A Texas historian friend of mine, Stephen L. Hardin, told me a story the other day about a dog and a plot of land. During the American migration into Mexican Texas, an immigrant came to Texas with his dog and ran into a Tejano from the Nacogdoches area.
The dog was apparently such a wonderful specimen that the Tejano inquired if he could buy it. The immigrant said he would sell it for $100 (about $3,000 today), proving his affinity for his pet. The Tejano stated he didn’t have that kind of money, but would be willing to part with a large tract of land in exchange.
The exchange commenced immediately. The immigrant was provided the deed for about 17,000 acres, and the Tejano had procured a new best friend. This story proves two things: There was plenty of land to go around in Texas in the early 1800s, and it’s hard to put a price tag on a good dog.
Growing up, I always had a dog. The first dog I had was a Chow mix named Goliath. He lived up to his name. He was a big dog that legitimized the phrase “Beware of Dog.” He died during my senior year of high school. Early that morning, we found him lying peacefully on the grass. He had simply fallen asleep and didn’t wake up.
I remember burying him in the backyard that morning. After coming back from school and having dinner with my family, I went to the backyard and stood for a while thinking about Goliath. I thought about the amount of time I had spent with him, or the lack thereof. I made a promise to him that night. I promised that the next dog I had I would treat like man’s best friend.
About six months later, a friend had a Labrador-mix she couldn’t keep. It was about six months old and already house-trained. Her name was Jasmine and though she started out as the family dog, she eventually became mine. After college, she lived with me.
When I began my career in sports journalism, Jasmine would come with me to the outdoor games. The softball teams loved her as their quasi-mascot. I would bring her to the office and she would stay near my desk while I wrote or made calls.
We practically went everywhere together. Living in Houston, the surfing scene is less than stellar, and rare are the moments when surfing is worth doing. Even rarer were friends who were interested in surfing. Jasmine was my surfing partner. She would stay near the cooler and chair until I returned from the water. We went on trips together, even venturing as far as Fort Collins, Colorado. (I became a loyal fan of the New Belgium Brewery because they were so welcoming of my dog.)
Jasmine was the epitome of the term “man’s best friend.” I had her for 14 years, but then age caught up with her and she passed. It was interesting to me how much it affected me. I was sad when Goliath died, but I was heartbroken when Jasmine died. Perhaps it was because we spent so much time together, or maybe it was because she was such a good dog.
I remember a friend reaching out shortly after Jasmine died about a dog that needed a home. I honestly wasn’t ready for another dog. Not to be melodramatic, but it was too soon; I think dog owners understand the sentiment.
It was a number of months later, while hosting a Christmas party, that a friend asked if I was considering getting another dog. I said I was considering it, and added that I had always wanted a Siberian Husky. I have always been a Jack London fan, and after reading “The Call of the Wild” as a child, I had wanted a Husky. (I know Buck is not a Husky.)
A few days later, by some kind of fate, a friend texted me a photo of a Golden Husky asking if I was interested. Strangely, she had been at the party but hadn’t overheard my comment. The Husky had been found wandering near some train tracks in a small town. Of course, I wanted the dog.
He was already at a mature age, probably around 6 or 7—but he wasn’t mature. He didn’t listen that well, and it took about four months to train him not to pee in the house, get on the couch or the bed, or wander off (he was an escape artist). In fact, I was very close to giving away my first Husky. After the fourth month, we became very close. Fittingly, I named him Jack.
Jack was full of energy and always ready to play. He loved going for walks, despite the Texas heat. He always tried to talk (Husky owners can relate). Our time together, however, was cut short. He had developed a brain tumor and had to be put to sleep. It was a brutal way to go out. I still remember that day vividly.
I vividly remember all three days I lost those three dogs.
Shortly after Jack died, my brother asked why I would want another dog after having to deal with all that heartache. It was true that losing a dog caused a lot of grief. I shed a lot of tears, in particular after Jasmine. But I told him that the time I had with those dogs outweighed the short time I had to endure losing them.
The benefits far outweigh the negatives. You have a constant companion, one that is always happy to see you. A dog can help keep you active with walks and other activities. And something else I’ve noticed about having a dog: It helps you get to know your neighbors. There is just something about a dog that makes your life better.
That’s why I recently got another dog. Madison is a Lab-Catahoula mix and is now about 6 months old. It had been a few years since Jack, but it was simply time to get a dog. I think people who want a dog, but feel they wouldn’t know what to do with one, should get one anyway. You don’t have to know what to do with a dog. Somehow, the dog figures that out for you.
In a time where so many people have found themselves lonely or lethargic due to the pandemic, getting a dog seems like the proper choice, almost the logical one. The dog you get may not be worth 17,000 acres of land, but then again it’s hard to put a price tag on a good dog.