In July, her Grandfather died. He had been her best friend in the family, her go-to for fun and mischief. With him gone, and her heart broken, Jack stepped in with all the love in his canine heart. The two became inseparable.
He slobbered as he ran, drool flying as he fetched a ball for her a thousand times. He appreciated her mud pies, rolling in her bakery supplies. He chewed her dolls’ legs and arms off. She didn’t mind. He fit perfectly in the fort she had built in the backyard, and her tears for her grandfather were licked away and lost in the fuzziness of his jumping, joyful form.
We were trapped.
She had transferred all of the love for her grandfather to this wild, wiggling, trouble-making lab. He dug out of his new kennel. He dug up our entire backyard, trailing moles and mice by digging trenches twelve feet long. He brought mud in the house, staining the pale carpeting. He had a sensitive stomach. The explosive nature of his poor digestive system was so powerful, it could only be cleaned up by Doug. “I told you!” he roared. “I knew this would happen! I do not want to be cleaning up after a dog!” But there was no way a kid could clean up the messes he made. Until a vet changed his diet and solved the problem, Doug was the one bathing the dog, bleaching the floors, washing even the walls of our entryway.
We couldn’t get rid of him, and break her heart again.
We were doomed.
Shortly after that, Stella was born. I was at the hospital a lot. Preoccupied and absent, Doug and I blundered through the many doctor’s appointments. She had holes in her heart and a weak immune system. Germs that others carried with no problem would send her back to the hospital, unable to breathe. We were told to not let people visit until she was stronger. But we had a lot of friends who wanted to visit, and deliveries for Doug’s work. So we hung a sign on the front door explaining that we could have no guests in the house. Packages could be left on the doorstep. I had to be down in the city, anyway, and the kids were on their own. This gave Jack the ultimate freedom to be as wild as he wanted.
He played with the kids every moment they had. And when they tired out and turned their attention to something else, he destroyed everything within his reach. Confined to the entryway by a baby gate, he shredded the carpeting right off the steps. He chewed the wooden bannister, leaving it splintered and gnawed. He actually chewed holes through the drywall. Three of them. We were so preoccupied with three holes in our daughter’s heart that there was nothing we could do about the three holes in the drywall. This was our first house, and neither Doug nor I was prepared to figure out how to fix these kind of things. We only knew how to paint. They would have to stay that way until our lives settled down.
Good thing we had that sign on the front door.
But for all the damage he could manage, the dog did take care of the kids. He loved them and cuddled them and played with them all the while we were gone. He barked incessantly, ferociously at everything that dared come near our house. I wasn’t afraid to leave them alone because he defended our home with such terrifying barks and growls that no one would dare come near.
We needed him.
Jack was ours. God had somehow planned this all out, I was sure. Jack was everything we needed to fix the sorrow in our daughter’s heart. He was the best playmate, up for any game, any time. He was scary enough to keep the kids safe when we had to be gone. He was trouble enough to keep them laughing. Nothing the kids ever did wrong could compare to the wrongdoings of that naughty dog. They were safe, all right.
Thank you, God.
Thank you, Dog.