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Bruce, Ohio, USA
September 2004

An old woman in our rural neighborhood had a young German Shepherd which she inexplicably named Jaques. My sibs and I were all grade school age at the time and we liked going with Mom on errands to the old lady's place partly because we liked playing with that dog.

Jaques started to leave his mistress' yard to travel two miles over country roads, and enter our yard. The old neighbor said that Jaques preferred being with children, and since he already spent half his time with us, we should have him. We were thrilled.

Everyone thinks his dog is the best. All German Shepherds are smart, but our Jaques... I'll never forget the time my little sister, aged about three, was at play in the front yard, trying to go to where her ball had rolled. The ball was many yards from the road, but she was headed in that general direction, and for Jaques she was close enough. He would not let her go any further across that yard, try as she might to go 'round his front, his tail, or underneath him. Finally she resorted to striking his back in frustration. He stood there and took it, knowing he was protecting his young charge. It almost makes that dog nurse-maid in Peter Pan seem not so silly.

When Jacues was about seven (almost 80 in human years) he slowed way down, couldn't keep up with us nearly like he once had. For the last several months he moved with a limp, and our parents started talking about putting him down. Before they did so, our beloved pet died peacefully in his sleep. We buried him where the back yard meets the fields.

That night, the family went to a Halloween party in town. Dad's youngest sister came to our house to watch the baby. It was the first time Mom had left him and I remember how nervous she was, and how I thought she was being ridiculous. My aunt had been our main babysitter until I, the first child, became old enough to fill that role, and nothing bad ever happened.

We left the party early due to mom's worries. On the way home we noticed that several of our neighbors' yards were festooned with toilet paper, and there was much speculation as to whether we had been similarly pranked. As we neared the house, we could see some whiteness, but on pulling into the driveway, we were happy to see that only one tree had been partially papered.

Our aunt said that she had heard Jaques barking and went to a window to see what was up. We all looked at each other and back at her in uncomfortable silence. She had arrived late that night, and we were late leaving - in the bustle, we had never told her about Jaques' death. We told her now. No, she insisted, and she looked angry, as if we were playing a rude joke. It was Jaques barking at the kids who were TPing us. When they heard him and saw the porch light come on they jumped in their car and drove off. Jaques followed them out the driveway and down the road. She called for him to come back but he didn't.

It must have been another dog, my mother put in, but she looked very upset. Again my aunt was insistent, saying it was definitely a German Shepherd and she recognized his limp. She could see it all in the light from the porch.

One of my brothers offered the theory that Jaques had not really been dead, we had buried him prematurely and he had clawed his way out of the grave. My mother said he had been stiff and cold and she started to cry, but my brother was already on his way outside to check his hypothesis.

Dad and I followed with a flashlight, knowing what we would find; the dog had been very decidedly deceased. Of course the mound of earth was undisturbed.

I suppose it could have been another dog, but I like to believe otherwise, especially since we knew of no one else for miles around who owned a German Shepherd, much less a limping one, and we never saw or heard another 'imposter' dog after that night...

There were other much loved pets in the years that followed, but, well, they just weren't Jaques.

Bruce, Ohio, USA
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