My dog Jake passed away earlier this week and I wrote this poem a few weeks ago, anticipating his passing.
A scared boy, frightened, a feather
Your tongue fresh like boiled leather
All you wanted was to love us
To chew, whine, and kiss us
Seventeen suns, eating, playing, ball
Time moves, hearts dull
Your teeth a savage skull
You rolled like lightning, hopped like thunder.
Skipped, rolled, tumbled; even when falling under.
You’re not like to forget
each slippery taste
My dog, my friend, my dearest little brother.
I race to think of you, that floppy hairy face
the one who led me
on a merry, merry chase
Love you always
Your dearest older brother
When I wrote this, I knew I didn’t have much time left with Jake, and while petting him, I found myself sobbing. I wanted to capture this moment so I decided to try my first real effort at a poem. I was able to read it immediatley after we buried him, and its writing has been a very cathartic experience.
On Wednesday, August 30th, 2017 we lost Jake, as we decided that keeping him around any longer was a selfish act on our parts. Nothing could have prepared me for losing Jake. I never really understood why people were so emotional when they lost their pets.
Now I understand.
Jake has been a part of our family for 17 years, ever since we moved from California to Maryland. When I was seven–angry and scared about leaving home–Jake made Maryland a place full of love and laughter. I can never thank him for that. I still try though.
I went out and sat on the bench in our garden where we buried him. I like the feeling of being near him, even if he’s gone. I cried, again and again.
Then, I repeated, “Thank you”, again and again. “Thank you…Thank you…”
Because Jake taught me a few life lessons that I’m determined not to forget.
Lesson 1: Love unconditionally, without expectations, even when you’ve been wronged.
My mom and I were reflecting over our outpouring of emotion; over our pain. Why were we so emotional about losing Jake? He’s a dog. Why does this hurt so much?
We both realized that Jake’s love was so pure. Every time we came home, he would jump off the couch, meet us at the door with his tail wagging, ready to give us a kiss. He made us happy every time we saw him, because he was so genuinely glad to see us, even when we were angry with him. He loved without conditions. It didn’t matter; his love was blind and vulnerable. His love was pure.
I want to love like that. I know I’ll fail. I know that my pride, fear of being vulnerable and weak, and broken spirit will keep me from doing this perfectly. But I want to be known as someone who’s loving even when they’ve been hurt. I want to forgive when I’ve been wronged. I want people to feel love when I walk in the door.
Lesson 2: I can help other people avoid the pain of loss
The loss of Jake was so poignant. I want to enter the Criminal Justice field where I can help protect the vulnerable, and prevent others from the pain of loss. That pain of loss has been made more real for me with the loss of Jake, and I count that as a gift.
I cannot end pain and suffering, but I can fight against it. I can protect those who may not be able to protect themselves. Jake has given me a renewed vigor and perspective on this fight. The pain of his loss has helped me to realize that I can prevent that pain for others.
I don’t want to compare this pain to the loss others have experienced. That is not my intention, but the loss of Jake has given me a new perspective on pain and loss.
Jake has taught me much more, but I want to share a few special moments I remember about Jake:
The time you licked my tears when I was upset and crying. Words cannot express what that meant.
The time I was sick and you lay with me on the couch. I know you could tell I was uncomfortable.
All the times you ran and jumped onto bed with the family, playing and showing us love.
The times you tore through the yard chasing a tennis ball, a squirrel, or that cat with a stump of a tail.
That time you nipped at my friends when we were wrestling and you thought they were trying to hurt me.
The times I would be laying in bed and pick you up to join me. It was always a welcome surprise to see your paws plop over the edge, soon to be followed by your little head.
But above all else I remember the love– hard, fast, and true. I remember the love—slobbery, wet, and smelly. And I know I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s a gift I’ll always cherish.
I love you Jake. “Thank you”.