Sunday, November 07, 2004

T. Jackson Powell:
The Greatest Dog in the World

If it wasn’t for David I may not have met him. Though my friend Briony offers another perspective: she says that we don’t pick our dogs, they pick us.

I think Briony is right, though I am eternally grateful for the role David played too.

On Thanksgiving Day in 1996 a little puppy picked David and me as his new parents. He was just seven and a half weeks old. On that day we brought him home to our house in Lindon, Utah. We had about sixteen people over to celebrate Thanksgiving, which needless to say overwhelmed this little puppy who curled up in a corner and waited for the crowd to disburse.

The pup was born in Provo on October 16, 1996. His mother was a registered Great Pyrenees, though she was small for that breed so she may have been a mix. His father was a dog from a one night stand. Steve Hegerhorst, who had the mother and saw the father run off after doing the deed, said he was a Golden Retriever.

We named the pup T. Jackson Powell. I insisted that this was a puppy who was more than important enough to have a proper name. David came up with Jackson, after Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The T. was for Thanksgiving in honor of both the day Jackson entered our lives and the feeling we felt in having him join our family. Powell was after John Wesley Powell, the nineteenth century explorer and policy maker. Powell led the first expedition down the Colorado River in 1869. He created the Bureau of Ethnology which studied and documented the cultures of American Indians. He also was the head of the U.S. Geological Survey from 1881 to 1894.

Our little Jackson was a gorgeous puppy who only got better looking as he grew up.

We took him to puppy pre-school at our local Petsmart. He won the best in class award, beating out Donny Osmond’s Black Lab. We were so focused on our little guy that it took us three classes before we finally realized that yes that was the guy from television in our obedience class with us. We considered the Osmond puppy unruly.

Like John Wesley Powell, Jackson led an adventurous life--flying on airplanes and traveling tens of thousands of miles in cars, mostly our 1997 Subaru. He went on ferry’s, slept on sail boats, went motor-boating, and camping. He was a willing and eager explorer, as long as someone was close by--usually me. We spent many many hours hiking, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing. He spent over three years of his life living on three different farms (including a ranch) where he roamed with total freedom.

Jackson called four states home for nine months or more. These were Utah, Ohio, Virginia, and Arizona. He also visited at least twenty other states and the District of Columbia, as well as Canada. The stupidest move of his life was when he nearly leaped into the rushing water at the top of Niagara Falls, a move that could have also taken me with him either accidentally as I was holding his leash, or in desperation to save him. We had just parked the Subaru and walked toward the noise of the falls, somewhat oblivious to our exact location. We approached a stone wall, and for a reason I will never understand Jackson leapt on top of this little wall which couldn’t have been more than six inches wide. On the other side was a twenty to thirty foot drop to the Niagara River, just before it plunges 170 feet. While I was unnerved by him nearly going into the cataract below, neither he nor I realized how close we were to the top of the falls until a few minutes after the incident.

As my friend Kevin Cromer observed, Jackson was regal and majestic. He seemed to know how good looking he was even though his real beauty came from within. Though he could be a little snooty with other dogs, he loved any person who was open to giving him a chance. With dogs he was usually the alpha. With people, he was putty, doing whatever it took to get attention and to give his love. Though once he was in command of his human handlers his independence became evident and he had a determined stubborn streak.

Through the force of his personality Jackson created a world that served his every need. Jackson and I were apart for a few extened periods--though I visited him during those separations. During the times we were apart, he was living it up on my Mom’s farm in Ohio. Even when we lived together he rallied a small army of people to serve him for the parts of the day or week when I wasn’t available. If he wasn’t outside on some mini-adventure, he loved to stay close to me. When I worked at my computer he often crammed himself under my desk so he could be as close as possible.

Jackson meant the world to me, providing an anchor to my peripatetic life. Living up to his role as the ideal dog, his devotion was complete. No matter where I went, or how often I packed everything up and moved, he happily came along (though the moves did unnerve him, about as much as they unnerved me).

He was smart, gorgeous, and loving. Mostly, he was an easy dog to be around and to take care of. Quiet over ninety-five percent of the time, he had a distinctive, loud bark that he employed anytime he thought he heard something. Though they say a dog’s hearing is much more sensitive than ours, I am convinced he had the tendency to bark at ghosts on occasion. But maybe he really did hear those ghosts . . . .

The end of his life came far too suddenly, as well as too soon. I am still reeling by the events of the final two days of his life. He died on October 25, 2004 in Phoenix after we discovered cancer was running rampant inside of him. He had just turned eight.

Jackson owns a piece of my heart. He also earned a place in the hearts of many others.

Thank you Jackson--we miss you.

Woof, woof!

Jim Breitinger
Phoenix, Arizona

PS--See photos below, and below those a timeline of Jackson's life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was just reading along and enjoying the Jackson story. I didn't know that he passed away. What a very sad ending to the story. You have my sympathy. I met Jackson at Southwestern Academy where he commanded the Red Rocks and a beautiful, blue rare Arizona stream. He had the young students in his command, too. He was awesome, and although I only met him one time, I fell for him and loved him, too. Take care. Diane