I had no intention of keeping Jake when I took him off the street. I was still hurting from the death of my beloved Rottweiler Max six months earlier. I absolutely did not want a dog. Especially an old, filthy, flea ridden, medically-challenged, half-bald stray. But when I saw Jake at a doughnut shop one morning, ignoring food offerings to duck his head under people's hands simply to be petted, he seized my dog lover's heart. "Foster" was the word I bandied about but I think I knew that was bull the first day, when he came into my house. He checked out every room then looked out the window into the back yard, totally relaxed, tail waving lazily. His body language was loud and clear: "Nice digs. Yeah, I could have a cushy gig here." It was pretty audacious and I laughed nervously and said, "Don't get too comfy here, dog."
Oh, I tried to find him a home, of course. I did all the Internet adoption stuff, begged friends and neighbors. Jake insinuated himself into our lives with utter confidence that he wasn't going anywhere. Cute personality traits started coming out--his passionate love for sherpa chew toys, especially squeaky ones. His adorable habit of touching me with his nose every single time he passed me, or just to get my attention. How he'd snatch a foot-long piece of beef jerky out of my hand but take a miniscule piece gently from my son's. I joked that I would have named him Worf if I realized he was such a cling on. His fur grew in thick and soft and he transformed into a handsome dog. He delighted in being part of a family so much that it broke my heart to think of how miserable he must have been alone on the street.
Cancer took him yesterday. He'd been hurting for weeks and I knew it was time for me to do the right thing. We only had him for two years, but he slid right into our family so neatly that it felt like four. I was wishing earlier today that I had had more time with him, but the truth is, four years wouldn't have been enough either. I'm grateful he picked me and for the lessons he taught me:
Ignore appearances and enjoy someone's character.
Touch the people you love every time you pass them.
Embrace the unexpected sources of love in your life, even, perhaps especially, if it doesn't fit in neatly with your life plan.