Before you get the wrong idea, Jeter is my 85# yellow lab, not to be confused with classic Yankee icon Derek Jeter. My guy can catch a ball like nobody’s business, but that’s pretty much where the similarities between the two end.
My Jeter came into our family in February of 2014 as an eight week old pup. We had lost our previous dog, Cassidy, a few months previously and I didn’t like the emptiness of the house when my boys were at their Dad’s house. Mid winter in upstate New York isn’t an ideal time of the year to house train a new puppy, especially when your adorable ball of white fluff dog blends right in with the heaps of snow we had that year. I did, however, appreciate the constant presence of this new companion. He became my dog.
The first year or so were hard, but we made it through. Jeter grew rapidly and left a path of destruction behind him. His first day at home alone produced two broken lamps. Months later, he completely destroyed a favorite pair of Aigner sandals. There was a time when he had a thing about bed linens and would literally eat them. A total weirdo, I tell you.
He was neutered at the recommended age with the expectation that he might calm down a bit. Not so much, as has been noted by each of my sons with some degree of bitterness. I’m sure the topic of castration will work it’s way into their future therapy sessions one day.
Even with his family jewels removed, Jeter remains a very assertive dog. He’s wicked strong and there have been a handful of times when I’ve been mildly injured (a scrap, a cut, a bruise) as I struggled to gain control of him.
Sometimes it feels like Jeter and I are in a competition of sorts – whose strength will diminish faster? As far as I can tell, at the moment we’re neck and neck. It’s just too soon to say in which direction things are going.
I may not know where I stand in terms of dominating physical strength with my dog, but I do know he is my last big/male dog. I’m pretty strong (shoutout The Hot Yoga Spot!) but am now coming to accept that I’m probably approaching the downward spiral of my own physical abilities. Managing a dog that weighs 65% of your own weight is difficult, especially when there are squirrels involved.
In the ten weeks we’ve been sheltering together at home, Jeter’s behavior has changed. He seems a tad more calm these days and I have to attribute that to the amount of time he and I now spend together on the regular. In the past, if he felt neglected, he would toss my pillows into a pile, making a mess of my tidily made bed. He’s only done that once during this prolonged together time.
As I move about my house, often flitting from room to room as I seek comfort and the ability to focus on a task, Jeter follows me, settling himself either next to me or with a direct view to my activities. His presence comforts me, and it seems the feeling is reciprocated.
Together we go on epic walks, wandering around the streets of Albany and the paths of Capital Hills
Park Golf Course and the Normanskill farm. Sometimes, we walk for hours before making our way home, where Jeter drinks deeply before falling to sleep on the nearest soft surface. There’s a satisfaction I feel about his exhaustion that is reminiscent of the days when I worked to wear out my toddlers in the hopes of gaining a moment’s quiet.
It isn’t always easy to focus on the bright spots during a dark and scary time. Having a companion, canine or otherwise, who finds joy in simply being by next to you, helps to make this unnatural isolation far less lonely. My Jeter may not be a bonafide celebrity but, right now, he’s playing a starring role in my life beautifully.
Note: a version of this post was accepted for inclusion in Trolley, the online journal of the NYS Writers Institute.