That’s the name of the gentlest, kindest, most protective, best behaved dog that ever lived.
Mack is the name that a speech delayed three-year-old gave to the puppy that no one wanted, jet black with cigarette burns over his body. Mack is the name of the dog that never bit anyone but looked fierce and was loyal to a fault.
We found Mack at the local Petsmart on adoption day. We went in to get a fish our three-year-old. We were toting a newborn in a car seat and heading to the beta fish section when we saw Mack. He was tucked away in the back, curled up in the corner of a pet carrier. The worker stated that they hadn’t been able to adopt him; people in our area saw black animals as bad luck. He had also been abused and was timid and shy.
Instead of a fish, we took Mack home. It was completely impulsive. We were renting one half of a duplex, did not have a fenced in yard, had a newborn and an overactive three-year-old. I had grown up with dogs all my life and was dreading the puppy phase: things chewed up, potty in the corner, an excess of energy. I had no time in my life for a puppy. But we took Mack home.
He was different. He became my dog quite quickly, even though my husband did the training classes with him. He and I learned to trust each other together. He was gentle with the kids and was very careful to never play too rough with him. He grew to the size and look of a large black lab but was so quiet and cautious that the three-year-old could walk him on a leash. We lived in a sketchy area of town and his deep and intense barks kept the “customers” at the duplex three doors down off our lawn and driveway. He was deeply protective of the kids and me and could double his size when he was agitated. His hair stood up on end like a puffer fish and his rumbling growl would make people back off from our front porch, no longer interested in selling us the vacuum or magazine subscription.
He never bit anyone, though. One day I heard my one-year-old daughter squealing and Mack crying. I came around the corner and saw her on his back like a pony and both her fingers up his nose. He was bleeding but he never moved. He didn’t shake her off and he didn’t bite her. He was so gentle.
We eventually moved out of the duplex into a house with a fenced back yard and in a much better neighborhood. The neighbor kids would ring our doorbell and ask if Mack could play. They liked to play baseball in our cul-de-sac and Mack was an amazing outfielder. He would fetch the ball and then chase down the kids running the bases, gently tagging them. He was the most popular member of our family.
One night, when Mack was around ten, we got a call in the middle of the night. Our recently widowed neighbor was screaming on the phone that she needed help. We ran over there with Mack and found that her granddaughter had returned home from work, gone into her bedroom, and was surprised by an ex-boyfriend who had entered through a window and hidden in her closet. He was beating his ex-girlfriend and, when her grandma tried to intervene, started beating her, too.
As soon as we showed up, he went out the window and tried to get away. Knowing he was armed, and knowing I didn’t lock our door, I sent Mack back to our house with the tense instructions to “watch Chris and Sammy”. He didn’t like it but, ever obedient, he went. We searched out the boyfriend, the police came, guns were drawn and the ex-boyfriend was eventually taken into custody.
Through it all, Mack sat at the top of the stairs and prevented the kids from coming down and anyone from coming up. When we came home after the incident was over, all of us shaken, being escorted into our home by a police officer needing to take our statement, Mack went crazy. He didn’t move from the step but was growling, shaking and barking, begging to be released from the command to watch the kids. The officer was very impressed and commented on how obedient Mack was.
Mack lived for fifteen years. The last two years of his life he lost most of his sight and a lot of his hearing. He also became a wanderer. He would let himself out of our back gate and take himself for walks through the neighborhood. Since it had been years since he had played with the neighbor kids, he wasn’t recognized, and we would occasionally see candid shots of our big boy up on Facebook with the banner “FOUND!” He was even picked up one time by animal control on one of his walk-abouts. We had to start locking our gate.
The day he died was heart wrenching for the entire family. He had a seizure in the morning and couldn’t move his lower half of his body. We took him to the veterinarian and was told that it was time. The entire family was there and he was wrapped in a blanket on a table. We all got to say our goodbyes and we all cried. The vet cried with us.
At home we shared memories of our best friend. My son suggested each of us telling a funny story about Mack. Between the entire family, we couldn’t come up with one. While most dogs have a naughty streak, Mack did not. Everything he did was gentle, kind and loving. We never worried about him. We told the story about the time he ate a bee right out of the air because Chris was scared and screamed at it. We remembered when he took on a much larger German Shepard that snapped at my husband. I cried when I told everyone about how he wouldn’t let the paramedics near me when I fell and hurt my knee because he was worried about me and I was his.
We finally adopted two dogs two years after Mack died. We hesitated in doing this because, once you’ve had perfection, no dog will ever measure up. I didn’t want to be constantly comparing my new family members to my old. Funny thing, hearts don’t work that way. Even though our two dogs are naughty, and we have tons of funny stories about them after just a year, and they are a far cry from our perfect Mack, we love them just as much and just as fiercely. But every once and again, I find myself a little misty-eyed thinking of our perfect dog.