Life without Jamie

Life without Jamie
A sunset walk with Jamie on the west side of Butte in the summer of 2020

Thirteen years ago today, we picked up an 8 week old puppy from Summerhill Samoyeds in Canada and drove him south across the border to his new home with two humans and three cats in Seattle. Megan named him Jamie.

1/10/2010: the day that Jamie came into our lives.

This post contains a few memories and thoughts about Jamie and the life he led with us, and the lives we're living without him now.

Overall, Jamie's pack is doing well. We're happy and healthy, and we're each moving forward in our own way.

Left: Jamie in 2011. Right: Nancy last night.

“There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path.” – Buddha, foreshadowing Jamie's personality by a few thousand years

The lives Jamie touched

The outpouring of love and grief from all around the world immediately after Jamie's death was both heart-wrenching and comforting. If you were one of the hundreds of people who posted sweet comments about what Jamie meant to you or how you were feeling, I have a confession: I captured screenshots of every single comment that was posted in the weeks after his death, and they're all in a folder entitled Jamie Comments in my carefully managed backup stream, so that I'll have them forever. Thank you for all the things you said, it means a lot.

Typical examples of comments posted on Jamie's Facebook page in the days after his death. It was amazing to see reactions from so many countries, and I was surprised by the number of people who shared stories of Jamie being the first Samoyed they met, or how he inspired them to add a Samoyed to their own families.

Our new routines

The daily rhythm of the pack has changed quite a bit in recent months, both because Jamie is gone also because Alice has gone from avoiding walks to demanding them often.

Taking all three of them for a walk can be challenging, so I rarely do that except for very early in the morning when there's almost no chance of running into other people or dogs. When Jamie was around, I always took him for a short walk first, and the other dogs learned to wait until after Jamie's turn. Now it's Alice who usually gets the first walk, then Nancy and Isaac together.

Nancy and Isaac are still a handful, especially when people or dogs or other animals are around. Yesterday I took them up to the top of Big Butte, and we ran into three young men (who were stumbling and slipping  down the steep trail while drinking beer, reeking of pot smoke, and laughing - very Butte). I braced myself, with spikes on my feet dug into the ice, but Nancy and Isaac pulled so hard in unison that they planted me face-down in the deep snow. I kept hold of the leashes, and as the young men were walking away one of them said "good luck with those two" and they all laughed.

Today, I'm planning to take a peaceful walk up Big Butte all by myself!

Isaac likes to get up around 5:00 or 6:00 almost every morning, so Megan and I have settled into a routine where we alternate who gets up with the dogs. One of us usually goes to bed earlier and then gets up with them when Isaac decides it's time, and the other is free to stay up later and ignore Isaac's wakeup call.

Makes sense in theory, but in practice shit happens sometimes. For example, today Isaac got up at 5:00 and it was Megan's turn, but when she let them out in the back yard all hell broke loose because there was an off-leash Husky in the alley right outside our fence. It took both of us quite a while to get them rounded up and back in the house, especially slippery Nancy.

For my own routine, not having Jamie around means I've stopped going on relaxing evening drives with him to take photos around Butte. I sometimes take Nancy and Isaac for a drive in the evening (Alice rarely wants to go), but they're so manic about other people and dogs that I usually don't bother to bring a camera.

Instead, I'm spending a lot of time in my shop these days, working on home repairs and related projects. All three of the dogs have their role to play in that. Alice often just stands there staring at what I'm doing, Isaac is more inclined to take a nap (and doesn't open an eye when a loud power tool or vacuum cleaner starts up nearby, which is very Jamie-like), and Nancy likes to steal scraps of lumber. Nancy and I play a little game where she sneaks in and grabs something off the trash pile, then I pretend to care and chase her out the door with it. She loves a life of crime.

Top left: Jamie in the garage shortly after we moved into our Butte house in the spring of 2020. He and I spent several evenings out there cleaning it out and setting up a workbench. These days, Isaac and Nancy like to lay on Jamie's old riding pillow to watch me work on things.

A few memories

When you lose a loved one, it can be surprising which memories keep coming back. With Jamie, there are a few things that keep popping up in my mind, which I'll share here.

Jamie definitely had a favorite cabin: Cabin #22 at Lake Of The Woods, Oregon. Jamie and Alice stayed there many times, and they were always excited when we headed up into the mountains from Medford, usually at the end of long day's drive from either our home in Seattle or Megan's mother's home in Berkeley.

I've been going up Big Butte every day this month, and every time I remember going up there with Jamie, Alice, and Nancy on our first morning in Butte.

This moment is one of my most vivid recurring Jamie memories. He was six months old, and we were taking a late night walk during a thunderstorm in Ellendale, North Dakota, near the farm where my Mom grew up. I have fond memories of summers spent on that farm as a city boy from Seattle, and loved sharing that area with Jamie. The smell of a North Dakota thunderstorm, the croaking of the toads, that dragonfly - at this moment, I was a 12 year old boy again.
Alice's daily interest in taking walks has been a surprising change this fall and winter. She loved to take walks with Jamie for many years in Seattle, then stopped wanting to take walks when we moved to Butte three years ago (apparently because of occasional gunshots in the distance). This fall she has gotten back to enjoying walks and demanding them every day.
I decided to frame a photo of Jamie for the music room, and after two months of reviewing thousands of possibilities I picked this one. There's something very Jamie about that expression.