We got him when he was eight years old and we, temporarily, were a family of seven... instead of our standard six. It was a sunny July weekend in Westport, MA, and we'd driven seemingly a zillion hours from Virginia to spend a couple short days with our families in New England. So they could meet our host son, W., who was with us for five weeks from Lativa through an orphan-hosting program. And so that we could pick up Jack.
Hosting W. was our first experience in orphan care, and within days we loved him dearly. At the time we didn't know if our family future might contain him, permanently. Loving Jack came just as easily. He's a calm creature - dignified and intentional, but with a fun streak. A spry gentleman with his regal gray whiskers, and yet he enjoys running a couple quick laps around the back yard as much as any dog. His relaxed disposition allow his gentleness and loyalty to fully come through. His former owners, dear friends of my parents whose move precluded their keeping him, told us straight up his two (and only) flaws. First: he's picky with his food - won't eat scraps off the floor, like most dogs do. And second: he sleeps on couches when given the chance. They confessed these foibles almost apologetically, as if giving away secrets about a dog as wonderful as Jack was a betrayal. The voice over the phone, describing him and coordinating logistics of our adoption of him, was nearly full with tears.
So our van, normally full at vacation time with our usual six and travel gear, held seven plus a dog for the 600 miles home. It was a great drive, actually. The kids were so thrilled to have a dog again, four months after we'd laid Angus to rest in the field behind our Virginia farmhouse, and so in love with Jack in particular that enthusiasm trumped bickering. And W. and Jack were absolute comrades in arms from the start. They adored each other. Once we arrived home and got Jack settled in, W. would clip his leash on him and take him tromping around outside. He had a special way, "awww, Jacky Jacky" that he'd use when he talked to him. You couldn't be together with them and not have your heart warmed.
We said our sad goodbyes to W., which turned out to be the final ones, a few weeks later. By then we were all used to Jack and his place in our home. He's so easy to have around. Loud noises terrify him; he trembles and tries to sneak away during thunderstorms... Even hours before a thunderstorm he'll start his trembling, like some kind of canine barometer. We know to get him situated in the mudroom before we leave the house, for indeed, on any occasion we forget we find a warm spot on the blue living room couches, even sometimes a little drool puddle in the corner... And then we find Jack slinking guiltily, confessing his transgression through his tail-down posture. A few times he's wandered quietly off to take a turn about the neighborhood, creating panic-fueled confusion as one adult leaps into the car to drive around calling him while the other stays anxiously back with the kids. Once it was nighttime during a thunderstorm, terrifyingly - he seemed to think he might escape the nose through flight. He was never too hard to find, and he'd hop into the van with the same guilty, apologetic, "but you love me anyway" demeanor.
When we announced to our children, on a January morning, that we'd be moving to Crete this summer, the one thing that really got them was that Jack couldn't come with us. Our six-year-old especially welled up; in her mind, home is home with Jack in it. I can't say I blame her. But we knew we had to let him go before we left, and we laid out the reasons why. Some gifts come for a season, and we must be willing to let them go - heartbreaking though it may be. God would find Jack another perfect home, we assured her, just as we were the perfect home for Jack when we adopted him two years ago. We could trust him with that. And she accepted it.
And God has faithfully found that home; within days Jack will go into it. And our chapter with him will close. The first Bible verse I ever taught as a mom was this one, out of Proverbs (my paraphrase): "Good people care for their animals, but mean people are never kind." Truly, it was a pleasure to care for Jack during his years with us. That he returned that care toward us, so loyally and gently, is a gift for which we'll always be thankful.