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Beau Jackson

by Damien Filer


It was the week after Christmas and I’d recently learned a dog I adopted was likely an Australian Cattle Dog. So…that’s why he stares at me like that all the time. He gets very restless and needs to get his wiggles out. I try to walk him every day, usually just in the neighborhood, but I had some time off over the holidays so I made a commitment to take him to a different park or trail every day. We’d gone to the Fred George Greenway, a favorite for its open spaces and great trails as well as a personal connection to its origins.

 

We parked and started climbing the slope that leads into the greenway. It was a clear, cool December day, perfect for a walk. I had Odhi’s leash fully extended so he could rummage in the bushes along the trail. As soon as we crested the rise we had visibility over about a hundred yards of open field with paths leading off in different directions, some at gradual inclines or declines, others steeper.

 

Straight ahead, but a good ways away, I saw something emerge from cover. My first thought was, Bigfoot? As soon as we saw each other, it froze. When it did, I realized I was looking at a dog, a huge dog. I used to have a 185-pound English Mastiff and I felt confident that’s what I was seeing, some kind of Mastiff. But in a matter of a second, two tops, it bolted back in the direction it had come from and was gone from sight. It happened so fast, Odhi, my cattle dog, never even saw it. I just stood there for a minute, trying to make sense of what I’d seen. The huge dog definitely hadn’t been on a leash. Despite the signs, some don’t keep their dogs leashed. Maybe it just ran back to its owners. But that didn’t feel right. The dog looked scared, not like it was out for a fun walk. Maybe it lived in one of the neighborhoods that backed up to the greenway and it got out, or frequently explored the park. I didn’t know and, having my own dog with me, I couldn’t investigate, so I went the opposite direction, in hopes we wouldn’t cross paths with the beast.

 

It nagged at me though. Something didn't feel right. Why would a rare breed of dog like that be wandering around on its own in the middle of this public greenway? My daughter, Rowan, is twenty-seven and since she was a child she’s been committed – like the devoutly religious – to saving dogs. Since she was young enough to get an allowance she has worked, saved, researched how best to invest her donations, contributed to dog rescues, volunteered, rescued, fostered, nursed to health and all around devoted herself to saving the lives, and respecting the dignity and goodness of all canines (yes, and kids and cats and bunnies…but for many years dogs, as it was for my mom before me, and for me too). Dogs have always held a special place on all of our karmic scorecards.

 

Shortly after I started expressing my concerns about this dog to her she happened to be at the greenway, playing with her son and nephew, when she saw it. Like me when I had Odhi with me, with young kids with her she couldn’t try to approach the dog. No matter, because it took off when it saw them. They got a lot closer than I did though, and she said it didn’t look good. It had been out in the cold and the rain, with no food, for almost two weeks at that point. Rowan swung into action.

 

In no time, she found a listing on a city “lost pets” website for a blue-gray Cane Corso (an Italian Mastiff), that had gone missing on December 26. His name was Beau Jackson. I was raised with dogs, my first jobs were with dogs at veterinary hospitals and kennels and I’ve had a dog (or dogs) almost every day of my life. Only once before had I seen a Cane Corso. Apparently, the breed is experiencing a surge in popularity but they’re still uncommon. That was definitely the dog I’d seen.

 

I don't necessarily look for signs in things, but the fact that this creature had revealed itself, first to me, then to my daughter, I think imbued us somehow with a sense of obligation to help it, like it had chosen us to ask for help.

 

We started going out to the greenway with food, and a leash. When we went after dark we brought flashlights. We walked around the greenway calling his name, shaking a food canister. When he didn’t come, we would leave food for him, then check the next day and find it eaten, by someone. Rowan put up signs with her cell number. Our little search parties went out in shifts. But we never saw him again after the one time each of us caught a glimpse.

 

An unusually severe winter storm was forecast to come through the next night. He’d already been out there in the elements, with temperatures as low as the thirties, and no food for that big body for weeks now. Given how he looked when my daughter saw him, we didn’t want to imagine him out in that storm, with tornadoes in the forecast. She took her son out to the greenway after school and did a sweep. And they found something interesting. Someone else was leaving food out for him too. We weren’t alone. That was a meaningful morale boost when we really needed it. We also noticed not much of the food had been eaten. Something had checked it out but had left most of it there.

 

As dusk settled, the wind started picking up, and bands of rain moved into the area. After a nice warm dinner of stew and grilled cheese with my family around me, instead of snuggling in on the couch to watch our show as usual, I got dressed, put on a heavy jacket, grabbed the good flashlight, the canister of dog food, a plate and a leash, and drove out to the greenway. Rowan, of course, insisted on meeting me there, even though she had loaded up her family and dogs to ride out the storm at my house. Her family waited in the car while we set off into the night, calling out, “Beau! Come on and get your dinner, boy!” and “Come on, Beau Jackson. Come on!”

 

Rattling the canister of kibble, we walked up the hill to the plateau and trained our flashlights on the farthest edges of the woods we could make out through the fog and rain. We called again. Then I walked my daughter back to her car so she could get her family safely to my house. I went out for another round on my own. The rain was picking up. I kept calling, almost pleading for him to come. I started to wonder how much it was for him I was out here and how much it was now for me. I didn’t think I’d be able to sleep with him out in that storm, hungry and cold.

 

After another failed pass, I headed back to my car, trying to think of what else I could try. When my phone rang, it startled me. I couldn’t hear it that well in my pocket, in the rain. I swapped the flashlight to my other hand and dug the phone out of my jeans.

 

“Hello.”

 

“He’s home!” It was my daughter.

 

“What?”

 

“He’s home! I just got the message.”

 

I hadn’t allowed myself the indulgence of hoping he would be saved, only fuel for the determination to try to save him. It was such an instant weight lifted off me as I stood there in the rain, knowing, when I went home, that he wouldn’t be out in those woods tonight. I took a deep breath, put the phone back in my pocket and made my way back to the car, grateful to have no reason to serve Beau Jackson another dinner in the dark.

 

 

 

Dedicated to my daughter Rowan, a tireless servant, and frequent savior, of canines great and small.



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