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Columns

Missing the Big Red Dog, Jake

Jake, The Big Red Dog, 
November 22, 2007 - July 11, 2018
Jake, The Big Red Dog,  November 22, 2007 - July 11, 2018

Oh, how I miss Jake. It’s been two weeks since his passing – his corkscrew curls, the weight of his big head resting on my leg, the way he leaned against me when he wasn’t sure about something – but I catch myself smiling a bit more often these days, about how he was afraid of stuffed animals but apparently not stuffed tater tots. His “cave tot” from Sonic, now missing a leg, was his favorite toy. My silly boy, Jake was my “come and scratch my belly” dog, my “one more corn chip, please?” dog. I even found a funny series of pictures I took of Noah and Jake several years ago where Jake turned his back on Noah in protest because he wouldn’t give him one more chip, probably because I was watching. What a funny personality he had!

I found other pictures, too, of him playing UNO with Holly and her buddy Rachel when they were little. Looks like Jake won. In the last pic, the girls are chasing him as he runs, cards in his mouth, out of the kitchen and out of the frame. The kids’ best playmate.

A fabulous timekeeper, too. On the rare occasion he didn’t herd me upstairs at bedtime, he’d nudge my door open with his nose, wiggle in and drop his bones over the threshold. Not a “dog bed” kind of dog, but a “man the post” kind of dog. Otherwise, he’d hog the bed when he’d stretch out at the foot of it, where he could still keep an eye on things in the hallway. 

A few months ago, jumping up became a struggle. I bought doggie steps. 

“No way,” he seamed to say, when Holly and I tried to coax him up. He stayed on the floor. 

How odd it felt, that first morning without him, to bring my water glass downstairs and not pour the rest into his water bowl like I always did. I poured it in the cat’s bowl instead.

I wonder if the cat’s grieving, too. In fact, Posey ran right past me out the back door as we were coming in, the night Jake died. A week later he snuck past the carpenter, here for a small job. I wonder if he’s looking for Jake.

“It’s like the life is gone from the house,” a friend said of her own recent puppy loss. 

“The energy is different,” said another. “And it’s quieter.” Yes, it is. There are other changes, too.

“It’s so weird not to have Jake to clean it up,” I said, after dropping a bit of cooked hamburger on the floor. 

“I dropped mac ’n’ cheese and I was like, ‘Why is it still there?’” Holly said. Jake loved popcorn, too. I felt strangely guilty the first time I ate some without him.

A few days after he became gravely ill and the kids and I made the difficult decision to euthanize him, I went for a walk. Our walk. (He’d slowed down so much in recent weeks I actually was able to take over some of the walking duties from Noah, trusting Jake wouldn’t tug and throw my back out.) I talked to him. 

“OK, Jake, buddy, show me a sign, OK? That you’re OK? That we did the right thing (in euthanizing him after the tumor we didn’t know he had, burst).” A few moments later I spotted movement out of the corner of my eye. Dozens of pale gold leaves fluttered down from a big old leafy green tree across the street, as if someone had dumped them. But there wasn’t any wind.

“OK, that was cool, if that was you, Jake,” I said, as I crossed the street and looked up, expecting to find a squirrel and finding none. “Can you show me another?” I know, greedy. But I walked maybe 50 feet more when a car went by, a golden retriever in the back seat. Whoa. It parked half a block up. Turns out it was a dog I met maybe four years ago, when he’d gotten away from his person and wound up playing with Jake in my yard until I called the number on his tag. After my brief reunion with them I continued around the block and headed for home, tears in my eyes. Cool, Jake, cool.

“I’ll love you forever, sweet boy,” I said, when all of a sudden I was doused with a shower of raindrops from another tree as I passed underneath. It had rained hours earlier but wasn’t raining now. Just under that tree.

Oh, how I miss him.

Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her family. Contact her at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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