An Epic Walk
I always wanted a Siberian husky, and 13 years ago, I got my wish. In 2005, just weeks after we became engaged, Lindsay told me she was getting me a dog for my birthday. She had a couple of terms; 1) The dog needed to be a rescue, or a shelter animal. 2) We’d pick it out together. A small amount of internet searching revealed a brick red and white Siberian with ice blue eyes; the most beautiful dog we’d ever seen. When he bounded out of the van and we first saw him in person-his color, the tail curled tight and bouncing over his back, those eyes cutting right into your soul-I’d never seen such an amazing dog. Effortless agility, power and beauty; just short of two years old, he was a gorgeous dog, and we were in love. Jake became our first child.
Jake was a dog full of energy and personality and always that tail curled tight over his back. Like most Siberians, he was a talker, never afraid to voice his opinion, or tell you when he wanted something-a treat, some love and attention, another treat, or a walk. Jake was always ready for a walk-and walk we did. Everyday, at least twice, but often three or four times, Jake, myself and anyone else who wanted to join. Lots of people joined us over the years. When we lived in St. Paul, our walk before work was the same every day, most of the time completed in the pre-dawn dark. The route was just over 1.5 miles, and always within a minute or two of 28 minutes. We walked in every kind of weather; rain and snow, hot and cold, day and night. Most of our walks were a mile or more, often times longer, and never slow; lollygagging was not something Jake cared for. Before she decided if she was coming, Lindsay would often ask; “is this a regular walk, or an epic walk?” Epic walks were well over an hour, often as much as five miles long, and always at a pace just short of a jog. We’d set off, Jake leading the way; he had his favorite routes and if he was leading the way, it was always going to be epic. In just 16 months, there weren’t many streets in St. Paul’s Highland Park we didn’t cover. When we moved from St. Paul to Duluth in December of 2006, I estimated in just over a year, Jake and I had covered close to 1000 miles together.
We moved to Duluth and life changed. Work, kids and life all took up more time, but walks were still frequent, and often epic. When we brought Olive and later Penny home from the hospital, Jake’s level of interest in these new creatures was minimal. Still when we’d walk and they were with, he was on alert for anything they might need to be protected from. Ultimately these small things-a constant source of extra treats-needed to be protected. Our time in Duluth, new house, new job, new babies was unforgettable, and so much of our memories there involve walks with the girls, our faithful protector and companion always walking along.
As Jake went past double digits in age, walks were less frequent, shorter and much slower, but no less cherished. His older age and new pace were finally slow enough that Olive and Penny got to experience the joy of holding the leash. Those two little people had grown up and become worthy of the protection he gave them as babies. Their face to face presence, once greeted with a bit of snarl, in the end was welcomed for the copious hugs and kisses they brought him.
Time waits for no dog and Jake’s walks slowed dramatically the past year. Still, right to the end any small indication of a walk never failed to send him into frenzied vocal excitement. It’s how I’ll always remember him, and I’m pretty sure it’s how he’ll always remember me. When he knew it was time, his tail curled a little tighter over his back and that voice of his let us know we weren’t getting ready fast enough. An epic walk waiting just outside the front door. Jake’s eternal gift will be the love he instilled in me for an epic walk.
The final walk Lindsay and I took him on was epic in its own way. His will to go was the same as it always had been, his tail didn’t curl, his legs barely worked, but still an epic walk was waiting just outside the front door and he couldn’t get going fast enough. We walked a couple blocks then went to turn back towards home. As ever, Jake wanted to go the opposite direction; he could only imagine those epic walks of old. The fact his legs were already failing him, was a small insignificant detail. He couldn’t make it home that day, his mind willing, his body not able, so I scooped him up and carried him the rest of the way. He spent the next two days hardly able to move, but it was epic and it was worth it.
Graceful, powerful, agile, energetic, loving, vocal, full of personality and gorgeous-he was an absolutely gorgeous dog right to the end. Jake was everything I imagined a Siberian husky and a best friend could be. Our sweet boy, who became a grand gentleman, always ready for an epic walk.