A Tribute to JackieO

Fred Zirdung
Jul 1, 2016 · 5 min read
The last photo I took with my beloved friend and companion, JackieO.

You came to me in February of 2003, the day after my 30th birthday. You were a wide-eyed, floppy-eared little French Bulldog puppy. The cutest thing I’d ever seen, so pensive, so reserved, observing the world and waiting for your opportunity to flourish. And flourish you did. You matured into a raving little beauty with an insatiable zest for life and a personality that rivaled many humans. Everyone that laid eyes on you wanted to pet you, to say hi, to hold you and to love you. Throughout your life, you touched a lot of hearts and made friends everywhere.

I could never have predicted just how much you would affect my life in the years to come, how much joy you would bring me. When you came into my life, I was recovering from a serious accident with months of recovery ahead of me. You were my companion and friend, keeping my spirits high throughout that difficult time. It was an extraordinary period in our lives, and I will cherish those memories forever. Even after my recovery, you continued to surprise and amaze me, always.

You were a lover — of people, and you got back a lot of love in return. Just the mere sight of you evoked squeals-of-delight from folks passing us on the sidewalk, and you’d immediately flip over, expecting to have your belly rubbed if even just for a minute. While you loved other people, you especially loved me. Whenever I came home, you would stand on your back legs pawing at the air between us; your excitement was uncontainable. Later in life, you would bend into odd shapes so that you could press your body against mine. You would lick my face, sometimes endlessly. You liked to lick my face a lot. And I liked it. A lot. We spent hours snuggling and sleeping together. Sarah could fill an entire photo album with the pictures she took of us nestled together.

If you were to ask me, I would say that besides being next to me, the beach was your other happiest place in the world. We went to the beach together most weekends, some weekends we would go both days. You probably never realized this, but had it not been for you, I would have spent those hours in front of a computer instead. Thank you. I felt the beach was the most fitting place to take you for your last day on Earth.

Fetching a ball was your favorite game. We played for hours on end, in the house, at the beach, everywhere. I loved the funny little way in which you ran slightly sideways while carrying the ball back to me. The size of the ball didn’t matter either, be it a tennis ball or basketball but you especially liked those kid-sized soccer balls. Oh, and you had a real thing for enormous balls, like yoga balls. I always had to carry cash with me so I could offer compensation whenever you popped someone’s ball. It’s been a while since you’ve been able to play fetch. What I would give to have been able to play fetch with you one more time before you left.

Then there were the parties. You were the life of every party. And you loved beer. You’d trick people into letting you into their laps. They thought you wanted your belly rubbed, but you had a different plan: get to their beer and hope they didn’t notice. You were pretty sly; that’s for sure. And smart too. You figured out how to drink out of beer bottles, holding a Corona bottle between your front paws.

You were a protector and a hunter. Over the years you protected me from many things: dangerous delivery drivers buzzing our doorbell, sinister skateboards cruising the streets, and wicked wheelchairs coming at us during our walks. The hunter in you would catch all sorts of little critters: pigeons, mice, and who knows what else you caught when I wasn’t looking. Remember the pelican you caught at Ocean Beach?

Feisty. Fierce. A fighter. Words I use describe your spirit. The dogs in our neighborhood were scared of you. The dogs in the dog park were scared of you. All dogs were scared of you. Even the cats too. You were a larger-than-life spirit packaged into a tiny body, and you insisted on being the alpha, no matter how big the other dog was. That’s how you lost your eye.

The eye incident was one of the few times I had the honor of being your protector. I recall another near the end of 2012 when you had surgery to remove a grapefruit-sized tumor in your spleen. We discovered it accidentally during a vet visit for something completely unrelated. Had we not found it, your spleen would have ruptured resulting in a painful and sudden death. I’m so grateful for the extra years you got from that accidental discovery.

You’ve been living on borrowed time for the last three and a half years. And it’s been difficult for me to watch you deteriorate, to watch your zest fade, and more recently, to see you suffer. The time has come to say goodbye my dear friend. Your Last Day celebration was fitting for any dog, but especially you: we spent the day at the beach, you got to drink beer, eat your favorite foods, lick my face and snuggle with me.

To me, you were so much more than a dog. I am so grateful to have shared this journey with you. Your passing leaves a massive hole in my life, in Sarah’s life and in the lives of all the people who loved you. In the coming weeks, months and years, I will be thinking of you. I’ll notice the emptiness and remember the ways in which your presence touched my life. I will miss dearly the joy, the companionship and the love you brought into my life.

It is with a heavy heart that I send you off. Farewell, my friend. I hope that our souls cross paths again someday.

With Love, Fred

Jackie Onassis
Dec 7, 2002 — June 27, 2016

Fred Zirdung

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Explorer. Thinker. Creator. Web Geek. Head of Curriculum at Hack Reactor