This week, our life was inexorably altered when our dog Petie, who I’ve been calling the Jack Russell Terror in this space for years, died unexpectedly. In honor of the years we’ve spent together, and because it makes for good material, I am dedicating today’s 7 Quick Takes to dog tales…about him.
My relationship with Petie was, at best, love-hateHateHATE. I didn’t cry when I saw that he was surely going to die. (I did shed some tears later in the evening, though, because, truth be told, I do miss him). There’s a reason that there are so many Jack Russell pups in rescues…these dogs DO. NOT. STOP.
He spent years as an inside dog. When we finally moved him outside, my life improved immeasurably. In fact, any love I had for him grew exponentially in the last two years that he spent as an outside dog.
So, to those who wondered on Twitter if I was misspelling, no. He was (and remains in our memory) a Jack Russell Terror.
(He chewed that sweater. He was ALWAYS cold in the winter, and would lay in front of the wood stove until his skin turned pink, but would NOT let us “dress” him.)
Curiosity Killed the Coon (written December 2005)
In thirty years, if we are still living in this old farmhouse on our beautiful patch of property, I have an image of myself. My back will be stooped over from carrying babies and firewood and trying to only make one trip instead of the wiser two. My hearing will be worse than it is, and so I will have to blast music even louder than I do, and dear Bob will have to be even more patient when I can’t hear him the third time he repeats himself. I’ll be able to stomach all kinds of horrid you-live-in-the-country-if things, and I hope that I will also be able to cook better than I do now (hey, thirty years is a long time, so there’s hope!). I’ll use words like “ain’t” and “rassle” without any thought of correctness, because I will have been in the country so long that it just won’t matter. I also know that in thirty years, I will not be banished to wait by the wheelbarrow while a certain unnamed dog attacks a coon (or was it a cat?) in the underbrush.
Last night when we were making our daily trip out to fill the wheelbarrow with firewood, we stopped in the tin shed (which is sort of like a garage, but made of tin) to put out food for the cat. Suddenly, there was a baying and a growling and a scuttling of small creatures behind the building. Bob, ever the unimpressed farmer type, shrugged it off as “Petie getting into something again.” And then the cacophony changed to a higher, more urgent pitch, Bob grabbed the flashlight, and we went out to make it a spectator sport.
The snow was falling in lazy clumps, and the air was cold enough to make it hurt with every breath. Even so, standing there behind Bob, peering into the dark mess of underbrush and wondering if my legs were safe from the dog and the thing he was harassing, I didn’t notice any of that. Nope, what I was wondering was whether this would be a Shotgun Incident.
Petie tends to find the little critters in the area (it is, after all, what Jack Russells are bred to do), and to get into a good bloody mess as he corners them and attempts to kill them. Sometimes they get away from him enough to get only injured, and Bob will have to get the shotgun (or sometimes a large heavy object – that was last week with the possum) and do the humane thing and kill them. Petie will not leave an injured critter alone until it is dead. He has no compunction about his quarry’s size in relation to his 13 pounds of muscle and willpower. (Does this make him courageous or stupid?)
Suddenly, in the midst of the scuffles and the growls, there was silence. Bob had still not been successful at locating them with the flashlight, and in the silence, I looked over at his stoic unimpressed countenance, and asked, “Is this silence normal?” to which he replied, without batting an eye, “Nope.”
Then I asked the question that had been nagging me: “Am I safe standing here?” It turns out that I was right in the path that the critter would probably take if it got out from its corner of safety and made a run for it. I repositioned myself, and Bob looked up long enough to say, “If I was you, I’d go up by the wheelbarrow.”
Considering that the last thing I wanted was a riled-up critter rushing my way – insert scene from “Christmas Vacation” where the door opens and the squirrel and the dog tear up the neighbor lady – I slouched over to the wheelbarrow where I really couldn’t see what was going on.
After the silence, the two duked it out some more and it got pretty loud. Finally, the coon (or was it a cat?) made a dash off toward the west side of our property, with Petie in hot pursuit. It was at this point that Bob began to question whether it was a cat instead of a coon.
Petie didn’t get the coon/cat last night, but he was a happy pup all the same. Nothing gets his juices running like a good rassle and a chase through the cold night with a cheering section calling his name (to the effect of “PETIE! Get back here RIGHT NOW!”). Although he had to deal with a bath, he also had his Hero (Bob) call him Good Dog at least four times
We happened upon Petie because the family that owned Petie had to get rid of him (an allergic daughter). They knew my mother-in-law was looking for a smaller dog and they called her. She couldn’t resist him and brought him home. My husband, seeing his mother apparently happy wasn’t going to say no either.
He was about five pounds then and cute as could be. That honeymoon period lasted a while. Maybe even as long as 48 hours.
And then the strong will started shining through. My husband, who has always been a natural Pack Leader, met this head-on. For almost ten years. He became Petie’s hero, and when Bob walked through the door at night, Petie
We ended up with Petie when my mother-in-law moved into an apartment and then he just sort of stayed. We joked for years and teased my mother-in-law that she could have her dog back anytime.
Inventive…with Anything Round
Oh, how he loved to chase a ball…
…or squash (the pumpkins never made it that year, either…he got them ALL)…
…or a shot put…
…or full-sized basketballs…
…or tires (which is what did him in, in the end). He was fast, which was great when he was attacking a rat or a coon or a groundhog or a cat. (Not so great if I was trying to get my kid’s ball back.)
When he was in the house, he used to hide under a buffet and poke his ball out. You were supposed to send it back to him. If you didn’t, he growled at an increasingly higher pitch until he was barking.
Lacking any other amusement, he would hide his toys all over the house, even…
…in the dryer!
Petie claimed us. He also claimed our kids and the people who were “with” us (friends and family who visited, etc.). Though I read that Jacks (or any terriers, for the most part) aren’t recommended for kids, we had a great experience with him, at least in his younger days. (The kids didn’t climb on him or tackle him as much once he became an outside dog.
The day we brought our oldest daughter home from the hospital, my mother-in-law came over. Petie growled at her — a serious, “I will bite you if you take one step closer” growl — when she leaned over to look in the crib.
He also used to curl up on the couch with us, especially with my husband. He didn’t take kindly to anyone waking up the person he was with, especially if it was Bob. He was spanked MANY times for growling at me when I would shake Bob awake at night for bed.
Life without Petie (written March, 2006)
I have a love-hate relationship with my Jack Russell. On the one hand, he’s the doggie equivalent of my energy, joyfully intelligent, and quite humorous as a source of stories. On the other, he is insistent, annoying, and never-ending, and often highly annoying (like when he does random bark-screams in the middle of the night). Lately it seems the pendulum has been hitting the hate end of the relationship more, but then we had a Scary Incident.
I was home alone and the baby was tucked away, snoozing peacefully upstairs. I was either reading or online (or maybe both), when I saw a white blur streak across the room. Looking up, I saw Petie run into something. Now, if his ball had been on the other side of the said object, this would not have been unusual. However, it was random wheels-not-working movement, and it was weird. He was whimpering and obviously not happy. Luckily, Bob came home right about then and I let Petie out, right before discovering some unintentional destruction.
I spent some time pondering what my life would be like without Petie, something that we joke about all the time but which I haven’t really considered in depth at all. Who would entertain the baby in the mornings? Who would clean up the kitchen floor after her meals? Who would alert me to raccoons in the front yard? Who would hide balls in my laundry hampers and then pull towels through the tiny holes in an attempt to retrieve them? Who would steal all my blankets at night? Who would greet Elizabeth in the mornings? Who would keep me company on Bob’s school nights? Who would greet me with unadulterated joy whenever I came home, even if I had only been gone for two minutes? Who would have as much energy as me in the morning? Who would shed white hair into every single possible imaginable place in our belongings? Who would scare off the spiders? Who would fight me for the couch? Who would play fetch with me? (no wait, I think I meant…who would play fetch with Elizabeth?)
We weren’t sure what was wrong, and still aren’t. He seems fine now; back to the full swing of obstinate outdoor exploration while I’m still in my pajamas and calling for him to come in, barking at the slightest provocation to his Dad’s-not-home domain, and curling up in the crook of my legs when I go to bed early.
Posts from the Past
If you want to read past blog posts inspired by our late JRT, here you go:
- Jack Russell Terror (which is actually one of my favorite posts of all time, whether or not anyone else likes it)
- What’s that gnawing in my closet?
- Playing God
- Life on the Outside