Recently I read The Art of Racing in the Rain, a novel by Garth Stein. The book touched my heart as I read it, but I had no idea of its true impact on me until Jackson died last Saturday. Thinking back, I now visualize Enzo speaking for Jackson (and perhaps all dogs) as he described life with his family and his hopes and dreams for his afterlife. Enzo, like Jackson, knew he was a dog but also knew he held a special place in his human family. He also knew that his inability to speak English and his lack of opposable thumbs would not hamper him forever, because “When a dog is finished living his lifetimes as a dog, his next incarnation will be as a man.”
Jackson was born on January 20, 1996, sixteen years and one day before he died, and almost all of that time was spent with us as a member of our family. I remember well the day we went to Ronda, NC where we saw a litter of Lhasa Apso puppies following their mother in and around the barn, and we carefully examined the litter to choose which little ball of fur would go home with us. As I recall, there was no debate: Jackson was the one for us.
Jackson was named for Billie’s Dad, Thomas Jackson Green, a fox hunter who raised and ran Walker fox hounds in Randolph County, NC. He appreciated that Jackson was named for him and he appreciated Jackson for the purebred dog he was. Even so, I often wondered whether he secretly wished that Jackson had a useful skill (such as the ability to hunt), but he never questioned his status in the family.
Some of the many coincidences associated with Jackson’s life in our family were that Tom Green died on January 20, 1998, Jackson’s second birthday; his wife Nell Caveness Green died on January 20, 1999, Jackson’s third birthday; my stepfather Buddy Coachman died on January 19 (at 11 pm), just an hour before Jackson’s fourth birthday; and Jackson died just one day after his sixteenth birthday.
Jackson loved children, and was always gentle and protective around them. In his early years he loved to perch on the sofa back and keep watch on the household, often dozing there. Recently he hadn’t been able to jump on the sofa seat as his age took the spring from his hindquarters, so his watchful perch was removed to the floor level. His sight and hearing weren’t what they used to be, but he still kept watch over his family as he was bred to do.
Jackson’s body couldn’t keep pace with his spirit, and he just wore out. After all, he was about 112 years old, using the 7x multiplier we’ve all heard many times. As Enzo said, “We had a good run, and now it’s over; what’s wrong with that?”