“I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song.
I’m twenty-two now but I won’t be for long.
Time hurries on.
And the leaves that are green turn to brown.”
-Paul Simon, 1966
It was the Fall of 2003, my Senior year of college at Auburn, and I arrived at a girl’s apartment to pick her up for a date. She wasn’t ready yet and asked if I would walk her dog before we left. So, I put the dog’s leash on him and proceeded to sprint down three levels of stairs to a grassy area where I spent about 15 seconds letting him relieve himself. Immediately, we sprinted back up the three levels of stairs back to her apartment. In my mind, I wanted to walk this dog as fast as possible because I had a date with a hot blonde. In his mind, he must have thought this was the biggest rip off of a walk that he’d ever experienced. I was 22, and this is when I met Jake for the first time. He was a four year old full-of-energy Dalmatian. That hot blonde? She is my wife of almost 9 years, partner-in-crime and best friend.
Over the next year and a half, Jake, Rachel and I got to know each other. Trips to the dog park, hiking around Chewacla creek, and Tuskegee mountain biking were just a few of the ways we tried to exercise this dog and get him to use his seemingly unending amount of energy. One warm Auburn afternoon I remember meeting up at a local little league baseball field, where we shut the gates so Jake could run around and play fetch with a frisbee. I use the term “fetch” loosely since it was more of a crazy sprint to the frisbee and either A) Jake would decide to mangle it with his teeth, or B) pick it up and run the opposite direction. This is also the day I knew I was in love with Rachel.
“Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, A time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories; They’re all that’s left you”
-Paul Simon, 1968
Jake even tagged along to our wedding at the beach in 2005. After, all he and Rachel had been buddies since 1998 when he was a puppy just getting his spots. I learned a lot of things having a dog for the first time. I mainly learned that dogs like to chew and shred things: water bottles, toys with stuffing, money that had fallen on to the floor, and the list goes on. A plush toy with a squeaker stood no chance in our household. I consistently found my car wash sponge in the garage shredded in to a hundred pieces. It seemed to be his life goal, his purpose. Dogs also like to pee in the same spot in your yard, I learned. Jake’s second life goal was to see how large of a brown patch he can create. Another thing I learned for the first time from Jake is that dogs love you unconditionally. Jake loved to be around us. He would follow us everywhere; If we were inside and he was outside, he’d bark at the door until he was rescued from his solitude. Oh, and I learned that most dogs shed. A lot. The white tumbleweeds I became accustomed to were akin to something out of a wild west film.
When we moved to Hawaii, we road-tripped across the country from South Carolina to California. This was to give our pets a shorter plane flight since they had to ride below in the cargo space. 6 days and 2,500 miles later we pulled up to LAX with our suitcases, surfboards, Jake, and our little Garfield cat named Carlos. We always said this was Jake’s retirement. A dog that was terrified of thunder was relocating to a state without thunderstorms; A dog that loved to be outside was relocating to a land of perpetual summer. We took Jake on daily bike rides. He’d run beside our bike for a mile or two (if it was a holiday like Christmas or Halloween) this would be done in costume, of course. In 2011, I decided to name my business “Everything is Jake”, partly because of the vintage phrase meaning “it’s all good”, but also to recognize what a blessing Jake’s been in my life.
“Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello,
Goodbye, Goodbye, Goodbye, Goodbye,
That’s all there is.
And the leaves that are green turned to brown.“
Jake passed away Monday due to complications from lung cancer. He was 15 years old. The longer I live, the more I learn that life is cyclical, that our life is made up of many different seasons. Sometimes these seasons are a blessing, sometimes they are a test to prepare us for the next, and through these seasons, the joy we have through our faith in God remains constant. As we finish this final chapter of our “Marley and Me” season with Jake, I have fleeting memories pop into my head. I remember how we tried to dye Jake’s fur blue one time with Kool Aid. We learned that his fur was too coarse to soak up the dye, and also learned he enjoyed getting back at us by jumping in the pool, leaving behind a blue Kool-Aid cloud that resembled an oil slick. I remember how scared Jake was when we brought Carlos home the first day. Even though Jake was 50 pounds and Carlos barely 1, Jake was terrified. Of course he grew to know him as his little brother, and this memory morphs into their playful wrestling matches in the living room that usually ended in Carlos swinging from Jake’s neck. I remember the time I carried Jake 100 yards down Chewacla creek because the rocks were too slippery for him to walk on. And, I remember when we took him swimming at the beach he always swam to the right for some reason (maybe a la Derek Zoolander?).
So, as the car wash sponge sits safely intact in the corner of the garage, and the brown grass patches in our yard slowly gloss over back to green, we are heartbroken, but we are also blessed to have had Jake in our lives for so long. Leaves that are green turn to brown. Yeah, that’s true. But after those brown leaves fall, Spring is not far behind, bringing on the growth of new leaves. We look forward to seeing Jake again one day just as we await what the next season of life holds.
Jake’s favorite shave ice flavor was plain. Well, only because that’s all we gave him: I like to think of him as a li hing mui and mango kind of guy.
Last year my wife actually made Jake a dog-friendly cake for his “100th” birthday. He scarfed it in one bite.
Yeah, they got more comfortable with each other.
Our last family photo with Jake. Taken Sunday.