Seven years ago today I met one of the great loves of my life. I had already fallen in love with him through email and photos and stories of how special he was, and meeting him in real life for the first time just sealed the deal. His first kisses solidified in my heart that he would spend the rest of his life with me, and my heart was full of love and hope as I signed the papers to make his place in my life official.
Of course you’ve already figured out that I am talking about Jackson, my beloved male Labrador Retriever. I mean, this is a blog about dogs not human stuff.
Jackson is the dog who showed me that you can have multiple heart dogs in your life, that you can have more than one soul dog. If you have read my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner, or my blog on a regular basis, you know that Jackson came home to us as an eight-week old puppy not too long after I lost both of my beloved dogs, Babe and Dutch. Little Jax licked away the tears that I had cried for them and filled up the hole in my heart with his own unique personality and quirks.
There is no doubt that Jackson and I have a special bond. He is different in every way from every other Labrador Retriever who I have ever had. He may meet all of the breed standards for looks and personality, but Jax is his very own unique dog, and I feel a very special connection to him that is hard to put into words. He has such a serious, intense look to him, and at the same time is silly and sweet and has an actual sense of humor like I’ve never seen in a dog. He thinks things through and works things out to the point where we joke that we should have named him Sheldon Cooper instead of Jackson.
I suppose not only is he a much different dog than Babe was, but I am a different version of myself. Babe was with me during my 20s and 30s, and Jax was born just a few days after I turned 40, and yet the mature, settled adult version of me needs him just as much as the young woman figuring out life needed Babe.
Jax has no idea that it his Gotchaversary, since he is a dog and doesn’t think like that. I did tell him the whole story earlier today, but I am pretty sure that he just cared that he was getting a nice long tummy rub.
The thing I have learned about a day like this is that even though I was just playing around when I started off writing as if today was a wedding anniversary instead of the day that we picked up Jax, your dog’s Gotcha date is very similar to a wedding date in a very special way. Not only is it the start of a lifelong vow and commitment, but when you choose the right spouse or the right puppy, your big day turns into a happy day in a lifetime of happy days.
When you get married, it is the happiest day of your life up until that point. And of course it is usually a memorable day with fabulous attire, great food, a huge cake and all of your loved ones surrounding you. But despite all of those things, you keep adding extraordinarily happy days with that person, whether it is the birth of a child or another life event, or everyday pleasures like laughing at a private joke or a simple afternoon spent together just the two of you.
Whether you are picking your puppy up or adopting a grown dog, the Gotcha date is just the start of a life together. It may be the happiest day of your life with that dog at that point, but it is just the start. So no matter how special of a memory it is to remember the day we picked Jackson up from our breeder, and got those first puppy breath kisses all over my face, or made his name official, this time with him as a big, sturdy grown up dog are also the happiest days of my life with him. Whether I am watching him sniff his way along a favorite walking trail, do his signature “upside down puppy” maneuver to flip over for a belly rub, or learn new habits like “awkward snuggling” with his Daddy, life with Jackson just gets better and better.