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October 9, 2011

In the annals of dog history, there stand out several examples of superb canines.  There is the heartwarming story of Greyfriar’s Bobby, the little terrier who faithfully guarded his master’s grave for 14 years.  Then there is Balto, who was the lead sled dog in a desperate race to deliver diphtheria serum to an epidemic-stricken town in Alaska.  And of course, there is Jake.

We took possession of Jake sort of by default.  Our neighbors had bought him a year or two after we moved to our place not far off of Scuffletown Road.  At first, I considered him a pest and was intent on keeping him out of our yard.  I would chase him off, and he would sneak back to steal shoes and other small possessions that had been left near the house.

Our home has attracted many dogs – mostly strays.  I have often wondered if it were because we lived on a relatively high piece of land with woods and stream to one side and pasture land to the other.  Maybe they were attracted to the aroma of Terrie’s fine cooking.  Most likely, I suspect, the reason was that we always had kids running around outside who were eager to scratch a head that was attached to a waggily tail.  Whatever the reason, Jake started spending so much time at our house that our neighbors finally gave up, brought us his food bowl and said that we could have him.

Jake was a wonderful guard dog for the place.  If the boys were outside playing, Jake was right there with them.  He did not tolerate any stranger coming between any of the kids and Terrie or me.  More than once, he nipped a delivery man or sales guy who did not understand this little unwritten rule.

Jake was a pretty well-mannered dog who could also make you fear for you life.  One time a salesman came down our driveway in hopes of separating Terrie from some of our hard-earned money.  Jake had a way of understanding who was welcome at our house and who was not.  Just as Terrie answered the door, Jake came around the corner and silently eyed the fellow, teeth bared.  Poor guy started sweating and anxiously asked “Does you dog bite?”  Terrie calmly replied, “He does when I tell him to.  What do you want?”

I can’t remember how old Jake was when he died.  Old enough to have a fair bit of arthritis, I guess.  He always saw me off to work each morning, chasing along side my car most of the length of our gravel drive.  As he grew older, I used to tell him to stay behind.  You could tell that it was a struggle for him.

One morning he ran with me for a while and then disappeared.  I thought that he had turned back toward the house.  Not so.  About a hundred feet later my truck lurched as both the front and read tires bounced over what seemed like a massive bump in the road.  I looked in the mirror to see old Jake stagger to his feet and start limping home.  He made it about halfway before collapsing in the grass beside the drive.  I went over to him and knelt down, stroked his head, and talked quietly to him.  He whimpered but offered no anger.  Just a few minutes later he was still.  We buried Jake out by the back fence, and there is seldom a time that, passing by his grave, I don’t think about him.  Good dog.

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