Brain Phrye

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Jack was a good boy.

He really, really was. The best boy.

Late last year, Jack started to have some health problems. The vet didn’t really have a good answer as to what was wrong for a while and when we figured out what it was, it was not a great discovery. Cancer just sucks regardless of the species. As long as he was comfortable, we just kept on going, but by Wednesday it was clear he was not. Today he did his best to walk in the grass a bit, he had a few treats, he sat on my lap and licked my nose from time to time on a slow drive to Tuam, and with the help of the vet we said goodbye.

Jack was given to my mom in 2015. We were likely his third family. His previous owner, June, had developed health issues and wanted him to go to folks who would be good to him. His first owners were unknown - but they’d abandoned him. Hopefully his last two families made up for that first one.

He was likely around 5 or 6 when we got him and he had loads of energy. Even with all that energy he knew my mom was pretty sick and was always super careful and gentle with her. Of course, he still wanted to play and knew I’d throw his toys or play tug of war so he spent a lot of time with me. It was clear he’d picked me and my mom would note he was my dog, not hers.

When my mom passed and the funeral was over and everyone had gone home, I was alone. After eight months of being housebound - but with near constant company with my mom, relatives and carers - it was just me. But Jack was quick to remind me, it was not just me. I was not alone. He needed me to get up and feed him, take him for walks, play with him in the garden. And so I had to move. And if I’m being honest, it was more days than I care to admit when Jack was my sole motivation to get going.

We walked Knockma and then during the pandemic walked all the car-less roads around the house. He got to bark at birds, at cows and at sheep. Early on our walks up Knockma he sometimes had to be carried up the steep hill at the start. After a long stretch of being housebound neither of us was in great shape but he motivated for both of us to fix that. Plus he got loads of time to sniff out all the local gossip and leave damp little messages of his own!

Even before the pandemic I often would work from home. On nice days, it’s fun to work in the garden. Jack really enjoyed those days as he could roll around in the grass, keep an eye on those pesky birds and every now and then drop a toy and let me throw it. Better still, he was way more willing to do code reviews for me when we worked outside. “A little screen time for a lot of green time” was his motto.

He also loved going into the office. I got him a little velcro tie and when I put it on him he went right out to the car, ready to go to work. In work he was a hit. Before the pandemic there were only two office dogs - Jack on the first floor and Roxy on the ground floor. He loved to go for walks in the little park in Salthill and folks were very impressed by his profesh style.

It took me a while to notice, but eventually I realised that when I was working he’d settle down and position himself with his back to me and facing the direction he decided was the threat - where new people entered the space. He’d do it in the office, in meeting rooms and even in the kitchen. I didn’t train him to do that, he just did it. It was one of the best unspoken acts of kindness I’ve ever received.

Jack was very civic-minded. He went with me every time I went to the polls. I’d take my polling card, give him a little head scratch and go vote. When I got back he’d be curled up in the passenger seat, hop into my lap when I got into the car and then give me a lick on the nose to tell me I’d been a good citizen. Politically, Jack was pretty open-minded except when it came to cats, mice and birds. But on people, anyone who’d play with him or give him treats was A1 in his books.

My mom was happy Jack chose me. I think her hope was that he’d help me and look after me after she’d gone and he did. We had adventures together and I really hope he had fun. I’m going to miss my buddy. I already do.

Some more pictures of Jack in action here. If you have a dog, give them a treat for me and Jack - and take some extra time to play with them this weekend. And if you don’t have a dog there are loads of shelters out there!