While the passing of each of the ‘First Ones’
took a piece of me, I always found solace in the fact it
wasn’t PJ. Deep down inside of me, I had always
hoped that PJ would be the ‘Last of the First Ones.’
I got PJ as a mature puppy. He was given to me as a
Practical Joke by a girl friend, hence his name. Her
parents we’re furious with her when she adopted ‘Max’
a mutt, from the pound. Being a horse person, she had
also planned on adopting a Jack Russell, but was
unwilling to risk further wrath from her parents. But
when a friend called her a few months later about a Jack
Russell puppy needing a home, she was unable to refuse.
To pacify her parents, she told them he was my dog.
‘I’ was PJ’s third owner. He lasted only a week
with his first, being deemed unsuitable for apartment
life. He lasted two months with his second, but the
insecurity of how he would react to a new baby sent PJ
packing once more. By the time he left his mom for the
last time, all his litter mates were long gone.
PJ and Max took to each other like Mutt and Jeff. Our
residence in the countryside was doggie paradise. The
two were forever playing, hunting together, or on ‘sniff
patrol.’ When they slept, they slept together.
A few months after he came to live with us, PJ
disappeared. At first we thought nothing of it, for
surely he would be home for dinner. But when dinner time
passed and night fell, dread quickly took hold of me.
For five days I looked for him, hacking the countryside
calling his name, all to no avail. On the sixth day,
just when I was beginning to give up hope, a neighbor
called saying they had seen PJ in a development a few
I rushed over to the development, and sure enough,
there was PJ, the center of attention for a gaggle of
children. The parents offered to buy him from me and the
kids cried when he left, but in the five days he was
gone and I feared him dead, I had made up my mind that
if I ever got him back, I would do everything in my
power to ensure he lived a long and happy life with me.
PJ’s first real scrape with death came just a few
months later when he received a severe laceration on a
hind leg. Upon returning from work, we discovered him
sitting on the front steps in a pool of blood. However,
a few stitches and some blood were all he needed and off
he was again with his buddy Max.
PJ and Max went everywhere with us. One evening,
while eating dinner at a steak house, we asked the
waiter if they had any table scraps. He returned a few
minutes later with a doggie bag stuffed with fillet
mignon, sirloin, and T-bones. I placed the bag on the
dashboard of the car, assured it was out of reach from
the dogs and returned to my dinner.
Unfortunately, I underestimated PJ and Max’s
capabilities. When we returned to the car after dinner,
we discovered the doggie bag empty, and two very happy
dogs stretched out on the back seat with stomachs ready
to burst. Needless to say, I never made that mistake
While Max and PJ were inseparable, the same could not
be said for my girlfriend and me. As things between us
became strained, we increasingly spent more and more
time apart, each taking their ‘own’ dog with them.
Eventually the split became permanent, and PJ became a
full-fledged bachelor’s dog, a life from which he
never fully recovered.
My first order of business was to figure out what to
do with PJ while at work and on business trips. Having
spent the first year of his life running around on a
farm, he had no intention on submitting to being locked
up in an apartment or in a kennel. Fortunately, the barn
where I was boarding my horse at the time had other
boarders with the same problem. PJ happily joined the
ranks of the other dogs that were dropped off in the
morning for ‘doggie day care’.
After a long day of flocking with his buddies, he
would greet me as I saddled up my horse, then join me
for my hack in the countryside. Then it was off to a
dinner of hamburgers and fries and a visit with a few
friends and then an evening nightcap of nuts and ice
cream. But the best part of all was that he got to share
my bed, snuggling up into the small of my back or
curling up on the pillow next to my head.
Whenever we could be together, we were, and driving
was always quality time. He would always beat me to the
car, and the door would no sooner be shut, then he would
sit on my lap, and drape his front legs over my left
arm. From that position, he was high enough to see out
the window and perfectly positioned for long scratches.
For PJ, summer always meant time with my brother
Bill. Upon sight of Bill, PJ would break out in a whole
body wiggle, squealing in sheer delight. Bill reinforced
PJ’s response by showering him with love and praise.
Every summer, PJ would join Bill, a master carpenter,
at his job sites. No one ever objected to it. PJ charmed
everyone, be it the staff of a restaurant who prepared
PJ a breakfast of eggs and bacon every morning, to the
owner of an old house brought to tears of laughter at
the site of PJ’s head sticking out of a hole in the
Bill’s and PJ relationship was symbiotic to say the
least. Bill gave PJ a seemingly never-ending string of
adventures. PJ provided Bill the perfect ‘babe magnet.’
Bill would sit down next to a tree, tie a long string to
PJ, irresistibly puppyish in his size and mannerism, and
let him wander away, pulling him back occasionally to
see the girls he had attracted. PJ was such a good lure
that unbeknownst to me, Bill soon began to lend PJ to
Life for PJ got even grander when I moved out of my
apartment and rented a farm near where I used to board
my horse. Or at least I thought it was better. PJ didn’t
take well to being alone, and I would no sooner head off
to work, then he would head off across the country to
the old barn and his buddies. On more than one occasion,
I received a call from the local police that they had
‘apprehended’ PJ. Sure enough, I would find him
behind bars, patiently waiting my arrival.
I tried everything to keep him at home, cages,
chains, fences, but he quickly escaped them all.
Fortunately he was so well liked, that even the police
soon let him wander their offices.
Having been brought up around horse, PJ had no fear
of them. On the contrary, in spite of his small size and
my very vocal shouts of disapproval, chasing them seemed
like great sport. One day however, he got too close, and
I watched in horror as my horse connected with a swift
kick to his head. PJ went flying head over tail, hitting
the ground with a sickening thud.
As I rushed him to the vet’s, I hung on each
breath, sure it was to be his last, but by the time I
got the vet’s, he was sitting up, albeit very wobbly
at best. For the next few days he kept a low profile,
obviously nursing a headache of monumental proportion.
Unfortunately, the kick obliterated any memory of itself
and, like a typical Jack Russell, he was up chasing the
horses again as soon as he was able.
The arrival of my future wife, Audrey, into my life,
and my decision to move further out into the country to
be closer to her, opened a whole new series of
adventures for PJ. Every morning, I would drop him off
at the stable, where he would join his buddies in a day
of cat chasing, long sunny naps, and mousing.
PJ was a great mouser. The words "Mouse! Mouse!
Mouse!" would bring him sprinting at a pell-mell
pace. He would dig for hours, or even tear apart wood
with his teeth, to get at a cornered mouse. In no time
at all, the new barn was mouse free thanks to PJ, and he
worked tirelessly to keep it that way.
But PJ’s greatest love was joining me on hacks in
the country. In spite of his short legs he managed to
keep up, or at least keep within sight. The courses of
hacks were planned around water supplies, where PJ could
drink and, if necessary, cool himself. No matter how
separated we became, I was always assured that I need
only backtrack and I would soon see him bounding through
the tall grass. In the thousands of miles we hacked,
never once did he lose me nor stray from my track.
On hot days he would linger at streams along the way,
submerging himself fully till cooled to his taste. On
truly hot days, he would park himself at the stream, and
hunt on its banks, awaiting my return, no matter how
long it took.
My marriage to my wife brought a whole new raft of
adventures, and for the first time, challenges, into PJ’s
world. Initially, PJ didn’t take well to the new
arrangement. Having only known the life of a bachelor’s
dog, he found sleeping on the ground hard to take and
being spanked for chasing my wife’s cats seemed down
right rude. The move into my wife’s apartment
following our marriage, put PJ further on the defensive.
He was an unwanted dog in a cat’s domain.
As a bachelor dog, PJ had never experienced such
things as ‘house plants’, which he saw as indoor
plumbing. He assumed that the plant on the table was
Audrey's way of making him feel welcome - no need to go
outside to pee any longer. How confused he was to be
spanked for doing what he thought was proper!
Yet in many ways, it was the best of times for PJ.
Feeling sorry for his lonely predicament, I would take
him on long nightly walks through the neighborhood, and
engaged in scratches of unsurpassed quality. Countryside
sniffs were replaced with urban sniffs, feeding times
became regular, and the quality of food, while no longer
peanuts and ice cream, became more suited for his kind.
Soon after our marriage, we moved to our farm, where
all the best parts of PJ’s prior lives came together
at one time. On our farm he had all the territory he
needed to hunt and play away his days and, with Emma as
buddy, to tussle and play with, or curl up with to rest.
Meal times were always regular, as were the soup bones
In spite of all of Audrey’s efforts, PJ still very
much remained my dog. As the afternoons wore to a close,
he would wander to the driveway where he would sit and
await my arrival. He would greet me with a wiggle once
reserved only for my brother. I always made sure it was
he I first patted.
We continued our tradition of hacks in the country
and in the summer added in long trips to the creek.
There, once cooled, he would hunt along the banks. While
the Emma and Charlie would frolic in the water, PJ would
explore the holes under the trees, though he was never
quite courageous enough to enter them fully.
The move to our farm brought me a renewed interest in
competing and, until the end of his life, he was my
constant companion at lessons and shows. Each lesson
offered fertile land to roam and explore, each show
offered endless opportunities for attention and food. A
fit little dog, PJ walked every course and when hot
submitted willingly to being dunked in a bucket.
When time caught up with him I cannot tell, for in my
eyes he was always a puppy, and always will be.
Nonetheless, slowly but surely his hair began to turn
white. Long hacks, once his love, required some help,
and more often then not, he got rides back.
Yet PJ still wiggled like a puppy every time he saw
my brother Bill, cherished rides in cars, and sneaked
cat food. In the evening, he would lie by my side as I
studied or read. He would signal when bored by
scratching my arm and refused to accept being ignored.
When he wanted to play, he wanted to play. No was not an
option for him.
All plays ended with scratches which he freely
enjoyed. A scratch to the neck, where the prongs of the
invisible fence collar pushed, always brought a
twitching of his left hind foot. A scratch on his back
would cause him to stretch and curl, as if to maximize
the scratching surface area. Lastly, he would always
nibble on a font paw, every time he was scratched at the
base of his stubby tail.
As time crept upon him, he slept more and more. His
tolerance for cold, never much to begin with, went
completely out the door. The addition of a fireplace was
much to his taste, and soon even a "Mouse!
Mouse!" couldn’t coax him out of place.
By the time he turned fifteen, his hearing began to
fail, or as my wife once claimed, became ‘selective’.
While he would fail to hear me when called from twenty
yards away, he could hear ‘Dinner!’ two fields away!
In October of 1999, PJ was diagnosed with Liver
cancer and given six weeks at the outside to live. I was
devastated. In spite of his advanced age, in spite of
the graying of his once brown nose, I still thought of
him as a puppy. Chemotherapy was offered as an option,
but at the most, given his already advanced age, the
best I was told I could expect was to extend his life a
few months, during which the quality of his life would
be dubious at best.
Since PJ was mine, the decision was mine. I opted
against treatment, hoping that the vets were wrong. In
making the decision, I promised myself that I would do
everything I could to spend as much time with PJ for
what remained of his time with me. I keep that promise.
In the spring of 2000, PJ, resumed his role as an
"Eventer’s dog." He would keep a sharp
lookout for my entering the barn, and never failed to
appear as I tacked up my horse. Sitting within eyesight,
he would await the removal of his invisible fence color
and the hack that would follow. His face and mannerism
reflected the confidence that he was going. For to PJ it
wasn’t merely a privilege, but his right to always
Throughout the spring and fall, PJ accompanied me to
every event a horse show, just as he had all his life.
Too old to walk the cross country county course anymore,
I carried him. When not out on course, he would sit by
the trailer, holding court as fellow riders, aware of
his age, stopped by to marvel at the fact he was still
alive. PJ reveled in the attention that was lavished
upon him by friends new and old.
As the summer advanced, PJ found it more and more
difficult to complete hacks, and once he learned that
when too tired he would be carried, life got even
better. Unfortunately, carrying PJ did have a negative
impact on my ability to work my horse, so eventually, I
stopped the hacks, and instead concentrated working my
horse in my field, which suited PJ just fine.
Now instead of having to run to keep up with me on
the road, he could meander in our field like in days
gone by, and sniff and dig to his hearts content. As I
circled and passed by him, PJ would pick up his head,
his nose covered in dirt, smile, wag his tail, and
return to his hunt. It was everything he wanted. When
done he would amble back to the barn, and after
quenching his thirst, he would seek out a sunny spot and
rest till supper’s call.
On the last day of his life, PJ, as tradition
dictated, joined me in the field. As in the past, each
time I circle by, he would raise his head to acknowledge
me and then return to his task, his tail wagging
Too tired to fight his way back through the tall
grass anymore, he sat and waited to be carried back to
the barn. There he drank from his water bowl as his
tradition dictated and stretched out for a sunny
afternoon nap, and nap from which he never awoke.
Unwilling to bear the thought of him outside in the
cold, or moving away and leaving him alone, I had his
remains cremated. One of the last requests I shall have
when my time comes, is that I be buried with his ashes
placed in an envelope next to my heart.
With the passing of PJ, a major chapter in the lives
of Audrey and me has closed. Each of the ‘first one’
brought something special to our lives, and the passing
of each, took something away that can never be replaced.
While we are filled with sadness at the loss of each, we
are filled with joy at the thought that each was greeted
at heaven’s gate by our infant son, where they frolic
and play till once again, we are all together again.
"Farewell, Master, Yet not
Where I go, ye too shall dwell
I am gone, before your face,
A moment's time, a little space.
When ye come where I have stepped
Ye will wonder why ye wept."