I have started a dozen posts about Jack. It is so hard to wrap what he means to us up in one post, so there will have to be a few. The first will just be a short overview with a couple of stories about Jack. I will go deeper into specific details about the different steps in our journey with Jack. He is such an important member of our family.
We are dog people and I loved the idea of Everett being able to have a companion with him all the time. It gave me peace of mind that we would have a dog that could help him regulate his anxiety and comfort him when I wasn’t around.
We have now had Jack for 3 years, but it is hard to remember life before him. We started the process of being placed with a service dog for Everett 5 years ago. Jack wasn’t even born when we submitted our application and our family and community helped us raise the $6,000 required to help with the costs of training a service dog. Retrieving Freedom, the organization we went through, had already placed a couple of dogs in our community. They weren’t too far away and it was the perfect fit for us.
The past 3 years has flown by so quickly. The first time I brought him home, it was just supposed to be for a few days or a week, but it ended up being permanent. Integrating Jack into our lives was seamless, yet it completely changed our schedule and priorities in so many ways. After a few days with Jack, I knew so much was going to change about how we traveled and navigated our lives that I was ready to just rip the band aid off and have him with us all the time. Plus, just look at him. He is the MOST gorgeous dog that has ever walked the Earth.
The first story I am going to share is about our first public outing without a trainer. I left with Jack and was given specific instructions of the food he had been eating along with his schedule and amounts. I was told Tractor Supply carried it and so we stopped on our way home. We were walking through the store and I found the dog food section. I think it was 3 full aisles. I spent about 10 minutes searching for the food but couldn’t locate it. It seemed that they were out. I had finally given up and was texting the trainer and also googling the protein content and ratios of Jack’s food to see if there was a comparable option. I notice Jack was pulling a little on his leash. I look over at him and he is trying to walk down the aisle. I walk with him and he stops at the ONE bag left of his food in the entire store. And I promise you, he nudged it with his nose and tapped it with his paw. He wasn’t two hours into my care and had shown how much smarter he was than me.
Currently, Jack is really struggling in quarantine. Jack has become beloved to dozens of people and he misses all of them. One of the things I love most about Jack being with Everett all of the time is that he isn’t just for Everett. Right now, he spends his days moping a bit like Eeyore and longing for more interaction. He hasn’t been in public in almost 2 months. He helps so many children. Jack loves going to school, therapy, and anywhere we go. Jack is so many children’s favorite dog. I’ve seen toddlers just roll all over him and other kids refuse to let go of him. I will never forget the day that a little girl with down syndrome came running up to Jack and started petting on his back. Her mother came running behind her with a panicked look on her face. The little girl was so excited but didn’t want to get close to Jack’s face. I kept him from looking back at her. The mother knelt down with her daughter and then looked up at me with tears in her eyes. She said, “she has always been scared to death of dogs and screams in terror when she gets close to one.” The mother explained that her family loves dogs but hasn’t been able to have one in years because of their daughter’s fears. Those are the moments that just take my breath away. That was the most profound example, but it happens all the time. Jack makes these children feel so safe and comfortable with him. I knew Jack would help us, but it never occurred to me that he would impact other children the way that he has.
Jack’s presence in public elicits a very visceral reaction from people. We either make someone’s day and you hear the audible “awhhhh”. Or the opposite happens and you hear mumbling comments like “why in the world would you bring a dog in here”. Some people are very fearful and others immediately reach out to pet and interact. Many children have told me that dogs aren’t allowed and we shouldn’t have one in a store. The most common comment from children is sharing the stories of their own dogs that sometimes don’t end with a happy ending. The large majority of our experiences in public are extremely positive. Everett loves having Jack with us even though he pays him very little attention when we are out in public. If we get into the car and Jack isn’t going, he is getting out of the car and headed back to the house to retrieve him.
Jack is a seasoned traveler and when we are on a trip this is where he really shines. Jack has navigated cars, buses, planes, trains, boats, bleachers, campers, trolleys, gondolas, and even amusement park rides. How many dogs can say they have been on Magic Kingdom’s “It’s a Small World”? He amazes and leaves people in awe every time we travel. I have been told numerous times by waiters and others that he is the best-behaved service dog they have ever encountered, which always makes me feel good. Managing both Everett and Jack on a trip takes a good bit of planning. Jack’s packing list is longer than any of our own. He has lots of accessories (food, vest, different types of collars and leashes, poop bags, veterinarian records, certification paper work, treats, retractable bowls, water bottles, etc.)
Jack truly is Everett’s best friend and I am so grateful that our journey includes life with Jack. Multiple times people will look at us and make the comment that Jack is just as much for me as he is for Everett. And I certainly don’t disagree with that. In the real moments of hard that we encounter, Jack has a way of centering me with his presence. He looks at me and surrounds us with this intense empathy that communicates how much he is just willing to sit with us in the difficult. Jack has brought so much love and joy in our lives. He is special in ways that there aren’t words to describe. Jack gets to live out his potential and purpose each day and we are so lucky to call him ours. We LOVE this Good Boy!