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  • Writer's pictureDonna Brown

A tribute to our rescue dog Jacques

Eight years ago, my husband, Al, our little rescue dog, Jacques and I traveled for two months across the southern tier of the U.S. in a Ford F-350 and a truck camper. We ate jambalaya in Louisiana, saw a scraggly coyote drink from a leaking hose in Death Valley and counted hundreds of orange and purple starfish on a rocky California beach, all with Jacques by our side. This April we planned to go on another a two month trip to tour the upper tier of the U.S. out to the North Pacific and more National Parks than I can list. All with Jacques by our side. He was a camping pup who traveled to Disney World, Myrtle Beach and all over the south as we camped.

I adopted him 13 years ago in front of the Marlton PetSmart. He had been left tied to a backyard fence in Philadelphia and the family moved away. He was a mess, but soon became a beautiful gray and white poodle mix who loved squeaky toys, apple slices and sleeping in bed with me. He greeted people as we walked through campgrounds for 13 years. For our current trip I had a new name tag made for Jacques, bought him a new collar and had him groomed at Shore Veterinary by Becky who is a wonderful dog whisperer. I had failed to tell her PetSmart had refused to have him back.

Jacques had been sick before, but he always rallied with excellent care from Shore’s doctors who are kind and knowledgeable. I had been carrying Jacques up and down the stairs for over a year. He was losing his sight and had many health issues including dementia, but was still a happy boy until the weekend before the trip when he went quickly downhill. So, the day we departed on our trip, Jacques departed from this earth. He is buried under my favorite dogwood tree in the corner of the yard.

It is a heart wrenching decision to put a beloved dog down. I have done it twice now, first with our 15 year old rescued cockapoo, Winslow, and now Jacques. I can’t imagine ever doing it again, but I also cannot imagine not having a dog. I need a dog to be with me, under my feet as I type or sew, following me down sandy Pine Barren trails and snuggled up with me at night.

Now I am dogless. Each day on the first month of this trip, whether in Iowa during a tornado warning, the campground had a storm shelter, or in the truck as we drove 14 hours from South Dakota to Utah to out run a blizzard, or resting after a hike in Bryce Canyon National Park I spend time scrolling through rescue dogs on Petfinder and Adopt a Pet. I put little hearts on the ones I favor, poodle mixes usually. Some have been abandoned, some tortured by being breeders at a puppy mills, some because their owners have died and some turned in because a family changed their mind.

There are approximately 11,500 cats and dogs on Petfinder nation wide who are waiting for their forever home. They are only a small representation of the pets across the country who need a family. Many of them will never find someone to love them. But I will find one to fill the hole in my heart. Dogs are nonjudgmental, they are loyal, they make life sweeter for everyone around them. Dogs are what we all should aspire to be. Please consider donating to a local rescue organization or even rescuing a dog in need.

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Do we all have wanderlust? Writer John Steinbeck who traveled the country with his French Poodle, Charlie, wrote, “People don’t take trips—trips take people.” It is true, travel takes people places: to the past, the future, their dreams or their personal Shangri-la. Our family has always chosen to travel to the past, vacations wrought with history.

This cross-country trip began by mapping out the Presidential Libraries we have never visited. President Warren G. Harding’s Victorian home is in Marion, Ohio with a Smithsonian quality museum and library next door and it was our first stop.

Harding was a newspaper publisher who was kind and charitable. He worked for racial equality and never spoke unkindly about anyone. Still, he was maligned by his political foes, the media during his tenure and historians throughout history. Yet, I found him charming.

President Harding had an Airedale, Laddie Boy, who had his own chair for cabinet meetings. While in the White House Laddie was given birthday parties with neighborhood dogs invited to share a biscuit cake. Laddie Boy was used on national posters to encourage humane treatment of animals and when Harding died in office and it was reported that his Laddie Boy howled sadly for three days.

Donna Brown is a former Hammonton Middle School librarian and a columnist for The Gazette. To reach Donna Brown, send an email to


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