Jackie Was Our Co-Pilot

Or, another one about dogs..

Do you ever fall into the YouTube zone?

I do. Increasingly I find that YouTube has a lot of programming that I really enjoy, even up to entire movies that are in the public domain. One of YouTube’s “features” is that it will dredge up videos that have some relation to something that you previously watched: for instance if you watched an old Julia Child clip it will suggest everything from Ina Garten making pesto to a troop of Girl Scouts making smores.

So somehow my feed started sending me suggestions of pet videos. Cute cats doing this and that, adorable canines doing whatever. One of which was a pet guide about the poodle. This poodle primer mentioned that thee breed is the second most popular one in the US, which I am not sure of. I know when I was growing up they were number one, perhaps because even in my post-Watergate yoof the Camelot-era love for all things French still existed, if only in the desire for pets, perfume, cheeses and food processors.

I grew up with a poodle. I don’t know how the decision was made to get a dog, but I know that a neighbor was a breeder and had a puppy that was going begging. Something about the stance not being right so we had Jacques come into our lives, Jacques quickly became Jackie and an integral part of our household. Jackie was a black poodle, just a little too big to be miniature and too small to be standard. Like most poodles, he was friendly and inquisitive and just a mite too smart. He could figure out how to open an unlocked door and one got the impression that it was just familial affection that kept him from developing opposable thumbs, taking the can opener and car keys and moving to his own place.

My grandfather lived with us until his death and Jackie was his special pet. We had strict rules about table manners in the dining room, but they went out the window for Grampy. If her wanted to feed Jackie at the table, Jackie got fed. It’s a wonder that he just didn’t ask for a place set for him; I am sure Jackie’s table manners could have bested us kids most of the time.

One thing Jackie hated were thunderstorms, which occur with frequency in New England. He would whine when they were occurring and curl up as close to you as possible. If he could have hidden under your clothes (while you were wearing them) he would have. Jackie’s likes were many, but a few that I remember were:

A) Snow. At any snowfall it was nearly impossible to get him to come back in from a bathroom break. He would run around lapping at the falling flakes and if there were drifts he would play what we called “snowplow,” butting his head into the piles and not being content until he was dripping wet and forced to come in and dry off.

B) Cars. Jackie loved to ride in cars. During the summer we would usually go for a Sunday drive at least once a month. We had two cars at the time, an Olds Ninety-Eight and a Ford Queen Family Truckster. Jackie preferred the Ninety-Eight since he could sit in his preferred position: butt wedged into the fold-down armrest in the front seat, nose in the AC vent and eyes on the road. Jackie was out co-pilot. The beach wagon was okay but I don’t think he got the AC on his nose. One of our usual stops was at a place called the Dairy Bar, which served soft serve ice cream. Dad being Dad, Jackie had to have his own small cone of vanilla, which he consumed with relish. About twenty minutes later into the drive Jackie would jump from the front to the “way back” with a doggie look of “oops!” Then the smell would hit and the windows would be lowered. This being the days before anyone made the connection of dairy and flatulence- we didn’t know about lactose intolerance in people, whoda thunk it would be in poodles?

C) Getting groomed. Poodles, if you aren’t aware do not grow fur, they grow hair. It needs to be trimmed and groomed unlike usual dog fur which falls out. We would let his hair grow out over the fall and winter, only bathing him. When he would come back from the groomer in late spring with his kennel clip he would for days practically Vogue around the house like Divine on a Baltimore street. You half expected to hear “The Girl Can’t Help It” in the background

Eventually of course Jackie ended up having to be put down. He was old, blind, toothless and in no small amount of pain. Even in that state he was happy to see you. I am glad that my parents saw fit to give us a pet, and that it was Jackie. He taught us responsibility, the cycle of life and death, and really, how to love.

All that, but not to feed him ice cream.

Have a pet story yo’d like to share? Please do so in the comments.

Image: Wikipedia

  • Musette says:

    ogosh, Tom, that brought back so many memories – my first childhood dog was a Rottweiler – before any of us knew the breed (my dad called him a Doberman-Shepherd). omg he was such a cool dog, though probably not the breed for a 7 yr old girl!


  • Kathleen Smith says:

    Thank you for the story of your special Jackie! My childhood dog was a Basenji named “Senji.” I remember similar stories and she was always with us and in the middle of what we were doing. I adored her so much and she taught me so about joy and unconditional love. Now my love are Boxers, and I’m never without a dog in my lap. I couldn’t imagine life without a dog!

  • Kandice says:

    What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing your memories of this special fur baby. I have had many, both dogs and cats, and they will live forever in my heart as obviously Jackie does in yours.

  • HeidiC says:

    What a sweet story!

  • Sapphire says:

    That was really lovely, Tom.

  • Pats says:

    Aww – i loved reading your stories of Jackie – who sounded like a fab dog with many little special habits that you will always remember. I think its important that kids grow up with animals and learn how special they can be. Sometimes i think i like animals more that (most) people -animals dont judge, they love unconditionally! x