I’ve seen it a few times now. Taking dogs back home from Dogdayz there is often a marked change in their behaviour as they come closer to their home – without any obvious clue from sight, scent or sound. I don’t know how they know. They just do. A mystery that lies beyond non-canine understanding.
But tonight Jacko took the mystery a long way further.
Jacko is a rambunctious German Shepherd – a dog-of-action. A live-for-the-minute dog, not exactly a thinker engaged in the mysteries of the universe.
We have seen Jacko at Dogdayz a few times when his owner has need. Ian is an older man and I have often wondered how he manages a dog who is such a handful – but it has never seemed to worry him.
This week Jacko has been with us because Ian needed to relocate – to a suburb some miles away. I collected Jacko from the old address and we arranged that he would go back to his new home at the end of the stay. We wondered how he might settle in to a home that he had never seen before.
You can see where this is going. Today, when it came time to take Jacko to the new home, evening was coming on quickly. Jacko had had a long day, so he snoozed quietly in the back as we drove. When we came to the street I was looking for, it was already night, the street was long and I had no knowledge of the area, but before I even slowed the van to get my bearings Jacko was up and pacing, trying to look out the windows, whimpering softly – alert, anxious, excited.
I stopped and let him out. He instantly began sniffing the ground – not following a sent but trying here, trying there, looking for a lead. We went together down the dark street past several houses, Jacko sniffing, running, sniffing again. We turned a corner and his interest waned, then back down the way we had come and he was again taking the lead, anxious, alert and searching.
We came to what I realised was the house we wanted. He ran right past it, sniffing again now. Perhaps the scent clue he was seeking was starting to come into play. He turned again and I let him set the course. As we passed the house again I gave him the briefest tug on the lead. It was all the hint he needed. He ran up the drive to the door of a house he had never seen, then pawing hard at the screen, barking urgently.
It took a while for Ian to get to the door. Of course I told him of Jacko’s remarkable find. He was pleased but not absolutely surprised. “We’re very close,” he said – as if that were explanation enough.
What a thing to have a friend as close as that – a friend for whom “home” is not a place but a person, the one person who matters most in all the world.
Well, I took a photo on my phone and told Ian I’d like to write it up and drove back here to think through what I have just seen.
Being in the business, I have long since learned not to underestimate dogs – especially not the depth and truth and acuity of their feelings- but tonight I am wondering again, and again, at the strange and unknowable bonds that underlie the simple love of a dog.
Nice work Jacko, wonderful work – but HOW do you do it??