For the Love of Jake

You know that certain point when people start to say that they are that time in our lives when all our friends are getting married, or having babies?  Well now I find myself at a different time in my life, a sad one, one of the cruel ones, the time when our friends start to lose their closest companions. I think most people get their first dog in their 20’s. It is part of that post college time where you wanted more responsibility and companionship but weren’t quite ready for marriage or kids. What we didn’t realize then, was that those companions were going to carve places in our hearts and souls and show us unconditional love that no human ever could. We also didn’t know that the love wouldn’t last forever and we would have to one day say goodbye. Sometimes it would be without warning and others it would be a long drawn out process. Either way it will be too soon.

I was shopping the other day and a shop owner at a clothing store introduced me to her aging yellow lab. The lab was 14 years old and was riddled with tumors. She was clearly in pain, but had this huge dog smile on her face, like she was just happy to be there with her owner. The woman could barely even speak to me about her without tearing up. As I left the store, all I could think about was our girl Hanna’s smile. She turn 8 years old this November and watching that women with her dog and her sadness, was like watching my future.

I have had four friends lose their best friends this year, and I dread the day I have to face the loss of Hanna. Hanna has been by my side through three states, a cross country move, my wedding, two babies, and countless other less significant life events where I just needed someone by my side to get me through.   She has nicknames in Florida, Michigan and here in Portland. My favorites being Poocher (Friends in Florida’s name for her),  Beanzy Girl (Jack’s name for her) and Ga (Truett’s name for her). What most people don’t know is that her real name isn’t Hanna, it is Hallett. I don’t know where Hanna came from but I just got sick of explaining where Hallet came from or having people ask me why I named by dog after a fish (Halibut) so the shortened version stuck. Here is her story.

Before John and I were engaged and before he gave me Hanna on Christmas morning 8 years ago, we took a trip to Colorado to visit our friend Danny. We stayed at Danny’s house with his golden retriever named Jake. Jake was somewhere around 1 year old at the time and like all puppies he ate everything. When we got there, he had just recovered from eating an entire beer and puking it up in front of the vet.  He was one tough dog. He was huge, and still very much a puppy, but I remember laying quietly next to him on the floor and snuggling with him. I remember going on a gorgeous Colorado mountain hike with Jake and loved watching him bound over the rocks and jump in the clear mountain lakes,  swimming swiftly with his webbed feet after a floating stick.  I didn’t even mind when he shook that cold mountain water all over us as it cooled us down from the long hot hike.

During that same trip something life changing happened. John proposed to me on the top of a mountain. We on Hallett’s Peak in Estes National Park. When we got back to Tampa, wedding preparations and house building commenced. But my mind was focused on one other thing. My time spent with Jake had reminded me how much I wanted a dog. I had grown up with a family dog and had always dreamed of having a big yard and a big dog of my own. I became fixated on getting a dog. I drove John crazy. I threatened to bring the next dog I saw home. He kept arguing with me and saying that we had to wait until our house was done to get a puppy. At one point I think I even accused him of not liking dogs and said I couldn’t marry someone who didn’t like dogs. Little did I know, he had already gotten me a doe, she was just waiting to be born in Michigan so she could be given to me on Christmas morning.  As the holiday’s approached, I started to focus on planning our trip home to Michigan and much to John’s relief I stopped hounding him.

On Christmas morning, after all presents had been open John walked into the living room carrying a box. I honestly had forgotten about getting a puppy and thought John was handing me a DVD player or something, but as I opened the box, this tiny little perfect blond head with a mohawk-like little black ridge between her eyes looked up at me with the sweetest amber colored eyes.  I was speechless…and I started to cry, all I could utter was “Is she really mine?”. We later decided to name her Hallett, because of the ridge between her eyes and the significance our trip to Colorado to see Danny and Jake.

Hanna As a Pup

Last week when I got home from meeting that woman and her dog at the store,  I took this picture and shared it on Facebook with the note that said:

“Truett loves to shut himself in the bathroom with Hanna and Babble to her. It makes me sad that she is already almost 8 and he has limited time left with her.”

My friend Danny immediately responded with the reassurance that:

“Jake is 10 and still going strong …”

Then this morning I received a note from Danny on that same post that said:

“Looks like I may have spoken too soon …”

My heart dropped, another friend was losing their best friend. Why is it that we only pause to remember when someone is ill or has died?  Well, I decided I am not going to wait until Hanna is gone to celebrate all she has given me. When Hanna’s time comes I will be an utter mess, like scrap me off the floor in pieces mess, and I don’t think I will have the will to look through pictures of her and to share our story with you. People might think I am silly, but I love her like she is my child, my best friend, and my soul mate and I can’t imagine these last 8 years without her by my side.

Hanna’s greatest hits:

Jake and Danny, Thank You. If it weren’t for the love of Jake on that floor in Colorado years ago, I may never have known what it would be like to have Hanna, to climb mountain peaks with her, to swim in the ocean and streams with her, to have her lick the tears off my cheek when I am sad,  to bury my head in her fur when I am scared, to watch her let the kids read to her and climb on her back, to watch her carry 10 pound rocks in her mouth for miles on the trail,  to stroke her crimped ears, to watch her put herself to bed in the tent when we go camping and to smell the sweet smell of earth on her paws after a long day of hiking on Mt. Hood. If I could bottle that scent up and keep it with me for the rest of my life I would, but for now I am going to settle for giving her a great big hug.  Danny our hearts are with you and Jake.

Jake Swimming

For the Love of Jake

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  1. Beth
    Posted September 2, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Big crocodile tears….. I have Milo because I fell in love with your Hanna. And I, like you, don’t know what I would do without him….. especially going through everything that has happened in the last three years. I know I will always have one “person” who loves me without condition, my Miles. I can’t tell you how many tears he’s let me cry into his furry neck… all the hugs he’s given me…. and seeing in those beautiful brown eyes, his reassurance that everything will be ok. Don’t think I would have made it through without him.

    • Appatomy
      Posted September 15, 2011 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      I heart you!