Jack was laid to rest today at 12 p.m. sharp. It was a small service in the Peterson’s backyard. There were folding chairs. Jack’s pinewood box was decorated with white flowers and his favorite chew toys.
It was an exemplary summer day. The East Texas sky was powder blue. A suffocating 103 degrees. It didn’t look like a day for a funeral. It looked like a day to sit beside an inground pool and guzzle something cold and potent.
Most attendees were neighbors. They were all ages. Some brought refreshments. Others brought pound cakes or cold salads. The whole affair was pretty simple. No frills. Lots of food.
The way Jack would have wanted it.
People took turns sharing memories before the group. An 8-year-old girl cried when she delivered hers.
“Jack used to always steal my food. If I turned away, even for a little bit, my food was gone. My chips, my sandwich or whatever. He ate it. He was so cute.”
“Oh, I remember when Jack escaped once,” said a neighbor woman with grayish hair and Jackie-O sunglasses.
“I was working in my yard and I saw him fly by. I knew he wasn’t supposed to be out, so my husband and I chased him for a whole mile. When I found him, Jack was digging in a trashcan. That’s my main memory of Jack. Running free.”
A 15-year-old girl was lightly weeping when she shared hers, nervously reading from a page.
“When I was child, Jack saved my life. I fell into my grandma’s swimming pool when I was 4, and he started barking and making noise, and my mom came out and rescued me. I could have died if it wasn’t for Jack.”
That one got everyone sniffing.
Mom was closest to Jack. The irony here is, Mom never wanted a dog. She didn’t even like dogs.
That all changed one afternoon when driving her kids home from school, 13 years ago. Her children started freaking out in the backseat because they spotted a handmade sign on the side of the road.
It was the kind of commonly seen roadside sign in rural America. A sign which causes all children to instinctively react like middle-aged females at a Tom Jones concert.
The sign read: “Free Puppies.”
What followed was the classical tug-of-war between mother and children.
Her kids begged. Mom refused. Then the kids pleaded. So Mom made threats. After which the kids resorted to bribery. Promises were made. Mom’s resolve began to cave.
She told her kids firmly that she would NOT, under any circumstances, be responsible for a dog. It would be the KIDS’ responsibility.
The joke was on Mom. She and Jack became thick as mud. Best friends. Inseparable allies. He slept beside her. He died in her arms.
Before the ceremony ended, people sang songs. “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” was the hymn of the day. The song was chosen by Mom because Jack loved going on walks. The idea that God was taking Jack for walks was a nice image.
“Just a closer walk with Thee,
“Grant it, Jesus, it’s my plea,
“Daily walking close to Thee,
“Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.”
Service came to a conclusion. Men and boys lowered the wooden box into the hole, then covered it with fresh earth.
Everyone wandered inside where they drank sweet tea, Cokes and fizzy waters. Men cradled beers and talked about the salaries of professional athletes. Kids meandered into the den and played video games. Not many people were talking about Jack.
But you could feel his spirit just the same.
Namely, because Jack’s paraphernalia still peppers the house. His doggy bed. His basket of toys. His box of organic treats atop the fridge.
His smiling photos are still upon the sofa tables, tacked to the refrigerator, hanging in the hallway.
And life moves onward. Because that’s how it works, you see. Life does not stop for death. It apathetically trudges forward, without even glancing behind itself. It seems heartless. And it is. But that’s nature.
Even so, it’s impossible to forget a guileless creature. He was friend of man and woman. He never turned down an opportunity involving pleasure or immediate gratification.
He possessed beauty without vanity. Joy without remorse. Strength without cruelty. Excitement without reservation. Love without condition. All the virtues of man, without any of his vices.
He was more than a dog. He was somebody. Somebody named Jack. And today he walks with Thee.