Jake Ryan Turns 10

His first day home - 2006
      It’s just past 6 p.m. I stare out the back window, keeping an eye on Jake Ryan. He needs no eye kept on him. The wooden fence assures me he can't leave the yard. Regardless of this, my maternal instinct positions me here, watching. He chews on grass, sauntering between grazing sites. Peace fills the tree-lined, lush green yard. I wish I could tell him how special this day is. He is at a place not all dogs get to. He can’t understand. I know this. But I don’t accept it.

     On May 29, 2006, Jake Ryan Gregg came to be. Nine weeks later he came to me. For 10 years he’s hiked, ran, played and fetched with the heart of a champion. He’s seen me through countless heartbreaks, endured many moves and never judged my nakedness. 

Obedience Graduation - 2007
     Yes, today is a special day – and he’ll never understand.  This causes a break in my heart. Will our beloved animals every know how much they mean to us? No. I’m not even going to ask it again in a different format. No, they will never know. They know they are fed and housed. Perhaps that’s all that matters. Perhaps that’s all that matters to them. But on this day, on Jake Ryan’s tenth birthday, a nagging inside me wants it to matter more.

A boy and his ball - 2010
     “You should get a dog,” an acquaintance casually mentioned.  The idea wedged itself into mind and refused to leave.  And so, I got a dog.  A miniature schnauzer – who wouldn’t shed – who would sleep beside me most nights, and never winced when I held him too tight because the pain in me was too much.  

     He became a big brother, a role he actively resents and cherishes. He spent 18 months as a beach bum, six-days riding across the country, and too many hours away from me.  “Be good. No hookers, no drugs,” I advise each morning as I leave.  So far, he’s obeyed my rules.
Birthday Adventure at the beach - 2016

     Soon he’ll come trotting up the five porch stairs and look at me through the screen door.  I’ll slide it open and before I can get it closed he’ll be in search of a resting place.  His legs tremble after a day of adventures; I limit them now, but couldn’t refuse today.

Pure love - he holds my hand
     As he curls himself into a ball, I’ll lie next to him and say, "You are a good boy.  You are loved."  I’ll kiss his nose and thank him. This is what matters to me. It matters that I say these words; these words fix the breaks in my heart. I say them and write them. This will have to be enough. The gift I can give him on his tenth birthday is just that: pure, unconditional love. After all, it’s what he gives every day. For that I am thankful.

     Those of us who are blessed enough to get a dog at the start of their lives and plan to be with them until the last breath leaves their body, we strive to give them enough adventures, love, treats and time. We foolishly try to be as good of a human as they seem to think we are. As such, when these milestone birthdays come along, we can't help but feel nostalgic. What we would do without our precious dogs? I don't know. I hope I never discover the answer. A life with dogs is worth every struggle, especially when the time behind us is greater than time ahead of us.

Happy Birthday, Jake Ryan Gregg. You are the best spur-of-the-moment decision I ever made.


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