sniffing, wagging tails and declarations of undying friendship.
Last night rain battered the streets and thunder cracked, murmured and rumbled ominously thru the dark, and while Jack has many noble qualities, courage isn't one of them. I noticed him standing expectantly over me in my bed in the middle of the night while the thunder boomed about us, and when I got up he followed me, didn’t let me out of his sight. When I sat down he pressed his head against my knee, leaned into it, somehow sensing I can protect him from the thunder gods and make it all go away.
I’ve no idea where he got this notion that I have powers over the sky and earth, that I can control the heavens, when all I've ever done is open doors and give him food, but I have to admit I kind of like the role.
Jack is attentive now, a rarity. His ears are pointing, his nose is up, his eyes focused.
There's a big old bug flying around and he needs to concentrate. He needs to catch this thing, this airborne emissary of the devil, this infernal creature representing all the little creatures that torment him and rouse him from his torpor, preventing him from getting the sleep that is so dear to him.
He is rigid with intent, remains still, a coiled spring waiting to explode, a study in concentration, until suddenly he snaps viciously at the air again and again and again.
Almost got him that time!
Still, Jack is nothing if not patient. He settles onto his haunches. No worries. He'll be back...
Jack is not an excitable boy. Even eating had become a ho-hum affair. Lately, however, he’s more animated at mealtime. Knowing the two cats outside want his food somehow just makes it tastier. Now when I’m about to serve him his food he first makes sure the cats are there. Then he begins to bounce up and down and do his version of the moon walk, tickled silly, knowing every bite, every mouthful, is one less mouthful for his audience outside. When he's done he smacks his lips together loudly, smacks with enthusiasm in an effort to make sure they hear the evidence of his satisfaction. Because damn that food was good! God that was delicious! Whoowheee, those was some tasty, tasty fixins!
Walks are another major turn-on. He hops, dances, and grins his toothy grin, as though our 20 minute walk is everything he'd been praying for, and he shoots out the gate as though to say 'free! Free at last!'
It doesn’t last, of course. By the time we get back he's weary again, bone tired, completely drained, and ready for sleep again. Freedom can be exhausting.
Jack's hair is everywhere, grows faster than I can brush it, and I've begun to suspect if I gave him a truly thorough haircut I'd discover there wasn't a dog beneath, just a pink nose, a tongue, and a set of jibbers forming a wolfish grin.
The birds are appreciative however.
I see them hopping around picking up tufts, and I imagine their opulent nests cushioned and feathered, luxury suites courtesy of Jack...
I talk to Jack a lot. Nothing complicated. Hell, it took me two weeks just to get him to shake. 'The rain sure is wet,' I'll say, or 'the air is sure good to breathe, isn't it Jack?'
And believe it or not I really think he understands, though he rarely acknowledges it.
On certain occasions, however, he comes out of his shell. I imagine him taking an interest in Farmville, a virtual game on Facebook.
'Do they have pigs,' he'll eagerly ask while grinning and wagging his tail.
'Yes, they have pigs, 'I'll patiently reply, 'but they're virtual pigs.'
'But they're pigs, right?' he'll go on, his smile beginning to reveal more teeth.
'They're imaginary pigs, Jack...you can't even smell 'em. They aren't real,' I'll continue, and he makes no effort to hide his disappointment.
Then his face brightens. 'What about chickens,' he'll blurt out, 'They got chickens…?'
Jack's getting old, and with age comes more problems. Getting up is an arduous affair. He was never the most animated dog, but he walks slower now, it's plainly an effort, and while before he gave everything a cursory sniff before eagerly moving on to the next fragrance, these days he's much more professorial in his interest, lingering interminably over each essence, so intent is he on examination.
So while our morning and evening walks have begun to cover less ground, they take infinitely more time. There may be a slower dog out there. It's possible. But at this point I notice visable aging between embarking on one of Jack's walks and returning.
Flowers bloom and wither…eggs hatch and begat eggs…children grow up and marry…empires flourish and die…clouds meander by and cycles complete themselves at their own languid pace while Jack continues to investigate the scent before him, as if it were a riddle containing all the mysteries of the universe.
He doesn't simply smell the plants, Jack inhabits them.
‘C’mon Jack,’ I urge, never the most patient of fellows, but to no avail. He lingers, soaking in their very essence until he actually becomes the flower. Nothing else exists, and everything beyond this precious scent ceases to be. Everything becomes one.
There is only the flower and time has no meaning to my Buddhist dog.