Learning How to Love Jack by
(139 Stories)

Prompted By Training Pets

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Buddy was the Perfect Dog, from the moment she put the little clouds that were her sweet paws around my neck.  We went with her to the Perfect Dog Trainer, a no-nonsense British woman named Pat with her own Perfectly Trained Dogs and an uncanny ability to get any dog to do her bidding.  She also taught us hapless neophytes how to communicate with our pets.

Perfect Dog Buddy

We felt a bit deceived—after all, we only agreed to take him because she had begged—but he had clearly had a traumatic adolescence and changed since his owner had died.  We still took him in, the damaged goods, and named him “Jack”.

One day she put out a plea for someone to adopt a lovely and charismatic little standard schnauzer from her puppy class, whose owner had died.  We had demurred, and someone in the family stepped in, but things didn’t work out.  Now he was available again—wouldn’t we consider?  Maybe Buddy would like a companion.

We went to see the schnauzer, who was being kept in a warehouse room above the beauty salon run by the deceased owner’s daughter.  He was skittish, ran crazily around the empty room, had wild eyes and wouldn’t come near–but maybe because we were strangers?  What did we know?  Sally’s generous heart agreed to take him, as he had come highly recommended from Perfect Trainer, but only if Pat would keep him for a week while we were off on a trip.  Deal.

A week later we went to pick him up, and Pat was in a huff.  She couldn’t be paid enough to ever take care of him again!  The dog was “nutso”!  We felt a bit deceived—after all, we only agreed to take him because she had begged—but he had clearly had a traumatic adolescence and changed since his owner had died.  We still took him in, the damaged goods, and named him “Jack”.

The first thing we noticed was a lot of water on the floor in the house.  Long whiskers dripping after drinking?  It soon became clear that the trail of droplets was in fact dog pee.  Did all male dogs do that?  A visit to the vet determined that he was healthy, and maybe his whiskers did drip water, but he was also peeing out of anxiety, excitement being around Buddy, and just failure to house train.  Yikes.  Female hormones were prescribed, and we learned to take him out regularly to the yard and mop the floors daily; ultimately the problem faded.

He liked to carry things in his mouth.  Maybe we could train him to get the newspaper off the front porch.  He went out the front and did get the newspaper, then turned to look at us and promptly trotted off across the street, through the apartment complex and around the neighborhood while we trailed behind, beseeching him vainly to “come here”.

Not having learned our lesson, we then took Jack for a walk in the hills and made the error of taking him off his leash, where he had been walking like a good dog next to us.  Off he went down the trails and soon we heard barking and chickens squawking at a farmhouse down the hill.  We had to follow and retrieve him, no damage done, but clearly the recall was pretty nonexistent.  We learned how to keep him on leash and when it was safe to let him go free.

It turned out that he was a wanderer.  Our back yard was fenced, but he found a way to clamber over the ivy-covered chicken wire sections or through holes he dug under the wooden fence.  “G.I. Jack” was a real escape artist but usually we could track him down by the garbage behind the Section 8 apartments up the street.  Chicken bones were a favorite. We learned how to fix the fences and how to find him on the loose.

We discovered that he had the excitable temperament of terriers, and when he perceived a threat, he would come up from behind and nip at the person who was carrying on–say, dancing or being silly with a funny chicken hat (!) or just being a stranger in his house.  Suddenly we would hear a “hey!” and find a mark on the back of the leg of our visitor.  Fortunately these were mostly minor injuries of friends and we were never sued.  We became trained to bring people inside and sit them down before the dog was allowed to enter the room, but “Jack the Nipper” still had a distressingly long rap sheet.

And what did poor Buddy think of her miscreant little brother?  Like many siblings, they merely tolerated each other but came together when needed—barking maniacally at religious evangelists that knocked on the door for example.  Good dogs!

Slowly, Jack came to trust us and would lean against our legs, looking soulfully into our eyes with his handsome face framed by big eyebrows.  We told ourselves that anyone else would have dispatched him long ago, but we remembered how far he had come and kept giving him more chances.  We also began to better understand the cycle of anger-forgiveness typical of abusive relationships.

One day we were hiking in the hills and came across a bicyclist who had crashed, sitting dazed on a log.  Was he okay?  A slow nod yes, nothing broken.  Jack sidled up to him, leaned into him and placed his head on the cyclist’s knee, looking up with his big brown eyes.  After a minute, the cyclist put his hand on Jack’s head and gave a little smile.  He was going to be okay.

Profile photo of Khati Hendry Khati Hendry

Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, well written


  1. So I’m thinking God is Dog spelt backwards and so maybe S/He will keep giving me second ( and third ..) chances.

  2. Aw Khati, I love Jack and haven’t even met him, how could you NOT take him in?

    My uncle had a lovely succession of wonderful schnauzers, but I’ve never seen a white one like Jack!

    • Khati Hendry says:

      High praise from a cat person! Jack was a real character. But the fluffy white dog was Perfect Dog Buddy, a Wheaten terrier—the feature picture was schnauzer Jack. A wonderful team, both lived long lives and passed on.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    Your poor dog sounds like he had a terrible case of anxiety (maybe even PTSD) after his first owner died and he was cooped up upstairs, alone for so long. Yes, each breed has its own foibles (terriers, certainly), and you experienced that with the wandering, nipping, barking, getting into garbage, etc. But Jack was also traumatized and needed a lot of reassurance before he could settle down with his new family. It sounds like you and Sally were patient with him and his natural empathy came through loud and clear with the wounded biker. That was a lovely, redeeming moment, Khati.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Yes, I think you are right about his PTSD/ emotional trauma. It took a long time to gain his trust, but he did come around with time and patience. We didn’t know what a project we were taking on; everyone learned a lot and it was possible to have some wonderful and loving memories in the end.

  4. Any story that ends with the rescue of a cyclist is a good one in my book (as a cyclist who has had too many crashes). The whole story moved nicely along.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Always nice to end on a good note. It was a very sweet moment appreciated by all, and revealed how far he had come in relating to humans, and how much love he had to give (despite his foibles). It was pretty inspiring.

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    Great story. Jack was lucky to have found a home with you. My daughter the vet often added rejected dogs to the menagerie. One of them needed lots of medical care and still dribbled all over the rug. A fellow vet who tried a special procedure on Aspen, who turned out to be genderless, said only a vet would rescue a dog like this. True!

  6. Jim Willis says:

    Khati, loved your story about Jack the Nipper. He reminded me that we love dogs for who they are and not what they do (or don’t). I had a Chow named Maggie who, like your Jack, was an escape artist from the backyard. The only dog I’ve ever had who could actually climb a chain link fence. The thing is, when she did, she just stood on the other side of it and wanted me to haul her back into our yard. She really had no place she wanted to go once she escaped. Dogs have curious logic patterns!

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Yes, sometimes you have to wonder…..Jack would also run back and forth barking at the dogs on the other side of the fence, but if you opened the gate, the dogs would just stare at each other—the game was the chase but no one care about catching the other it seemed. Go figure.

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