I hadn’t been retired long before Jack joined our household, a rescue from Paws for Life in Troy, Michigan. Bringing him in was a stretch; with a border collie and a lab-border collie mix already aboard, we could only hope there was room…and patience…enough for a 100-pound Labrador Retriever with an outsized appetite and a bark that can peel paint. But, he beguiled us. Like most newly minted retirees, I was a bit at loose ends as I joined the ranks of my fellow cast-offs. Retirement, for most, means that you suddenly have to steady yourself and make a new stand in a world that seems to place little premium on whatever usefulness you have remaining.
Jack helped. A lot. My wife was Jack’s primary caregiver. Put Jack’s food down for him twice a day and he’s a loyal friend for life, and she was already doing that for our other two faithful minions, so it was no stretch to add him to the mealtime follies. Yet, Jack still seemed to mostly gravitate toward me and I, in turn, was happy to scratch his ears, brush him out and wrestle him from time to time. Still, I had yet to think of him as my buddy. Until the day he loped over when I just sitting in a reflective mood, laid his head on my leg and turned his eyes onto me.
Now, if it can be said that a dog’s eyes are a window into their soul, then surely Jack’s are a pair to be remembered. Set against the sleek black fur on his giant head, Jack’s eyes are two deep pools of sincerity and trust. How a dog that had failed two foster placements and lived through the neglect of his original owners can grow a heart like his is a mystery. But, the reality is that Jack’s eyes melt you and, that day, they melted me. With his simple gesture of kindness, a hallmark of Jack’s (or “Jackie Boy,” the more formal name bestowed on him by our grand-daughter), he added a little more purpose to my life and that’s a pretty generous gift to be given to anyone by anyone. To be unconditionally appreciated is a basic need.
Now I know, in some small way, how those thousands of Paws for Life rescue pets feel when they find their way. And I know, too, that organizations like Paws for Life cannot do it without the financial support of the community. It’s always been my belief that, when the world is working right, we all rescue each other. Jack and those earnest eyes surely received that memo.