Trusty Jack Russell
I announced that I was getting married, my friends all
concurred with my selection, my mother breathed a sigh
of relief, my sisters sent Audrey their condolences and
my dog ran away from home.
my Jack Russell Terror, was given to me as a practical
joke (thus his name). Much to the chagrin of my
girlfriend, he quickly became my companion of choice. As
a bachelor's dog, he lived the life of Riley. The first
two years of his life were one adventure after another.
I can't begin to count the number of times I would
return home from work and find a note from the local
police on my door that PJ was in their 'custody'.
not serving time, his days were spent with my youngest
brother who spent his college vacation taking PJ to
parks where he would tie a string to him, troll him out
and reel him in, usually with two or three girls in tow.
Late afternoons were spent playing with other dogs at
the barn where I boarded my horse or running in the
country as I exercised my horse. At night, he slept on
my bed, the couch or whatever suited him. Life was good;
life was grand.
best part of PJ's day was dinner. Completely devoid of
any knowledge of animal nutritional requirements, PJ
always shared my meals, be it hamburgers and fries,
cereal, bean and ham soup, cereal, or Planters mixed
nuts and ice cream - the usual bachelor's fare. While
bachelor life was good for PJ, it had its drawbacks for
me. After a year of freedom I stumbled upon my wife in a
parking lot. The details of which I will not bore you
with, but suffice it to say, Audrey, a veterinary nurse,
did not look very kindly upon PJ’s daily cuisine.
after we began to date she surprised me and PJ while we
were ‘chowing down’ a can of mixed nuts in front of
the TV. The lecture went on for almost fifteen minutes.
When PJ and I looked at her with a 'what's your point
expression,' she stomped out, flinging a 'go ahead,
don't listen to me, kill your dog' over her shoulder. (I
think she was upset because she had to compete with PJ
for the cashews.)
much to PJ's chagrin, our lives as bachelors came to an
end. I'm not sure who had a harder time adjusting,
Audrey, a two-cat owner, who hated Jack Russells, or PJ
who thought chasing cats was pretty good sport. In an
effort to get the marriage off to the right start, in
our wedding vows, Audrey agreed to take me, PJ and my
horse, I agreed to take her and her two cats.
spite of the vows, things got off to a shaky start when
Audrey discovered PJ sitting on 'her' seat as we left
the wedding reception. (I hadn't had the heart to tell
PJ that he had been demoted to the back seat.) In spite
of her vows, many a day in the first few months of the
marriage ended with Audrey suggesting PJ go live with my
brother Bill, "PJ's favorite person".
the end things worked out and harmony and tranquility
prevailed ... well maybe not, but a truce between the
two has held for almost eight years with only occasional
violations (usually precipitated by Audrey) requiring my
immediate intervention to save PJ's life.
always heard cat lovers described as sensitive, caring,
and, compassionate. Based upon close observation, I
believe parochial to be a more accurate adjective. I
quickly found out that what was OK for Audrey’s cats
was taboo for PJ, such as sleeping on the bed, sitting
on the couch, eating cat food, or picking cat fights. No
matter how logical the argument, Audrey always sided in
favor of the cats.
"because you can train dogs but not cats,"
argument quickly wore thin. I always felt I had done a
pretty good job obedience training PJ. On a clear day,
in eye contact and within 100 feet, I have a 50/50
chance he'll come within 5 minutes when called, not bad
for a Jack Russell if I do say so. Audrey on the other
hand can simply call out one of her cat's names and even
though they might be a mile away, they'll come running
like a bat out of hell. Needless to say, I couldn't get
the cats to listen to me if I was the last person on
earth with a can opener.
to established rules, like many things on our farm, only
apply when Audrey is around. The minute she's out the
door, by general decree, all rules are suspended. Dogs
for example are not allowed upstairs or anywhere else in
the house, with the exception of my study. But the sound
of Audrey's car heading down the street is almost always
followed by the sound of paws headed to explore the
unknown. Much effort is made on jumping up and down all
the furniture and on boldly going where no dog has gone
before. While I won't swear to it, each of the dogs
seems to wear a gleeful expression that they know
they’re getting away with something. The cats
meanwhile frantically go into hiding and patiently await
Audrey’s return and with her, the return to normalcy.
‘our’ marriage to Audrey, only emergencies like
getting kicked by a horse, falling out the window of the
car, picking a fight with a pit bull, or growling at
Audrey, initiated a visit to a vet. That all changed
after we got married. As the head nurse of the
University of Pennsylvania School of large animal
veterinary medicine, she seemed pretty knowledgeable
about things like regular shots and all. However, shots
for rabies and tetanus were quickly followed by ones for
Tibetan Valley Fever, Congo Rain Rot, Amazon Sleeping
Sickness, and others too numerous to mention. When I
questioned if she was trying to turn him into a walking
pin cushion, she insisted all the shots were necessary,
however, she's yet to satisfactorily explain those
payments she received from several pharmaceutical
to moving to Emmitsburg, Audrey and I lived in a small
apartment, which put a natural constraint on the number
of animals we could have. All bets were off, however,
once we bought our farm. Much to my pleasure, the dog to
cat ratio was quickly balanced with the addition of
Emma, a German Shepherd/Husky mix. Audrey however
couldn't stand equality and within weeks allowed herself
to be 'adopted' by a stray cat, completely upsetting the
balance of power, and setting off a growth in the farm's
pet inventory that has only recently stabilized at five
cats and three dogs.
addition to our indoor pets, Audrey feels compelled to
feed every wild bird that strays across the Mason-Dixon
Line. As a result we now have an impressive song bird
population, much to the glee of the resident cats.
one of my hidden reasons for marrying a veterinary nurse
was to reduce my veterinary bills, which between PJ and
my horse, ranked second only to the cost of dating
Audrey. The addition of five cats, a new horse, and two
dogs blew that strategy completely out of the water.
Before Audrey, I was lucky if I could remember who my
vet was, now I'm not only on a first name basis with
them, but with their janitorial staff as well. It seems
every time I turn around, someone is at the vet’s. I
knew I was in trouble when Gary Kubala started to
schedule appointments for us two months in advance and
the Emmitsburg Veterinary Hospital was projecting future
staff pay raises on our projected pet population growth.
always thought dogs were pretty easy to get along with,
as well as pretty useful. A good size bone in the
morning and they're out of sight all day. In addition, a
good barking fit is the standard greeting to all
visitors to the farm. But cats, all they seemed to do
was eat, sleep, scratch your best furniture, and cough
Audrey's credit however, she's turned out some pretty
nice cats, and yes, they are her cats. I tried to
adopt one once but it defected to Audrey when it
realized she was the food person. Much to my surprise,
all her cats have rather distinct personalities, each
demands different levels of attention, but all receive
the same level of affection. All her cats chase balls,
which PJ refuses to do. All play with toys and all
'answer' her when she speaks to them. In a lot of ways,
Audrey's cats act a lot more like dogs then cats!
time has passed, I've grown quite fond of the menagerie
of animals Audrey has gathered about us and the endless
amount of humor and affection they generate. As for PJ,
like most ex-bachelors, he's grown accustomed to a
settled, regulated life, i.e. he's grown fat. As the
'special dog', he still accompanies me almost
everywhere, sticking by my side every minute I'm home.
Recognizing Audrey's more reliable than I am in the food
department, he's even had the good judgment to cease
growling at her.
to the shame of the Jack Russell community however, PJ
has stopped objecting to living with cats. He now allows
them to cross his path, drink out of his water bowl, and
has even been seen sleeping with kittens curled up
against him. But, like a true Jack Russell, a sharp eye
is always kept out for Audrey. When she's not around,
the cat food bowls are quickly emptied and the minute I
open a can of mixed nuts, he's a puppy again, chowing
then down as fast as ever...especially the cashews!
passed away living life to the
fullest. In Oct of 1999 PJ was diagnosed with
liver cancer and given six weeks to live. He
ignored the vet and continued to live life
to the fullest: joining Michael in his daily workout in
the fields with his horse, sneaking cat food, and yes,
munching down on nuts.
Nov 3, 2000, on returning from a short hack, PJ laid down in
his favorite spot in the sun for a short nap. He
never woke up. He
was 17 years old.
Last of the First Ones: 'PJ'
other stories by Michael Hillman