photo taken by Daniel Duca

What is a cause you’re passionate about and why?

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Pets, specifically dogs.

For as long as I can remember, dogs have been a part of my life in some way. The first memory I have of a dog is when my eldest brother’s German Shepherd named Bones jumped on me after me and my little brother snuck out into the backyard. We screamed bloody murder and ran back inside! We ended up rehoming Bones because he absolutely refused to listen to anyone else in the house after my brother left for the Air Force. I hope whoever adopted him gave him a good life.

Our next dogs were Kellie and her sister. They were beautiful, black Labrador retrievers. They belonged to my aunt and uncle but they couldn’t care for them any longer. Apparently their names were Bella and Bellows or something? My cousin told me this years later. Her sister was a mean one; picked on Kellie relentlessly. We rehomed her sister and kept Kellie.

She was a damn good dog. Had the run of our backyard in Modesto to herself. Incredibly protective and gentle with me and my little brother. One of my favorite memories was curling up with her under the sun and using her body as a pillow. I legit remember falling asleep and my Ma running out into the backyard to find out why we were so quiet all of a sudden!

She eventually developed the dog equivalent of breast cancer in her senior years, and we didn’t have the money to fight it. I’ll never forget saying goodbye to her. She looked so tired.

A few months before we decided to put Kellie down, one of my Ma’s coworkers was giving away puppies. She decided to take us up to their house near Sacramento I want to say? That’s where we met Simba for the first time. Named after the lion because I was OBSESSED with The Lion King. Still am, but I used to be too. My dad was bent on naming him Yeller, like Old Yeller. He clearly looked like a Simba. My eldest niece C had the final word.

Me & Simba, circa 1995

I remember him bounding down the front walk, all legs, and big ears as you can see in the photo above. He was a Golden retriever, Chow Chow, and Rottweiler. He was a sweetheart, such a gentle spirit. Didn’t have a mean bone in his body. Not much of a guard dog though as he didn’t bark. One of my favorite memories of him was him tilting his head and listening to the other dogs in the neighborhood barking their heads off. All he could do was whine.

Losing him was a blow. My only regret is being unable to say goodbye properly. He passed away while I was at work. We had him for 15 years, half of my life at that point. I was a ghost after he passed. You could ask anyone who knew me at the time.

I knew it was time to move on when he visited me in my dreams a few weeks later. We were in the backyard at our old house in Modesto, and we were having a blast like old times. It started raining and we ran inside before the entire backyard flooded. Apparently, if you dream of flooding, it means you’re ready to say goodbye. I was so grateful that he did that. I don’t care if it’s superstitious or not.

It took me a while to find the nerve to move on though.

Jack, at the top of the stairs

I knew that if I was going to get another dog that I would adopt through the Animal Foundation because I’m always about supporting local options whenever possible. During downtime at work, I would look at the new listings to see if there were any pups that caught my eye. Eventually, I said, let me go down there and see what’s up.

I waited until my Ma was back in town and I drove her out to a Petco in Henderson because that’s where the closest open adoption location connected to them that I could find that was open after work. To be honest, it was a backward way to adopt a dog because I checked back a few days later and there were much closer locations. When I think back to the circumstances that brought us there, I always say it was fate.

My Ma likes to say that she chose Jack, which is partially true. There weren’t many pups to choose from. I knew I didn’t want a big dog. I was looking for a medium-sized one or so. Jack didn’t even get up from his bed when we were walking around. She pointed him out and the staff brought him to the meeting area. He was aloof but there was something about him that I liked.

We bought some supplies and while we were waiting in line to pay for them, Ma asked if I wanted to change his name. I looked down at him and said, nope, he looks like a Jack.

I have never had a more loyal companion than Jack. Everyone who meets him comments on how sweet and well-behaved he is. He’s incredibly good-natured. He doesn’t get into much mischief, thankfully. He barks loudly when you ring the doorbell, but that’s him protecting our family. Once he smells you, he calms down and goes about his day. My mother-in-law always says he’s a gentleman. I mean, he was born with the right colors to pull off a fluffy tuxedo. Ha!

I worked hard to train and bond with him. It helped pull out his personality. Sometimes I don’t even need to give a command. He knows what he should do. He’s a klutzy fella so when he doesn’t quite hit his mark, I can see the shame on his face. Perhaps that’s me anthropomorphizing him but I know what he’s feeling.

I feel confident letting him off his leash, knowing he won’t go too far. Even if he does, he’ll stop and wait for my asthmatic ass to catch up. He does have a strong prey drive so I’m on the highest level of alert when he’s off. There have been less than a handful of close calls but he’s so tiny, I can pick him up easily.

Sometimes when he’s trying to jump on the couch or on a bed, I joke and say I can see the hamster wheel in his head churning, deliberating and calculating if he can make the same jump he’s made a million times before.

I’m grateful that he’s such a good dog.

Everyone should have a Kellie, Simba, or Jack in their life. And they can if they adopt.

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