Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chasing Squirrels

This morning I said good-bye to my best friend.

Jack Dog was a 15-year-old Welsh Corgi mix and the most loyal, loving friend a guy like me could ever hope to know. I’m going to miss him eternally, but I know he’s happy right now. He’s pain-free, running fast and breathing easy in heaven.

Jack's natural smile was only one of
the amazing things about him.
That makes me feel good.
I can promise you right now he’s up there begging my grandpa for table scraps. Jack never begged with a whiny whimper like so many other dogs I’ve known. No, not Jack.

He just sat there quietly and stared at you with those big, sad, brown eyes that said, “I’m hungry, too.”

There are a couple golf connections to the Jack Dog, also known as Jackson, Jackers, Jackaroni, Macaroni and Jackson-Roni among many others.

Back in 2001-03, we lived with my good friend Robert in an apartment near downtown Atlanta. It was just off Peachtree Street and right across from a run-down municipal track called Bobby Jones Golf Course. Robert and I had some battles on that old course. It was short, hilly and never in great shape. But I loved it and always will.

The 15th green was just across the street from us. I used to take Jack for walks on the course, and he loved, loved, loooved chasing squirrels there. In his prime, Jack was Deion Sanders fast with Barry Sanders-like agility. He could jump a foot off the ground. If he didn’t want to be caught, well, you weren’t going to catch him.

I’d walk Jack over on Bobby Jones at night, too. When the moon was bright, I’d take a wedge and a few balls and chip on the 15th green while Jack wandered around, looking for brave late night squirrels. One of his absolute favorite things to do was run at full speed on the 15th green and hurl himself over the lip of the greenside bunker and belly-flop down into the soft sand.

He’d run around in circles, kicking up sand everywhere. Then he’d come back to the green and do it again. And again. The maintenance crew must have loved it.

Jack with Abby Ling and my mom.
When Jack first came into my life back in 1999, I was on a golf hiatus. I took a job writing sports for the newspaper in Corpus Christi. It was so windy down there—and my normal ball flight was a 30-yard slice—that I quit playing for three years.

At work I met a great guy named Dan, who taught me how to surf. Dan is the best surfer I’ve ever known. He can rip. We became great friends and I ended up moving into the downstairs portion of Dan’s house on Port Aransas Island.

We lived two blocks from the beach, and Dan’s house on East Street had a yard in front and back (Dan still lives there today, along with his beautiful surfer wife Michelle and their amazing son Zach). One of my beats back then was covering the minor-league hockey team that had just come to town.

If it wasn’t for that hockey team, I would have never met Jack.

At every home game, I sat in the press box next to a friendly and generous man named Rick Dames. He owned the radio station that broadcasted the games, and he usually did the radio color commentary. One night I told Rick that I moved out to Port A. I was pretty excited about it.

“Now that I have a yard, I can finally get a dog,” I told Rick.

About two weeks later, Rick called me. I didn’t know it, but his wife was on the board of directors for the local Humane Society. Rick said they had this great 2-year-old Corgi he thought would be perfect for me.

“Just come and take him for the weekend,” Rick said. “If it doesn’t work out, you can bring him back.”

Yeah, right.

Thirteen years later, and letting him go for good this morning was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Jack was a great dog. A great friend. Some of you reading this got to know him well. This summer, he made a new friend named Bozley. Jack’s circle of friends cast as wide as mine: Peyton, Abby Ling, Jasper Puddles, Divot, Buddy, Lucy, Manny, Apollo, Pritzi, Ollie, Walter, Sadie, Kate, Dusty, Peanut, Charlie and Oreo were just some of them.

Jack at Galveston Island this summer.  
His last trip to the beach.
Like his owner, Jack wasn’t the most social guy. But when he met someone he really liked, he latched on pretty tightly. I’m just lucky that he latched on to me the tightest. You should have seen Jack follow Bozley around like a shadow this summer. Peas in a pod.

I wanted to write about Jack today because I’m not sure what else to do. I’m sitting here at my home office and everything is quiet. Way too quiet. It is way too damn quiet in here right now.

I’m used to hearing Jack’s cough or his Kansas Jayhawks collar jingle when he shook himself after a good nap.

My vet, a kind doctor named Susan, told me I’d probably hear Jack’s echoes in my home for a while. I’ll hear his collar, she said. I’ll hear his cough. After so much time together, Susan said people often hear their pets for a while after they are gone.

I don’t hear Jack right now. I hope I do soon. I know he’s happy, and I hope he’s thankful for the life and love I gave him. He gave me 13 wonderful years of friendship, loyalty and unconditional love. What else is there in life?

I’m going to remember the good times. I’m going to remember him chasing squirrels and kicking up sand. I’m going to celebrate his life. At some point in the not-too-distant future, I’m going to get another dog.   

My favorite band plays a song with the following lyrics: Sometimes a dog is as good as any man.

In Jack’s case, he was often better.

Rest in Peace, Jack. You were a great friend. The best. You will be missed and never forgotten.


  1. What a beautiful posting Mark. Jack was lucky to have a great owner like you! So sorry for your loss.

  2. He was an exceptional creature. Thinking of you, Mark, during this very difficult time.

  3. A beautiful tribute. I promise you Mark, Jack knows how lucky he was. I know like most others what he meant to you and I am truly sorry. Sweet Jack. Love Trish

  4. A great story and tribute to Jack. I'm so happy I had the pleasure of spending time with Jack. He will be missed by me and of course, Bozley. And don't worry...you will hear him in your house soon and he will often visit you when you sleep :)

  5. Nice tribute Mark, dang it, dogs just don't live long enough~~~~~ A wise man once said, "A dog is the only thing that loves you more than he loves himself."


  6. So beautiful. You really captured the feeling and love you have for this dog. My buddy is only 4 right now, and I imagine that day will never come...I hope I am ready when it does, but we never really are, are we?
    Most sincere condolences for your loss. Jack was a good boy.

  7. I had to put down my sweet Chloe exactly three weeks ago today. I can truly say I am sorry for your loss. i hope I never stop hearing her little nails on the tile floor. Your story was a lovely tribute to a great dog. Godspeed.

  8. Beautiful story about a beautiful life...and a beautiful relationship. I am writing through tears since I know your pain and will know it again...Time is fleeting with our furbabies...I am so glad you and Jack found each other...sounds like he was one lucky dog...and vice versa....Thinking of you and everyone who loved Jack during this time of great loss.

  9. As I am going through hospice with my sweet Ivan I didn't think I could make it through this without crying but you did a great job of spot-lighting Jacks crazy antics and that's a fitting tribute. Hugs to you, the pain is lessened when you share..even if it's with strangers<3

  10. There will never be another Jack, but I hope you do allow another dog to carve their own special place in your heart. Dogs are more loyal and loving than most people....I say this as I lie stroking my three pugs, loves of my life!!

  11. Dearest Mark, There is a book on the New York Times best seller list called "Heaven is For Real", written by a four year old boy who died and was brought back to life. He tells of all of our animals waiting for us in Heaven; I have to believe that my little soulmates are there waiting for me as Jack will surely be for you. I am so terribly sorry for your loss. All the best to you.

  12. Mark, What a beautiful tribute to your old friend who gave you so much. He was fortunate to have such a loving and dedicated companion for all those years. Thank you for sharing these reflections. --Stan Tiner

  13. Dude! I'm crushed. I remember feeding Jack cheetos when we would chill out after work and had the munchies. One time you brought him over to my house in Marietta and we let him go play in the back yard. Unbeknownst to us he dug his way out, ran around the 'hood and came back by the time we checked for him. The only evidence was the big hole he left under the fence. What a character.