He came up to me, his tail wagging, his eyes of different color digging into my heart, a ball hanging from his mouth and a pleading look of ‘pick me, pick me’. When I bent down to pet him, his body fell into mine and his one blue eye sparkled as his brown eye looked into my soul. I picked up the ball he dropped and threw it. He ran and bought it back to me. I did this two more times with him, but by the third he watched the ball fly across the yard, did a sigh and looked at me with a ‘really’ expression. I knew he was ours.
When we got him home, we needed to name him. He was a stray and his temporary, shelter-given name did not match his looks. My son, my daughter, my husband and I all wrote down a name and threw them in a hat. The name Jordan was pulled and from then on, he was our Jordan.
We had a dog before Jordan. A fine dog, yet he was more my husband’s dog and not necessarily our family dog. Jordan was going to be our family dog, grow up with the kids, staying home with this stay-at-home mom and still hike and wrestle with my husband.
The first few weeks were rough. Since Jordan was a stray, he had anxiety and was protective of his bones, food, water and space. He would let out a low growl to my son, Matthew, the lowest in our “pack” when he went near him. Once Jordan snapped when Matthew tried to grab his bone away, something he did with our previous dog. And Jordan ran. Every chance he got, he ran. When the front door opened, when a back gate did not close or when the kids tried to squeeze past him and a barrier, he ran. In those first months, we received a call almost daily of how Jordan came to visit someone in the neighborhood. Jordan was friendly, provided he was in charge.
After about a month with Jordan, I began to think I made a mistake in talking our family into him. I told a neighbor we were going to bring him back. He was too much and not adjusting to our kids, especially Matthew. The growls bothered me. The running was more than a nuisance. And his quest to be the alpha male in our house was driving me crazy.
Then, something happened. As if Jordan could sense the beginning of his end in the Dudak household, he changed. It could have been the way my husband took care of him when the pads of Jordan’s feet tore from jumping out of a moving truck. It could have been a long talk I had with him informing him that I didn’t want to, but I was going to choose my son over him any day…every day. It could have been my daughter, Leah, starting to tell Jordan her problems in school. Or it could have been, despite the growls of warning, Matthew never gave up trying to bond with him. Whatever the reason, Jordan, with persistent warning and discipline on our part, relented and became our family dog.
As the years passed, he still would run from time to time and he chewed up a sofa out of anxiety, but he started to endear himself to us. Jordan jumped on my daughter’s bed waiting for Leah to tell him all her secrets and middle school woes. He would squirm under Matthew full tackle and take off running, with my son at his hind heals. Jordan barked and bared teeth at anyone with an uniform, male or a hat that came to our door in the middle of the day, until I called him off. He would also wag his entire body as I got my shoes on in hopes it was his walking time with me. He perked up his ears when I read him my latest installment of my novel in the quiet, empty house. And he became my husband’s best friend, going with him on hikes, bird watching, along with him outside no matter what my husband did – mow lawn, weed or take the garbage to the curb. When my husband would walk to a neighbor’s house for a Friday night beer, Jordan trailed. Those neighbors became Jordan’s ‘grandparents’ as they gave Jordan plenty of affection and treats.
The last six months, Jordan began to slow. He still went for walks and hikes with my husband and was forever at his side, still excited to visit his ‘grandparents’. Jordan still loved his walks with me yet now he lagged behind with a desperate look of trying. His hearing was going so the stories I read were normally not acknowledged now. He would get excited at the prospect of being fed by my son and sometimes, still had a good wrestling match left in him. When my daughter came home from college, Jordan ran to her as if he still remembered her secrets. He still greeted guests who came into our house with a wag of the body and a plead from his unique, two different color eyes to pet him. Everyone who saw him, gave into him.
Now there were fatty cysts covering Jordan’s body and anywhere you pet, they would intrude. He would limp from time to time as the arthritis began to takes its effect on his hind legs. His muzzle completely greyed and his eyes had the start of cataracts. We knew his time was coming to an end.
The end came quickly for Jordan. He was sick for two days, not being able to sleep, to keep anything down or to walk. When my husband took him in to the Vet, it was determined his heart was giving out -a heart that loved our family, our neighbors, life and food. A heart so full, in the end, there wasn’t any more room in it. A heart that needed to be stopped so Jordan could leave this world in peace and pain free. My husband held him as Jordan left this world. It was a fitting way to end.
My daughter, away at school, and me, away to write, could not say good-bye to Jordan. We both wanted to and it tears at us both that we couldn’t. If I had the chance, I would thank Jordan for all he gave my family. I would thank him for the lessons in listening, in keeping secrets, in following when you want to run, in unconditional love, and in being there when everyone else has left. I would tell him I would have chosen him over and over and over again….with his two color eyes that peered into my soul making me a better person for having known him. I would say, “Goodbye Jordan. You served us well and I hope, we you. Love you always. Now go and run.”