I met Sparky in his golden years but I had no idea what was in store for me. Sparky, at 10 years old, exhausted me. He was tireless. His sense of adventure often led to me yelling his name until I finally gave up and tried to figure out why he found the space between the bush full of thorns and fence so exciting. He was curious. He wanted to know what was in the oven (he didn’t care how hot it was), he wanted to know if that moldy thing really tasted as bad as it smelled, and he wanted to know why his tail randomly showed up. Sparky was an announcer. After learning something, he just knew everyone else wanted to hear about his experiences.
Sparky was the epitome of a Jack Russell and it is because of him that I have become a “terrier” person. Prior to this crazy pup, I was a “big dog” person, but Sparky taught me the only small thing about his breed is his size. Jack Russells have big personalities, vast amounts of energy, and enormous hearts. I’ve also come to understand that in order to become the best caregiver I can, it is important for me to know something about why dogs like Sparky mean so much to me.
It is because of their unique disposition that terriers need a certain type of human. I recently met someone who got “the cutest Westie puppy ever.” She got the dog because she was excited to have a pretty, small lapdog. I explained that West Highland Terriers are not lapdogs. She shrugged me off until a few weeks later when I saw her with an older King Charles Spaniel.
Many people do not know terriers are actually hunting dogs. In many cases, this attribute means a terrier is happiest as an only dog. It is common for this type of pup to become dog aggressive, even after years of playing well with others. They are hardheaded and determined. So, letting your terrier off leash will lead to you spending hours hunting for him (always get your terrier microchipped).
I was asked why on earth I would want a dog like this. Sparky, and many of the terriers I have met since taught me bravery. He feared absolutely nothing. He taught me the art of concentration, and that sometimes shiny things are better than whatever you’re focused on. Terriers have strong souls. They are loyal but not in the same way as other breeds. There’s no way Sparky would have heeled by my side, but when he sensed I was having a horrible day, he knew how to heal. He was loyal to living life and to experiencing as much as he could.
Sparky passed away over a year ago but his legacy is as big as his life was. Every time a Jack walks in the door, my heart thumps harder and I feel a kind of joyous sympathy for the person attached to the leash. We "terrier people" know what the other is going through. You've got to be tough to be owned by terrier!
(My other favorite breed? Mutt! Mixed breeds are fantastic, ask my other dog, Scooby!)
Thinking about bringing a new pet home? Read our Choosing a Pet page for things to consider first.