Although I am not sure he was ready- or had even given much thought to becoming a father, Jon took on the role of “dad” first to a puppy and then to a human all in the same year. With Father’s Day approaching, I thought back to the moment when his life was changed forever.
Almost nineteen years ago, we got word that we were going to be moving overseas. Jon was taking command of ship at the Navy base in Sasebo Japan. I was excited about the idea of living in a foreign country. Once there, I made many new friends, immersed myself in the culture, and enjoyed daily adventures on the beautiful island, which seemed like paradise to me. Although it was incredibly fun, I felt something was missing. With Jon’s deployments at sea and his need to attend to a demanding job, I longed for something to care for.
One morning, there it was…the ad in the local base paper advertising FREE puppies to a good home. I called Jon at work to tell him about these puppies. His immediate response was “No way, we are not getting a dog”. I pleaded and told him I just wanted to look at sweet puppies and promised I would not beg like a 10 year old once we were there. As most husbands do, he broke down and agreed to take the 30 minute drive to “look” at a litter of puppies. Once we hung up the phone, I immediately called my friend to let her know that we were going to be getting a puppy. She was surprised to hear the news as she knew Jon and his practicality. She asked if he had really said yes to my plea to get a puppy. Of course he did not say yes to the puppy, but he did say that we could go look. The next day, into our home came the most adorable white puppy with perfectly symmetrical black ears. Her spots would appear later (something I did not know about Dalmatians). She was simply irresistible and had me “under her spell” the moment she arrived. Jon insisted that the dog would never be allowed in the bed or on the couch. Ok- I agreed, I was just thrilled to have a puppy. This would be the first of many rules that would be broken.
Over the next 17 years, his child (Abby) and fur kids Zoe, Sasha, Henry, and BOLO would test him, teach him lessons, and create opportunity to experience joy, wonder, bewilderment, pride, anger, patience, serenity, and mayhem… basically the gamut of emotions.
For those who know Jon, his demeanor is consistently calm. Seriously, calm! He is a great father to our daughter and is a great dad to the pups too. Parenting by example, Jon has made a lasting impact on his daughter – providing her with great wisdom on the value of always doing the right thing, teaching her the importance of thoughtful leadership, and compelling her to work towards being exceptional at everything she does.
It’s hard for some guys to show a lot of emotion and Jon is no different. He did share his vulnerability though as a “dog dad”, shedding tears openly in front of me and Abby during the painful moments when we had to say goodbye to Zoe and then Sasha.
Tears from a grieving man over the loss of his beloved companions were important for his daughter to see. It softened the “stoic military man” persona and made him more human.
Henry and BOLO continue to bring out the best in him ( well, except for those frustrating moments when he has to clean up whatever is left in the wake of BOLO’s “adventures”). I know some of his favorite moments each day are spent maintaining the skills he acquired as a baseball pitcher while throwing the ball with BOLO. His “fur kids” help him relax and recharge during walks on the trails, romps at the beach, or just chilling out at Starbucks, reading his paper, with them lying by his feet. Just as he has always done for Abby, Jon takes time to ensure the pups get what they need. In return, they give him exactly what he needs -peace, quiet, tranquility and at least an hour where “conversation is not required”. For most guys, this is absolutely golden.
Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful men out there who are special mentors, serve as an ATM to a 17 year old when needed (ok, that may be just our family), and who pick up poop, throw up, crumbs/mess from whatever dogs get into (ok, maybe just my family again).
Dads- you are truly awesome! May your dogs and family celebrate you for the supermen that you truly are!