Jackson’s story started in Harbour Island. Not much is known of the first year of his life other than he was tied up in someone’s backyard. There are accounts of people hearing whimpering and crying from the backyard where he was tethered to his short pole. Eventually, enough was enough, and the Briland Animal Rescue confiscated him. At the time he was rescued, he was severely underweight with his hip bones and ribs protruding from his emaciated body. He was covered with fat ticks and tick scars, and his neck was rubbed raw from where he was tethered. Despite the cruelty shown to him, he was grateful for his newly given opportunity for life and immediately took to his foster family with an 8-year-old daughter. Although the family wanted to keep him, the mother and the daughter both suffered from pet dander allergies and it became evident that it would be difficult for him to be a true member of their household.
|The day Jackson was rescued, Oct 5th 2015
We weren’t looking to adopt a dog at the time. We had my grumpy 11-year-old female named Barley, who typically has no interest in other dogs. However, we had lost our larger 12-year-old Potcake the year before and were missing the extra feeling of security and companionship. I figured if Barley was alright with this new boy, then it was meant to be.
I introduced the two dogs and was pleasantly surprised with how well Barley did. The worst case to be expected was that she would growl and bark at him until he went away (or a fight ensued), next would be impartiality, but she surpassed even that and actually acknowledged him with proper doggy greeting etiquette. Eventually we worked up to doing beach walks together and they even started playing (a complete abnormality for grouchy Barley who has actually initiated “play” with only a handful of other dogs in her life). That was Barley’s way of saying…this guy is alright.
|Jackson & Barley on the beach
Jackson started filling out and maintaining a healthy weight, maxing out at a whopping 75lbs. We are guessing he must have a little Labrador mixed in because he’s definitely one of the largest Potcakes I’ve come across, although he certainly didn’t look it when we first met him.
We soon came to realize that Jackson has a kind heart and a gentle soul, but he was dealing with inordinate amount of baggage which manifested itself as fear and anxiety. He was confused when another dog would bark viciously at him, or a human would step away in fear. We noticed his uncanny intunement with the energy of others. If a dog or a human are kind to him, he will be kind right back, but if another is fearful, or shows anger or aggression, he would become fearful, on-guard…and downright obnoxious.
I began working with him to subdue his spastic and unpredictable behavior. I consulted animal behavior specialists, downloaded books on dog psychology onto my Kindle and watched marathon Caesar Milan episodes on Saturday mornings. I learned his signs and signals and was able to read when he was stressed, or merely curious. He grew to trust me and that I was there to make sure his experiences were positive and safe.
We introduced him to our adventurous life of island hopping, both by boat and by private airplane. Eventually, we packed up our life in Harbour Island to move on to jobs in the Exumas. Upon arrival to a remote cay in the Northern Exumas, he had free reign of some of the most beautiful and untouched beaches in the world and seemed to love every second of his freedom; a complete contrast to his tethered life, not so far into the distant past.
Eventually we landed back at our home in Nassau. One day on a beach walk, a scrappy, underfed, mangy little puppy appeared. The puppy fearlessly approached Jackson and Barley, as if this was his last-ditch effort for the chance of a better life, and he refused to be left behind. There was no sign of any humans and there was a very busy road between the beach and any houses. The safest option was to take him home. Over the next day or two Jackson and the puppy became inseparable while we tried to find out where he came from, or a good home that might adopt him. We were due to go back out to the Exumas for one more month and taking a puppy with us just wasn’t feasible.
I called our friend Fiona at the Humane Society and she promised she would work on finding a good home for him. He needed his shots and to be treated for a skin condition, but I felt confident he was in good hands. When I returned home from dropping the puppy off that day, Jackson was forlorn and distressed. He was anxiously sniffing every inch of the house, searching for the puppy. I couldn’t help but become teary eyed for splitting up this obviously kindred connection.
I checked in each week to see how the puppy was doing or if he had found a home. I found myself starting at pictures of the puppy and imagining him as part of our household. Before we knew it we were back in Nassau, and we were staying there for good. I checked in with Fiona again, and the puppy had not found a home. At that moment we knew he was meant to be with us, so we immediately went to the Humane Society to officially adopt him. When we got home, we let the puppy into the yard to take in his new surroundings. Tentatively at first, Jackson and the puppy re-established their connection. And then Jackson seemed to snap into recognition and was instantly overjoyed that his little friend was back.
Another month has slipped by and Jackson and Finley are never apart. They sleep together on the same bed, they play and roll in the grass, and they patrol the yard. Jackson is teaching him the ways of the dog, and Finley looks at him questioningly, and with complete adoration and admiration. Jackson is the happiest I’ve ever seen him, and you can sense his immense pride in his new role as a caregiver. He seems to acknowledge that he is the role model for this young pup, and his behavioral issues are gradually dissipating.
Dogs adopt us and adopt amongst themselves, just as often as we adopt them. I believe these complex connections we have with other beings are paths of learning; learning about ourselves and how we interact with others, two-legged and 4 legged beings alike. At times, one has to simply resign to the fact that whatever is meant to be, will be.