“A DOG is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself” – Josh Billings
Anyone who knows our family knows we are dog crazy and have loved many dogs over the years. This post, however, is dedicated to Barkley and his love for Jacob. And Jacob’s love for him. Pretty much all of Jacob’s life we have had at least one inside dog. Most have been curious about Jacob and shown him some attention. Especially when he’s in the kitchen because of the strong possibility he will drop something while he’s eating. But it’s quite hard to tell how Jacob feels about them. Being non-verbal makes sharing emotions difficult. And, in addition, there is often a disconnect in autism.
We adopted Barkley when he was 7 months old. He fit in perfectly with our family including another golden retriever. The top two pictures were taken just a few weeks after getting him. There are several (not shown) photos where Barkley is on Jacob’s bed watching him. Look close at the upper left and you’ll see Jacob’s expression showing he is happy about his company. My favorite, though, is Jacob beside Barkley with his head hanging off the bed. If you only saw that one, you’d not know who imitated whom but clearly Jacob copied Barkley. I LOVE this! Jacob was thoroughly enjoying having him in his room. Lower left is Barkley by Jacob on his bed at our cabin in the country. Sweet memories repeated often. Then, Jacob and Barkley interrupting my laundry day by playing on the bed. The last one was a common occurrence of Barkley near Jacob in case he dropped a crumb, and Jacob propping his feet on him. This was taken two months before Barkley’s death.
On the eve of Thanksgiving 2013, all of the Pigfords were gathered at our country cabin when Barkley let out a yelp and within minutes took his last breath. Dying of heart failure from a murmur he never outgrew. We were in shock and completely devastated. But, I really had no idea how Jacob would react. He basically hung out in his room that trip so he wasn’t aware of the crying, anguish, and heartache we were experiencing. Would he show any emotion? How would he let his feelings be known? Exhibit negative behavior? Could he understand he was gone? On that bitter cold Thanksgiving morning, we buried sweet Barkley there in the country. Coming home without him was terribly hard. Tears flowed as I drove and talked to Jacob about why I was so sad. I wondered if and how Jacob would miss him. Barkley had been a constant in his life for 8 years. I quickly made copies of photos of Barkley and put them in two small photo albums for Jacob. It wasn’t until later that I came to really understand that their relationship was indeed special. Now 5 years later, Jacob still looks through those photos weekly and usually stops at one or two wanting us to talk about the picture. It is a precious time of remembering a most special boy who crossed The Rainbow Bridge too soon and how Jacob had connected in his own way and obviously loved him very much.
Thanksgiving is about expressing gratitude for all of our many blessings. Today, I am thankful God gives us pets to love and care for, while they in turn show us pure, unconditional love. A love that is one of life’s most beautiful gifts. Loving us more than they love themselves. A love with no limits for Jacob. For which I’ll always be most grateful!