A Tribute to Jake
September 3, 2013

Jake, peeking out from under the office door at Shawsheen Village Liquors

Many of you have attended our annual 'Hair of the Dog' Wine Tasting & Art Show at the Essex Art Center, which is sponsored by our friends at Shawsheen Village Liquors.  It is always a great evening, and it raises a significant amount of money for the care of our animals.  But you may not know the story behind the event.  It was 15 years ago that Mike & Sheri Helman, co-owners of the wine shop, adopted a young dog at the MSPCA at Nevins Farm.  Jake, as he was named, was the inspiration behind the wine tasting event.  Mike & Sheri created the event as a way to help other dogs looking for homes, in Jake’s honor.  So each year as we sit down to plan the wine tasting, we think back to this adoption and marvel at how one dog has been able to help so many other animals.

Sadly, this week we received word that Jake had passed away, after 15 years with a loving family.  Here is a note from his “mom” sharing the news:

I'm not great at composing letters but I have to share a story with you, I would tell you it over the phone but I'd only start crying so…In 1998 when we came to the shelter for the first time (which was nothing more than an old white house with kennels out front) we were with Michael's kids who were 9 and 13.  There we were at Nevins Farm looking at a 10 y.o. German Shepherd that was very slow, which was why the kids wanted to see and pet it.  I was sitting on the lawn and looking at another dog that was just leaning against the fence of his kennel with his head cocked looking very cute.  I went up to the fence to see him and he was just so happy and cute and wagging his tail as he was trying to get out of the kennel.  I went inside and asked if I could see that dog.. .named Jake. The volunteer brought him outside and down to where I was sitting. Jake put his head on my lap and before I could even stand up he flopped his whole body over my legs and landed on top of me. The girls were a little afraid of Jake but Michael wanted to see him too. I gave the leash to Michael and stood with the girls and the old German Shepherd while Michael took Jake for a little jog in the parking lot. After that we were ready to leave so I took Jake back from Michael and he took the girls to the car. I played with Jake for another minute or two and then gave him back to the volunteer.  All of a sudden out of nowhere, Jake came running up to the car and jumped in the backseat even before the girls could get in.  And this is where I would normally say… the rest is history, except for the fact that Jake is now gone and I can't believe how much he was loved and how many people he touched.

In early 2004, I wasn't working at the shop yet, but I used to come in on Saturday mornings and visit and often brought Jake. I had gotten to know a few of our regular wine customers and we would always chat about different things, dogs, jobs etc. One customer in particular, Rich, used to come in regularly to get wine for the weekends. We got to know each other mainly because he had a 10 or 12 y.o. black lab also named Jake and he had met our Jake a few times. To make a long story longer, a month or so went by and we hadn't seen Rich so I had a feeling that something had happened to his dog.  The next time Rich came in it just so happened that Jake and I were walking in too. I asked Rich where he'd been and he told me that he had lost his best friend a few weeks ago.  Rich then got down on the floor to pet Jake and all of a sudden Jake started licking his face. (Jake did not do that to people outside the family. And since he was a 90 lbs rotti/shepherd mix a lot of people were a little intimidated by him, but not Rich) Well that was it.  Rich was crying, I was crying and Jake was there snuggling with Rich.  Before he left Rich asked if I would bring Jake next Saturday so he could get his "dog fix". That was the beginning of what was to become our Saturday rituals… which eventually turned into our everyday ritual. I started working in the store full time that summer, but Jake only got to come on Saturdays in case Rich came to see him. The rest of the days I would go home at lunch to take Jake out for a walk.  Then one day Rich said to us, “you should keep Jake at the store with you - he is a great dog”.  It made me think why not! Then I started bringing him a couple of days a week which soon turned into every day.  Next thing we knew it was 2005 and we decided to create a wine tasting to benefit the MSPCA to try and pay back everything Jake was giving to us. He brought customers in the store and to "Hair of the Dog".  There were "dog people" and even some that became "dog people" just by visiting him.  He (we) told people they could bring their dogs in the store and we made sure that there were treats to be given to both their dogs and Jake (it was the way we trained Jake not to bark or object to the other dogs in the store) We also personally made new friends because of Jake being at the store.  He was always there peeking out from under the swinging doors to greet people.

Now 15 years later we had to say goodbye to Jake and it felt like it my heart was breaking. All I could think about was that I had lost my best friend. Then on Monday Rich came in the store because he heard that we had put Jake down. Once again, here we both were crying about a dog named Jake. Rich was telling me what great dog he was and how he had changed and touched Rich's life too. You see, a year or so after Rich's dog died he decided he couldn't be without a dog so he rescued a 2 y.o. "mutt"… that was about 5 years ago.  What I didn't know and he told me Monday was that he had always been a pure breed  "lab" guy until he met our Jake. He said that after meeting and getting to know our Jake he would never get another dog unless it was rescue.  He said Jake taught him how much love a dog could give someone who rescued him and how much his own 'mutt' was now giving him. It was then that I realized that Jake had touched not only our lives but that he had touched so many people that he will never be forgotten.  As I said at the beginning of this note, the sheer number of people who acknowledged the passing of this dog and the lives that were touched by Jake makes me even happier that he chose us!  Thank you Nevins Farm for giving us Jake.

Mike & Sheri, thank you for sharing your hearts and your home with Jake, and for sharing Jake with so many people.