Jax, the Manatee of Dogs


If you subscribe to my newsletter or follow me on social media, you already know that we recently adopted a dog.

Everyone, please meet Jax—aka, the Manatee of Dogs, because he is a sweet-tempered, gentle giant.

Our current guess is that Jax is a Great Dane/Black lab mix—a Labradane (or a Danelab, if you want to sound more Viking). We don’t know how old he is, though it’s safe to say he’s in his senior years, judging by his graying muzzle. We don’t know much about his background, other than that a neighbor adopted him out of a Southern California police pound toward the beginning of the pandemic.

He’s very attached to his people, and to humans in general, to the point that separation anxiety is a concern. Lakshmi (2005-2020) had rather extreme separation anxiety when I rescued her, and I can draw on that experience to work with Jax. Our neighbor, with whom he lived previously, would bring him to our house to hang out while she ran errands or attended family functions. He’d also stayed with us for a few days and nights last Thanksgiving.

When we heard that our neighbor needed to re-home him, we took some time to finalize our decision—due to concerns about his age and his existing medical conditions, and the fact that we need to rebuild our back fence. There’s also the inevitability that this senior boy won’t be with us for very long, and it’s going to gut us when he goes. But our initial, gut-level reaction to the adoption offer won out: Of course we would welcome him to his last forever home.

He is wonderful with our three cats, and he doesn’t really need a fenced yard because he doesn’t wander. He wants to be with his people, all the time. He likes to accompany me to the mailbox. He waits for me outside the bathroom door. I’ve had him outside with me to do some stargazing; that lasts only a couple of minutes, however, because he starts licking my face every time I try to look through the telescope eyepiece. Maybe an outdoor bed and a “snack puzzle” will be the answer.

Jax snores, a lot—he’s on his bed in my office and snoring away as I type this. He’s a big dog, and he can get quite the buzzsaw going at any time of day or night. Even my shouting about March Madness games (already) doesn’t disturb him. Instead of annoying or disruptive, his snoring is soothing. Hearing him snore means he is present, and that he’s resting happily. It means that I have a dog in my home, and in my heart, after going so long without. It’s a simple magick that brings me to smiling tears.

I had one or more dogs in my life literally every day for more than a quarter-century, beginning when I adopted Nanook (1994-2006) from my next-door neighbors when I was 25. That came to an end when Lakshmi died in 2020, during the first pandemic summer, followed by the death of my heart-and-soul cat, Kenobi (2003-2021), the following spring. That grief still lingers, and is sometimes sharp, just as I continue to feel the loss of all of my companions along the way.

There truly is nothing like a dog. You give them shelter, food and water, and a portion of your attention, and in return, they give you everything. There are trade-offs, like not being able to sleep in, because the dog needs me. There are times I’m right in the middle of a crucial paragraph, but he needs to pee, so I leave an incomplete sentence on the screen, hoping I’ll remember what I was thinking when I come back. And a big dog = big poop to pick up. Like the apocryphal quote from the anonymous child, “A dog really can be your best friend, but you can’t trust them to watch your sandwich.”

But sometimes, when I’m feeling stuck or stressed, when I’m lying in bed and can’t sleep, or when I’m otherwise out of sorts, I just close my eyes and listen to my dog snore.

Posted in thoughts from the spiral.

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