Sunday, September 26, 2010
BLACK JACK'S Memoirs
MEMOIRS OF A DOG’S LIFE
By Black Jack Nelson
May 25, 1991 – August 8, 2010
(7,003 wonderful days with my BEST FRIEND Judy!)
NICKNAMES (I affectionately acquired): “Monkey face”, Jack-o-lantern, Jack-in the-box, Jack-o, Jumpin’ Jack, BJ, Jackpot, Fat Jack (because my daddy Benji’s guardian was named Jack, a ‘rotund’ man) and “Alligator jaws” *see explanation below…
ON PUPPYHOOD: I was such a playful, outgoing puppy—not a care in the world! I even loved everyone early on… When we barely had our eyes open we could get out and romp with one another. I remember there were toys there and shoestrings! There were so many fun things to do I kept really busy, even rolling off the little ledge in all my enthusiasm.
Before we all took that dreaded trip to the vet, I felt “amorous” toward my ‘real’ mom, Sassi (and acted on it) which didn’t seem to go over very well…
Mom says I was passionate about everything—and quite a ‘momma’s boy’, always wanting to be very near my mommy. This made her aerobic and floor exercising extra challenging.
ON PLAYTIME: One of my favorite things ever was digging in dirt when we had a grassy backyard in Nebraska—even when it was muddy. When we moved to Arizona Mom discovered I was reminiscing in the nose level flowerpots! Sadly she was clever enough to put big rocks in them to deter me.
Also when we lived in Nebraska, we loved to go racing, barking to say hello to the neighbor dogs when Mom let us out in our backyard. Our only experience in snow happened there, too. Man, my being so well endowed with such short legs, sure made it pretty tough to do my ‘business’! And that white, cold stuff seemed to cling in snowballs to everything especially my then long beautiful hair.
It was really fun when Mom finally taught me some tricks…in fact, it was so exciting my whole body just quivered awaiting the commands. I could sit, wait really well and find hidden cookies inside just about anything, like boxes, newspapers, bags, jars, etc.
My all time favorite toy became a thread bare monkey who was great for pretend killing, shaking and running around the house with his arms and legs flopping from my mouth. I see Mom just put him on ‘my self’… It is so sweet: she made a sort of ‘memorial’ shelf for both Katie and me on her entertainment center to help her remember us better.
ON WALKING: It was fun when Mom walked us two dogs together. I was always far out in the lead acting as if I were ready to go to the ends of the world. Katie always lagged behind more and more as she got older. Mom always joked that I was too busy to read or sniff out anything but the aromatic headlines of past occurrences along the way, while Katie wanted to read every word of every article. This was compounded by her decreasing eyesight in her later years, which didn’t keep her from going in for the ‘kill’ if I even woofed at something. We were quite a team. And you should have witnessed the “leash dance” Mom had to do if she stopped to chat with a neighbor, since we insisted on going round and round them.
I was always so excited to ‘get there’ I pushed with my hind legs (Mom said it looked pretty funny following me). You see, I always wanted to be first, fastest and go the longest, kind of like my Mom actually! Now, were I to come across a juicy (i.e. stinky) morsel, Mom was hard pressed to be strong enough to get my ‘alligator jaws’ to release it. I know she was always concerned about it not being good for me, but boy, I wanted it!
Eventually I had a difficult time walking so those cherished daily walks dwindled, then had to stop. Finally I lost use of me darn right rear leg almost entirely and the other was very weak—maybe I pushed those two back legs too hard through the years... Then Mom needed to carry me outside and hold me while I did my ‘business’. She even devised a belt to help hold me up so she didn’t have to stoop over. And my inside wandering area had to be even smaller, to include only my beds and dishes because otherwise I would fall and hit my head on the floor repeatedly before I could regain my footing. Finally I could barely hobble from bed to food… We made it work, though, as long as we could.
ON EATING: Which brings me to eating! Even suckling on my ‘real’ mom Sassi before my eyes were open, I once ate too much and got so bloated my people we were concerned. I was so roly poly, I’d roll right off the little step in our play area.
Katie and I both loved to catch popcorn in our mouths as it was tossed to us. I loved food so much that at the end of my life when I had little reaction to much of anything I still perked up at the smell of a can of tuna fish being opened.
Fact is, I loved eating so much I would eat my food and then check everyone else’s food & treats, stealing even from ferocious Katie Lou if I had the chance. Mom finally had to separate us at dinner time when Katie couldn’t see anymore to defend her food bowl.
Eventually though, I couldn’t chew my precious biscuits any more and Mom even had to blend my soft dog food—but it sure tasted just as good lapped up as chewed. When I ended up having trouble even finding my food, I became very messy instead of ‘inhaling’ like I once did.
ON SLEEPING: I remember sleeping on a very high bed in the motor home that we lived in for a number of years. Then I preferred curling up in little round beds that a friend gave us when her dogs outgrew them. Finally they got too high for me to maneuver so that’s when Mom used the two halves of a crate also keeping me corralled a bit. Even those were getting a bit high for me in the end.
Mom used to think my tongue must be too long for my mouth because the tip used to peek out when I slept, even becoming dry! But that didn’t disturb my sweet dreams.
PERSONALITY: Mom always said I wanted to please and I must admit that’s true. Even during the “trying to break the ice” game we all played when we were puppies, I’d give up my spot for others. Some would frown on this as submissive but it sure made life more peaceful.
And what is it with humans, wanting to dress us in funny clothes! The coats and shirts I had to get used to were enough. But I resigned myself to this humiliation, too, since it gave Mom so much pleasure.
Then there was paw painting, usually called finger painting I think! Messy, but oh well, it’s nice for Mom to have those paintings--some composites done with our mothers a very long time ago.
Robyn used to be appalled when she saw that Mom had me wearing the pink harness Sugar I used to wear, but we dogs don’t care if pink is called a ‘girlie’ color or not!
Bathing was never really a joy…even at the end of my life the threat of a bath perked me up.
So I guess my job with my keen hearing and sight was to alert Mom and/or Katie to any strange noises—and I was very good at it. The doorbell was the most fun to sound the alarm to so both Katie and I could go rushing to the door barking our heads off .
Now, there WAS some mischief that I got myself into…I seemed to have more than a penchant for ‘stinky’ things, especially what was called “feminine products”. We used to live in a large Las Vegas home with many occupants and one day I came down the long stairway proudly carrying one such prize. Well for whatever reason that caused a really big fuss and from then on, sadly, all garbage/trash containers were put out of my reach for the rest of my life.
My car sickness plagued Mom in my early years since she loved to drive us to many places. She prized her red convertible and after one long winding uphill climb she couldn’t stop before I hurled breakfast beside her bucket seat, not really reachable for thorough cleanup--ever. Of course I did my best, but… Thank goodness I outgrew this affliction because Mom really had the ‘travel bug’. I’m also really happy I could finally totally relax on drives, too, after I no longer was inundated by all the little and big frightening noises as well as gigantic scary objects out the window. Even when the car would just kick up a pebble, I’d be scrambling for Mom’s lap.
Katie taught me about the “vacuum cleaner game”. She acted like it was a big, fierce monster to be attacked and killed before it ‘got’ us. And maybe that’s what she in fact thought; nevertheless I joined right in. Mom actually had to try to get us out of the room or be sure Katie was sleeping soundly enough before she ran it. Maybe that’s why Mom’s never really gotten back in the habit of using it much…
Men seemed to be my enemies after the puppy stage. I’m not sure why because they never really mistreated me. Perhaps they were just different from Mom. But I was super friendly once they proved themselves to be safe.
Once I nipped at someone! When I was a puppy, someone reached toward me from a car. Well, I didn’t know but what they were going to take me from Mom, so I let them know that would not be allowed. Then when I was losing my sight and hearing the whole world seemed frightening until I adjusted some.
Groomers and other professionals were always in complete control and therefore I never, ever got a bad report on my behavior until my senses waned during my later years. One time the groomer actually broke my leash trying to restrain me. So Mom eventually got to comfort and hold me during all grooming sessions. I even had to have some of it done the last time in Mom’s lap since my legs didn’t want to hold me up any more.
ON HEALTH & HANDSOMENESS: Mom likes telling how she helped with my conception. Only two of us were born to Sassi and Benji. I’m sure glad I got the looks; I hear my sister was ugly. Seems she got the terrier part from daddy, I got the silky from him, the black & white coloring from my mother.
During my younger days, one lower canine tooth protruded from my mouth. Some thought it made me look ferocious, others just silly.
My hearing was always quite, perhaps too, acute. At home, even quiet noises such as the 'click' when the furnace came on made me very nervous. Sometimes I became inconsolable. I’d try to hide on highest point, even shoulders, if they were available, clinging and pushing against the person. I WAS afraid of noises but when I could no longer hear, except possibly for certain pitches, my life became very solitary and quiet, especially after Katie left. I was also only able to see movement & shadows during my later days.
Until my skin began getting flaky and thinning I was always very healthy. Mom had lots of tests done but there was nothing conclusive. She began a diet to figure out if I was allergic to something, but that made me really sick. It didn’t bother me in any way, so we learned to live without my beautiful coat of hair. I ended up with quite a wardrobe of shirts and coats. Our neighbor, who loved both Katie & me, gifted me with 3 Hawaiian shirts. Mom kept trying to find coats that fit my super long body, having to remake some of them. I think Mom liked me best in the red one with the iridescent stripes and a pocket.
Then I’d used my wonderful body so well and so long, it just finally wore out. Even on my last night, the vet told Mom she was surprised that I looked so young at age 19+.
THE FLOOD STORY: Then there was the flood of 1993. Mom rescued all 5 of us dogs from having to tread water and put us all in a large crate. Even though Katie and her mom couldn’t even be in the same room together without fighting, we were all aware and wise enough keep it ‘zipped’. As we waited for the rescue boat into the wee hours of the morning, and all the way to shelter there was rarely a peep out of us. Mom only had to do a reminder tap on the top of the crate those couple of times and we got the message.
ON MOTORHOME LIVING: For a number of years Mom, Katie Lou and I lived and traveled together in a motor home. We even went to Mexico a several times, necessitating legal documents, the red tape for which Mom hated. Those Mexican roads were a challenge for Mom. Once when driving around a curve, the refrigerator door popped open, flinging a cabbage down the aisle toward Katie. That was the first time she’d ever jumped right into Mom’s lap when she was trying to drive. If I could have I’d have laughed out loud!
One time Mom took a 4 day side trip and found a good Mexican vet where several of us were boarded. I was so nervous I couldn’t potty the whole time. When Mom came back and took me in her safe arms, it all let loose—all over her! Once again I had tried…
ON KATIE LOU: Katie Lou, my Lhasa Apso 'cousin' was born just a couple of weeks before I was. We lived together nearly her entire life, almost 16 years.
Even after Mom was able to find homes for all the other puppies when we were born, deciding to keep Katie and me for herself, she hesitated to discipline effectively because I was quite timid and fearful, showing signs of cowering over the slightest raised voice—this wasn’t good...
Katie Lou would play with me early on, but more of the time, she was bullying me and causing my life to be a bit like hell. Mom always said I most certainly deserved better and I’m so pleased I had those 3+ years of peaceful ‘alone time’ with just Mom!
Once when we were visiting a friend Mom let herself be talked into trying a shock collar on Katie Lou because she didn’t like her barking at his neighbors. I believe Katie may have lost a little of her mind at that time. Later in the evening, when she was on Mom’s lap, she growled at ME and even tried to nip Mom!
THE DETAILS in a NUTSHELL: In 1990 and 1991 Mom attempted to purchase a Kennel in Cottonwood, AZ. It was badly misrepresented, including the line of Lhasa Apsos that were a part of the purchase. She would learn later they not only had physical/neurological problems, but also tended toward aggression.
Then the Kennel purchase fell through and Mom had ‘rescued’ all the remaining puppies and their breeder parents—in total about 10 dogs. There was no time for obedience training and so we pretty much trained her! On our mini-ranch five of us dogs were allowed to sleep on Mom’s bed at night and she would simply separate them (never me) when a fight broke out.
Mom had used my parents to breed a puppy for a client. My mom, Sassi, was a purebred Lhasa Apso, dad, Benji, a Silky mix. The intended ‘guardian’ for this puppy wasn't able to take him after all, for which Mom and I are both grateful! I was a Lhasa Apso mix, born 5/25/91, and lived with my Mom my entire 19.3 years. Always weighing about 15 lbs. (because Mom always monitored my eating), my height was about 12" at the shoulder; my black body had some white markings (‘tuxedo shirt’ chest and very tips of my toes) and brown eyes. Mom kept my luscious (if I may say so myself), manageable, silky hair an inch or so long just for convenience, because she had to care for so many dogs. Eventually as it thinned I had to be kept covered for warmth and protection from the sun when I was outside. I felt like my duties were to be Mom’s companion, alerting her and/or Katie to any strange noises, then when Katie passed I was her only companion and we could simply ‘be’ gently together. My favorite activities or hobbies were LOVING my daily walks, my ‘pet’ monkey, eating and eventually some training, i.e. sit, wait, etc. which I was so excited to do!
I always lived indoors, sleeping with Mom or where I wanted to in our home in our small community subdivision. I ended up mostly in either my daytime or nighttime bed beside Mom’s. At the very end I needed and wanted to be more confined because I was disoriented from lack of sight/hearing and would wander getting lost even stuck under or behind furniture—that was awful and scary. So I then slept almost all of the time in one of my two beds in the kitchen area Mom enclosed for me, close to my food.
All in all THAT WAS A FULL, HAPPY LIFE!!