Jackson and the Dog Mamas

My Corgi Jackson has always had a passel of surrogate mommies, as I travel from time to time. First there was Raelene, editor of exotic romance novels, who cared for him as a puppy.  Barely three months old on his first sleepover, he was all boundless puppy energy and nuisance — chewing, biting fingers and toes, and peeing on his own schedule (which changed daily).  Raelene adored him, and he had a coveted spot on her bed at night.

Next came Jan, overseer of the Corgi Club rescue arm.  Jan and her husband Ed had Corgis, and Jackson became part of the pack that often included a few rescues. He loved their house — it was always filled with doggie “conversation,” and the treats were plentiful. Plus, Jan had a kiddie pool where Jackson loved cooling off after racing around the yard with the other dogs. He was in heaven!

In time, Sasha took over Jackson’s care when I was out of town. Sasha and her husband Eric’s Corgi, Ben, became Jackson’s best friend. Jackson adored the attention he got whenever he visited. When Ben passed away, Jackson began to stay with Barb.

Like all of Jackson’s caregivers, Barb showered him with love. Her husband Greg made delicious small treats, which he gave generously to their Corgi, Gigi, (and later Lulu), and Jackson. Barb treated Jackson like family — I saw her tender love for him grow as much as my own, especially as he began to age.

Jackson was, by all standards, a very lucky dog to have such wonderful, caring dog mommies in his life.

Then one day the unthinkable happened: Jackson’s dry right eye developed a massive infection and had to be removed. He’d developed arthritis in his right rear leg, sometimes making walking a challenge.  Around that time, I developed arthritis and needed a hip replacement.  Jackson’s depth perception was gone, and I could no longer carry him down and up the steps for his daily walk.  After climbing the nearby hills and hiking miles of Forest Park trails day after day, year after year, our life had come to a standstill. 

Enter the bevy of NW Portland dog mamas — professional dog walkers with hearts of gold and unbridled love for the dogs they walked. When a prospective dog walker gets on her hands and knees with your dog, lets him smell every part of her, and gives him soothing massages as part of the initial meet and greet, you know your dog will be in good hands.

Like all moms who must plan ahead for many exigencies, I knew I needed a primary dog walker as well as backup. In need of a dog walker seven days a week, I asked a neighbor if she could recommend someone. She suggested a woman named Ashley, whom she assured me was incredible with dogs. Jackson was 14 when Ashley started taking him on short morning walks 18 months ago. They still go every morning, walking in snow, pouring rain, and sunshine. 

Thanks to Ashley, Jackson was able to participate in the Corgi Walk in the Pearl this year, and I beamed with pride that my doggy could take part in the event inspired by him nine years ago. Ashley helps with trips to the vet or groomer. She and I have had long talks about the inevitable, and when I panic over some behavior, she calms me. She knows dogs in a way I can only envy.

Our backups are Michelle and Katie.  Michelle occasionally walked Jackson in the past, and is terrific with him. Katie lives next door, and is our dog whisperer. It’s amazing to watch her ability to communicate and interact with Jackson. He is nearly deaf now, but he knows when Katie — now our Sunday dog walker — arrives for his walk. He melts in her arms and hops alongside as they stroll around the block.

I see my dog walkers while driving around NW Portland, busy walking other people’s dogs. These dog mamas have filled an important role for those of us unable to give our dogs the daily exercise they need. Even more, they have extended the family for each dog. Our dogs have a second (and perhaps a third or fourth) mama who loves them.

Lynde Paule is organizer of the annual Corgi Walk in the Pearl, a benefit for OHS and Corgi Rescue. She and Jackson live in NW Portland.