But he loved people. He loved a good scratch behind the ears, rub on his belly and, towards the end when his arthritis got bad, he liked his butt and hips massaged. Jax enjoyed human attention in the form of petting, patting, scratching and talking.
This good dog had lovely manners. He never nipped or bit or chewed on things he wasn't supposed to. He didn't sniff crotches and he'd been trained by somebody to poop in the weeds at the edge of the yard, so it wasn't until a couple summers ago that we had to start cleaning up after him (nothing says love like a Jax Patty right below the clotheslines, right?). Jax didn't bark much, either. True, this made him worthless as a watchdog since he'd likely nuzzle a stranger to death rather than announce their arrival, but his silence was a blessed thing. He generally only barked when something was Very Wrong. Like the time he fell in a hole the boys dug and he couldn't get out.
As mentioned, Jax wasn't much for hunting, but he was phenomenal at scavenging. He was under the impression that an object wrapped in plastic packaging was probably edible, so he'd tear into anything plastic-wrapped. Charcoal briquettes. Packages left by the UPS guy. Potting soil. Shopping bags. On one occasion, he got into a friend's minivan (the door was open) and Jax pulled free an entire shopping bag of Halloween candy--and started digging into those individually-wrapped nuggets of sweetness one by one. Jax couldn't read, so he probably didn't mean to rip open all of those bags, but he did, and he'd abandon the inedible things in a pile of damp, shredded plastic wrap. Of edible things wrapped in plastic he left no trace.
Before we got recycling bins assigned to us by the town, Jax used to troll the sides of the county highway looking for snacks. His favorite treasure was empty cans of Bush's Baked Beans, which I'd find every week by the propane tank in the back yard. Jax would enjoy different treats in specific spots around the yard. Nearly empty jar of Nutella? Beneath the basketball hoop. Juicy bone? Front yard beneath the Honey Locust, or back yard below the maple. A bit of a slob, he'd leave the containers scattered around the yard--milk jugs, beer cans, peanut butter jars.
When he wasn't scavenging for human food or kibble, he'd eat whatever dead stuff he could find, like when our neighbor would shoot a deer and hang it in a tree, Jax would show up to gnaw on the carcass. (Sorry, Gary! Hope you didn't plan to mount that one!) He found a dead deer in the woods a few winters ago and brought it up one frozen chunk at a time to the front yard where he chewed on it--that "Deersicle" gave him worms, we suspect. The random carcass parts found here and there perpetuated the myth that a monster coyote or wolf lived in our woods. Heck, that dog even enjoyed a mouthful of cat litter, given the opportunity.
However, if food wasn't available, Jax was content to lie down and watch the world pass by. He'd nap in sunny spots on the porch or dig into a cool patch of dirt behind the house in hot weather. He was a gentle spirit, never jumped up on little kids and would allow the timid neighbor children to pet him and get used to a giant, hairy beast. Jax never growled or licked or moved fast around those children, he seemed to understand their fear and he'd be as still as possible, looking at them with his doleful brown eyes. A nocturnal creature, Jax would make the rounds of the neighborhood, standing on people's back patios, looking in on them having supper. Perhaps he was trying to beg off their plates, but nevertheless he'd give the V kids a thrill when they'd look up and find him by their door.
They say a cat has nine lives, but Jax probably did, too. His Indian reservation experience aside, Jax ran away from home a few times, got picked up by the cops, got hit by a police car (it was scavenging night--the neighbor's recycling bin was out by the curb and the poor police officer couldn't see our black dog at night on a blacktopped road) and got sprayed by a skunk. He had a healthy curiosity, in his earlier years he'd bound along beside me in the woods, sniffing and exploring nooks and crannies. He'd trot up the driveway to greet any car pulling up to the house. He'd follow me around the garden when I'd work, checking out the strawberry patch and so forth before plopping down in the shade until I'd move, then he'd follow me again.
Also notable: Jax is also the only member of our household to successfully complete a weight loss program. Two winters ago he'd gotten fat, almost 12 pounds over his healthy weight. Coupled with weak hips and arthritis, the weight was slowing him down and making it tough to exercise, resulting in weaker muscles ... you know how the cycle works. Anyway, I got tough with the family and we stopped dropping table scraps in his dish and put him on "weight management kibble" while forcing him to walk a little more. That dog lost 12 pounds and kept it off!
No question about it, Jax was a good dog. Gentle, lazy, sweet and always hungry. Loyal and faithful, friendly and handsome. Mr. D buried him yesterday morning at the edge of our back yard. It's going to take some getting used to not seeing that black lump on our front porch every day.
We won't ever forget you, Jax. Good dog.