When it comes to pets, fate sometimes intervenes

While trolling the Internet this morning, I discovered an interesting story about newspapers struggling with digital revenue. On the same site, Poynter.org, I found an even more interesting post from Roy Peter Clark, an author, blogger and instructor at Poynter Institute.

Clark was making a point about journalists, that a reporter should inquire enough to “get the name of the dog.” If a reporter cares enough to get the name of the dog for the story, he or she likely will have asked all the pertinent questions a story requires.

Ella, a Jack Russell terrier, was my first dog and went everywhere with me.

Clark’s post was more about journalism than about the name of his dog (Rex, by the way) or any other dog name, but it reminded me of how one of our dogs came to be.

Our Jack Russell terrier (Clark’s dog also happens to be a JRT and recently celebrated his 18th birthday) came about his name purely by coincidence. Or, as I prefer to label it, fate.

It was a Sunday in March six years ago when I had managed to drag myself out of bed. I had been inconsolable the previous couple of weeks after the death of my first dog, Ella, also a Jack Russell. She had been hit by a car in front of our home.

I had Ella for 13 years, and she moved with me from South Florida to Chicago and back home to Michigan. She had hiked mountains in Colorado and New Mexico, climbed trees in Florida, played soccer with the children at the park in Chicago. Her picture had been in the Chicago Tribune and the Grand Rapids Press. She went everywhere with me.

When she died, I grieved to the point that I didn’t know what to do with myself. I cried myself to sleep every night and struggled to get out of bed in the morning, especially on weekends when I didn’t have to work.

I had been checking out Jack Russells online on the odd chance I one day would overcome my grief and get a new dog. Friends told me to “get back on the horse.” I knew they were right, but the guilt of “replacing” Ella was weighed heavily on me. Then, I saw him. This Jack Russell terrier, 13 weeks old, was available. His adorable face filled my entire computer screen. I’d look elsewhere, but kept coming back to him. It was just too bad I wasn’t ready to stop grieving and get another dog, I told myself, because he could be The One.

When it came to naming our new Jack Russell, "Stuart" was the obvious choice.

A few days later, on that Sunday that I managed to get out of bed mid-morning, I was staring at our back yard and talking to myself, as usual. “What if we did get another Jack Russell?” I asked myself. “It would be a boy, for sure. What if it was that dog whose cute big face was on my computer screen? What would we name him?

“Hmmmm. Stuart. That’s a fine English name, and Jack Russells are from England. Yeah, I like the name Stuart.”

That night, I went to bed at 5 p.m. because I couldn’t stop crying over Ella. It had been “only” a few weeks. My partner began yelling from our home office for me to get out of bed and get in there at once. I wiped the tears from my eyes, sighed heavily and stumbled into the office.

There, on the computer screen, was that same Jack Russell I had discovered earlier that week, his face filling up the entire screen. Uh-oh. She found him, too.

“This is our next dog,” Yvonne said to me.

“I’m not ready yet,” I responded.

“Yes, you are. You need to make a call about this dog,” she said.

Then, as if she had been reading my mind from that morning, she asked me: “What do you think of the name Stuart for this dog?”

Whether I thought I was ready or not, I no longer had a choice in the matter. Fate. Kismet. Coincidence. Whatever it was, it was bigger than my grief. Stuart joined our family the next weekend.




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