When my children were growing up, we had a wonderful dog by the name of Dixie. She was 60 pounds of friendliness and she loved everyone. Truthfully, she was my son’s dog and she loved him “the best” but she loved everyone. She showed it by wiggling her whole self, not just her tail. Often she just jumped up on people and licked them to show how much she liked them. She also liked cats, kittens, horses, hamsters and other creatures. She licked them all too. She’s been gone for many years but since then I have believed that she is the appointed greeter at the gates of heaven. Everyone who arrives will be greeted by a large, leaping, smiling white dog with a brown head. I tell that story to everyone.
It helped this weekend when we lost our cat, Bad Jack, at 15 years of age. I knew that Jack would be greeted by Dixie when he got to heaven. Jack would not like being greeted by Dixie. He did not like dogs, or any other creatures. His name was “Bad” Jack for a reason. He liked to fight. He was ornery. He wanted things his way, or no way. Often described as an old gangster, he took on all comers. With two notable exceptions, he won. Nobody messed with Jack. He had the moxie to get his way no matter who stood in front of him. All of this was without claws. As a young cat I thought that having him de-clawed would help him be less aggressive. It didn’t phase him a bit. It’s not that he physically fought so much as that he just stood his ground. No matter the size or species, I saw him make other, larger animals turn tail and run. Without lifting a paw. I don’t know how he did it but he often accomplished getting another animal out of the way just by standing in the same place. Clearly he had a language all his own.
Jack lived life on his own terms and was always true to himself. Then he did what all of us do: he got old. He was a rescue animal, so there was no way of verifying his age. We think he was about 15 or so. For a critter as feisty as he was, that’s pretty old. We were lucky to have him for 10 years. He was in fighting shape when we got him. At the end, he turned inward, stayed in, stopped eating, then stopped drinking and passed away in his sleep on Saturday night, June 11th. Things went his way until the end. We will all miss his determination and his spirit and his in-your-face attitude. Our lives will be quieter and less colorful. But now Dixie has to deal with him.