The Secret Life of Jack the Bear

by Rob

After months of indecision our family finally said goodbye in October to our 17-year-old chow-schipperke mix Jack. 

And while we know putting him down was the right thing to do, there remains at times a bit of doubt and a fair amount of guilt.  

After all, was it really that hard to get up several times a night to pick him up off the floor because his hind legs were essentially useless?  Was it really that hard to pick him up a dozen more times during the waking hours, even if he was usually atop Jack-poop or Jack-pee that needed to be cleaned up?  Was it really that hard to jump up to run and carry him outside when we could tell he was about to go potty yet again?  

No, that part–while absolutely no fun and definitely not missed–wasn’t that hard.  After all, he needed us to help him do these basic things.  

What was tough was knowing how much pain he had to be in.  While he still ate and seemed happy to be alive, what kind of life was it, really?

But what was especially heartbreaking was looking into his eyes knowing that although he wasn’t our old Jack, he was “still Jack.” 

The Jack who loved to have his ears rubbed. 

The Jack who–when told to “take care of Betty,” our black lab who loved to escape through our apparently useless fence and roam, roam, roam–went galavanting with Betty instead of making sure she stayed home.  (In his defense, our instructions weren’t clear–he did take care of Betty while they were adventuring.) 

The Jack who led a secret life for years before we discovered the truth. 

While talking to our elderly neighbor several years ago, my wife learned that Jack would go to the neighbor’s house, where they’d visit with each other until she told him it was time to go home.  Then he would get up and leave.  Every day.  For years.  

Were it not for that chat, we would never have known, because Jack was always home when we came home. Every day.  For years.  Lying around.  Usually asleep. 

Then there was the time we came home to find a child’s handwritten note that said, “Your dog saved my life!!! He ran across the street and chased away a big dog that was scaring me!”  Jack the Hero.  Jack the Hero who was home that day when we came home.  Lying around.  Asleep. 

Like Jack, we all have a secret or two.   

Mine?  I write under a couple of pseudonyms.  And because a man has to keep some mystery about him, I won’t tell you what they are.  I know, I’m a bastard. 

Now it wouldn’t be fair to ask you to give up your secrets since I didn’t. But if you are so inclined, how about telling us something about yourself that we don’t know?  Hidden talents?  Most embarrassing moment?  Your pseudonym?  

It’s OK, you’re among friends.  We won’t tell anyone.  ðŸ˜‰

26 thoughts on “The Secret Life of Jack the Bear

  1. Barbie

    First of all, I'm so sorry for the loss of your doggy 🙁

    Secondly, you write under a couple of pseudonyms. Are you telling me I could be your biggest fan and not even know it?

    Something about me that you don't know… ummm… I don't think I post here enough for people to pick up on my personality and stuff, so, I'm gonna go with hidden talents. I have a crazy memory. Especially for things you memorize, like numbers and names. I remember every birth date from every friend I've ever had, from every teacher — basically, everyone who's ever told me their birthday. I can point any country in a world map and tell the capital.

    Also, I'm baptized Catholic. Not really a secret, but I'm the least religious person in the world (though I believe in God and all), so, most people would be surprised to know.

    And I love cleaning my ears. Q-tips rock!

  2. Grace

    A painful experience for you and your family. We went through it with our own pet and my husband still finds it distressing.

    My secret is not really a secret for I tell my nearest and dearest. I don't understand how but I can sometimes, not always, can pick up vibes from people, like knowing when they are in danger or fearful. I saw a woman out mowing her lawn on my way home from work. She looked up at me at the same time I looked at her. I knew there was something wrong, horribly wrong. The following week she was murdered by her husband in her home, the children at school. I can't drive by the house today without shivering. I've had other experiences of that sort, but nothing that intense. Strange, I'd rather not have it.

  3. PK the Bookeemonster

    Dogs are family and will always be with us in our hearts. I still mourn all the pets I've had.

    A couple pseudonyms? Is one of them Nora Roberts? 🙂

    When I reply to something online in an unknown forum I use my husband's name.

  4. TerriMolina

    I'm sorry for your loss. Jack sounds like an amazing dog and that was such a lovely tribute to him.

    I don't have an answer to the rest of your post. :-/

  5. Alafair Burke

    Rob, I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. Jack sounds like a great dog. Something y'all may not know (but could probably guess): I talk to my dog, Duffer, all the time when we are alone.

  6. Jim Winter

    Ah, Rob, that's a rotten break. The ex and I had a cat that lived almost from the time we moved in together to a couple months before we separated. We had to put him down in the end. I bawled every day when I got home from work for a week.

    Deep dark secret. Hmm… About the only thing I can think of is if anyone knows who I am. Since that's actually somewhat of an open secret, probably doesn't count.

    OK, how about this. I wore a toga in my senior class play in high school. And an ascot in one scene, but the girl who tied it for me thought I'd look cute. (When you tie an ascot for a guy you want to go out with, you are bound to be disappointed.)

  7. Darla

    A beautiful tribute to Jack, a great dog, but also to the love that comes into making The Big Decision. My sympathy for your loss; never an easy process and my heart goes out to you.

    No secrets here — I think I've blabbed them all.

  8. Brett Battles

    To clarify my earlier comment…it was to your point about being a bastard for not sharing with the rest of us. Was confirming.

    You and I talked about Jack in the fall, so I hope you know how I feel about that.

  9. Allison Davis

    Ahhh, Jack, you lived a long and wonderful life, you were over 100 in dog years and you made people happy (and still do in memory). Good dog.

    Secrets? There's lots of things people don't know about me, but not sure any of it is that interesting. Most of my early published stuff (poems, short stories and plays) were under my "maiden" (what a wierd word) name "Cheek." I kept the ex's name, because I just didn't want a body part again. You know what it's like to have a body part for a name when you're a kid?

  10. MJ

    I love this post and it made me tear up a little, thinking of Jack's adventures when you were gone. What a cagy guy, living the life of a sociallly connected superhero while making you think he was just a big old sack of naps.

    Get the right illustrator and you have a fine children's book here.

  11. Rae

    So sorry to hear about Jack – I know exactly how you feel, having been there once or twice myself with a pet.

    I don't have any good secrets, but most people don't know that I once fancied myself as a musical star, and played Golde in my high school's version of "Fiddler on the Roof". The experience taught me that my future did not lie on stage or screen 😉

  12. Jim Winter

    Rob: My character thought he was Julius Caesar, and all his lines came from the play. Hence the toga, which was a bit drafty. In one scene, they had to put him in a suit, so a girl with whom I could never synchronize crushes offered to tie my tie. (Willingly wearing a suit was about 4 years into my future at that point.) She liked double ascots. Had I understood the implication of the ascot, I would have had someone else tie my tie for me or asked for a clip-on.

    Which, given my character's mental state, might have worked better.

    OTOH, it gave me great pleasure to run out on stage during our last dress rehearsal and shout "TOGA! TOGA! TOGA!"

    I almost didn't get another part in drama club after that.

  13. toni mcgee causey

    Aw, I love that Jack had a double life. I found out about a month ago that ours has been a regular visitor to the neighbor's house, too, and they have apparently walked her home a few times in the most recent years as she's getting a bit senile and can't remember where to go. They used to be able to just send her home. (I would think she was in the back yard–she's mostly an inside dog, so I had no clue she was out wandering.)

    I have another life from what people know of me on the web (as a contractor) and with that comes a lot of things that people would never think of when they think of me, but none of it's interesting or fun. Well, a couple things are turning into fun, but that's not something I can share here. 🙂

  14. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    I only give my secrets to the guy who runs that polygraph machine. The bastard.

    Jack was a true hero.

  15. michael

    Sorry about Jack but I am sure he approved of your decision.

    But how do you self-promote books under your mystery pseudonyms?

  16. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Rob

    So sorry about Jack. It's tough to make that decision, but the right one in the end.

    And my big secret is that I write under the pseudonym of Robert Gregory Browne ;-]

  17. Laura

    So sorry to hear about Jack. 🙁 It sucks.
    My friends like to tell me I'm like an open book – with pictures! So not really any secrets… however if you promise not to judge me I'll admit to owning 400+ Sweet Valley books… :p
    Laura 🙂

  18. Rob Gregory Browne

    Michael, fortunately, I don't have to do much promotion for the books. That takes care of itself. And if I explained, I'd give it all away…

    Zoe, you've just tarnished yourself for an eternity. Why oh why would you ever admit something like that?

    Laura, I think I've probably got 400 of those books in my garage. My daughter consumed them like a drug when she was a kid. And there's nothing to be ashamed of as long as you were reading!

  19. KDJames

    Why is it that everything I read on the internet this week is making me cry? Can't you see I've got the flu and am already feeling pitiful? Everyone… just… stop it. :sobbing:

    It's okay. :sniff: I'm calm now. Poor Jack. Must have been awful, knowing he couldn't trust people with his secret life. People who cared about him. Who wouldn't judge him. People who would support his efforts and buy his bo– um, still buy him treats and scratch his ears if they knew. No, he was a smug little bastard, keeping things to himself, wasn't he? Oh, wait– we were talking about Jack. Sweet dog, Jack. One of the best. I can see why you miss him.

    I've got to say, the uncertainty is a little disturbing, this realization that the next time I'm reading erotica, it might be Rob's. Writing.

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