Gentleman Jack


Peter and I give our heartfelt gratitude to all the messages of condolence arriving as we mourn the death of Jack, who left us yesterday. There are so many that while I’lll struggle to answer each one personally, we want all who’ve contacted us to know how deeply moved we are by the eloquent and comforting testimonies of how much Jack was loved both those who knew him in person, and through his further reaching appearances on social media. He of course was oblivious of how many hearts he caused to flutter, which was probably for the best. Suffice to say that occasionally, when walking through Aberystwyth with him, I’d hear a distant hailing by someone unknown to me, not of ‘Hello Clive, but a jaunty ‘Hiya Jack!’

Many years ago, when I read Philip Pullman’s magnificent ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy, I was moved by the author’s conjuring of a world in which every human being is inseparably accompanied throughout life by a ‘daemon familiar’ in the form of an animal. Although a fiction, and a fantastical one, at some essential level it seemed to me – and I’m sure to many others who share their lives with beloved pets- a plausible notion.

For more than half the time Peter and I have been together (twenty-five years this month), Jack has been a part of our lives at an intimate level. Although he was an independent chap and would take himself off around the house and grounds on his own business, his preferred place was as close to me as he could get: in his ‘fleece’ basket next to my easel in the studio, in his blanketed basket next to the Aga (where he could keep an eye on all the food preparations), or wherever I happened to be sitting/going/working/sleeping. When not engaged in activities that required walking or running, his heat next to me, pressed close, has been an almost constant sensation over the fourteen years we’ve been together. So as in the ‘Dark Materials’ universe, his separation from me right now feels like a hole punched clean through my heart. Even as I sit here typing, from the corner of my eye I keep mistaking the crumpled piece of tissue on the sofa for a blaze of the white of his livery, and I feel that’s what life for the foreseeable future will hold for us: the constant seeking for what we know should be there, now absent.


19 thoughts on “Gentleman Jack

  1. I’ve just caught up with your sad news, Clive. I have had dogs in my life since I was 8 years old…and used to think that the devastation of their dying would be less overwhelming as the years went on. How wrong I was…and am. The loss of these unbearably sweet beings is beyond words. I met Jack several times…and would happily have dog-napped him each time. Kit and I mourn with you. xx

    • Oh Shellie, all you say is true. Loss doesn’t get easier the older we become. It gets worse, because the effects on us are cumulative. Our skins become thinner and the weight on out hearts, heavier. Despite the fact he was fourteen, Jack had stayed in good health and had been so active all his life that I felt sure we’d have him for a good few more years. I knew he’d slow down, as we all must, but he still loved walking and playing and swimming and travelling with us, and I believed/hoped old age would become him. He’d lie abed longer in the mornings, maybe doze more and run less, and no longer play quite so madly as he once had. It wouldn’t matter, because he’d still be himself as life slowed down, and we’d enjoy more cuddles. He was a great cuddler. But illness came upon him unexpectedly and with shocking swiftness, which was perhaps a mercy, but it also knocked us sideways as we struggled to understand what was happening and to be as strong as we needed to be for him. Once we knew what was coming, we didn’t delay. We could see he was beginning to struggle, and it was only going to get worse. He slipped away with the help of a gentle young vet, in my arms, his eyes fixed on mine, in the spring sunshine on the window seat that had been his lookout post and daytime bed for the eleven years we’ve lived here. He was a smart, funny, affectionate, curious and life affirming little companion. He made me laugh a lot. I often used to marvel in photographs at how small he was, because he never felt small in person, because his personality was large. And now I find you could fit a whole planet in the hole he’s left in my heart.

      Our love to you and Kit. We’d love to see you both. xxxx

  2. Hello Clive,

    I’ve just been catching up on emails from the weekend and found yours. Sad, sad news; my thoughts are with you both. I only met Jack a couple of times but his star quality was so evident even in those short encounters. He was a wonderful embodiment of the truth that dogs are what you make them, terriers more so than other types and Jack Russells more even than their compatriots – and nice people always have nice Russells.

    Your comments about deamons struck a chord with me (I must read the ‘Dark Materials’ trilogy, sounds fascinating). I’m sure you (and Philip Pullman) are right. In a similar(ish) vein, I recently read Hilary Mantel’s ‘Bring up the Bodies’ which included a comment from Thomas Cromwell as he contemplated his past: “I myself have benefited from strangers who were angels in disguise”. It’s something I have long believed but, for some reason, wrote it down this time.

    Mourn him, love him and be grateful (as I’m sure you are) that such a wonderful individual chose to bless you and share his life with you – his memory will make you smile again.

    My love to both of you.

    Jan Xx

    P.S. No need to respond and I’ve just been given the keys to my new house – will be in touch very soon.

  3. Hello,
    I have just read your lovely tribute to Jack.
    It’s twenty five years since my first dog died —an Irish Wolfhound called Pawsey.
    I though I would never have another.
    But now I have my little moustachioed cockerpoo — Até (Goddess of Mischief).

    To begin with I felt ill with fatigue. I was forever tripping over dismembered fluffy toys.
    Now my wardrobe is accessorised with poo bags — at the moment rather lurid pink ones from
    Japan, courtesy of one of my lovely daughters. My pockets are full of treats.
    She is loving and eager to please — she is a joy and I love her dearly. I cannot think why it has taken me so long.
    Happy memories are what we cling to.
    Wishing you well

  4. I’m not sure what to say, I felt a real tummy lurch reading this. I’m really sorry for both yours and Peters loss. I only met Jack twice, but feel like I knew him well, thanks to the Artlog. He was charming and lovely, so full of character. xx

  5. Love to you both, dear Clive. I’m glad you had such a merry, frolicsome dog–yet gentle, one who would never hurt a little hedgehog in the leaves, and who loved to race and leap up in the sun. And I am sorry for the sorrow, and for the loss of your sweet Jackanapes.

  6. Dear Clive and Peter,
    I’m often reading but not as often commenting these days. I do need to say now how special Jack was and how it was clear that his confidence and contentment arose from the adoration you provided. It’s deeply sad to see him gone. He had the happiest life possible – and you did too: a gift you gave one another every day. Jack, as he appears in your paintings, represents the being through whom I enter your painted worlds. He is a familiar distortion; a bridge from my plane to this new one, where I can safely interact with the Titans, demigods, knights and dragons that surrounded me. I am sorry. Nothing replaces what his life means to you.

  7. Oh dearest Clive, we were talking about this yesterday, and I said how big a hole this would leave, as he was so much part of you and your lives. The ghost spirit of Jack will be around for some time, gimpsed out of the corner of your eye, bringing bitter sweet memories and feelings. I can only send love and hugs to you both at such an awful time for you.❤️❤️

  8. I just can’t believe he’s gone. It will take much getting used to. He was a gentlemans’ gentleman—formed by the love and nurture of his men and his surroundings. I find, this morning, I’m perusing all my photo archives for images of him.
    Love to you both!

  9. Feeling sad as I well know about lives so intertwined with canine companions – some more so than others. It’s been clear all along, that Jack was one of those special souls that is near to the heart. Yes, you’ll be seeing and hearing him nearby for awhile — it’s like that with all that we love most dearly. Peace to both of you. xox

  10. I’m so sorry Clive. The French phrase for commiseration is “je suis navrée” , which is perfect in it’s literal meaning : ” I feel shipwrecked”. I’m proud to have known Jack, he was such a joy and full of fun. He couldn’t have had a better home with you two, nor I can’t imagine seeing you without him, he truly was your daemon, oh dear it’s so sad I’m wiping away tears, it’s so soon after Moli. XxxxxxxxxxxL

    • My darling Liz. So often during the life I shared with Jack I thought about how the heat that burned so fiercely in our attachment to each other, would one day, in the usual course of things, mean that he would leave ahead of me. And so it is. Grief is the price we pay for love, and I would gladly pay it many time over, even though it tears the fabric of my universe to shreds.

      Thank you for that phrase, ‘je suis navrée’. It’s an eloquent capture of how I feel today. And yes, tears surface at frequent intervals, and that’s OK, too, though I wish we were together, dear friend, so that we could share them.

      It is odd that Jack died so close on the heels of his one time mate, Moli. Well, I’m glad they had their moment together – or moments, as they coupled frequently during that ‘arranged’ match – and that we had the pleasure of seeing the outcome.

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