5 Life Lessons Jackson Taught Me Through The Years

“Pain is temporary, but love is forever.” And that statement has never rang more true since we lost Jackson. Brian brought Jackson home to surprise me on March 27th, 2014. On that day, my heart exploded. I put him in my arms and I felt a piece of my heart open up like it never had before. I like to say that he imprinted on me because in that moment, I knew what deep love was for something I had just met a minute before. I knew I would love that dog to no end, that I would do anything for him, and that I would give him the best life possible. I don’t know if everyone feels this way about their dog or even if you feel this way for every dog you get through your lifetime, but Jackson was so special to me. When I looked into his eyes, I felt like I knew his soul. When I planned out my day-to-day life, I planned it around him. When we bought a house, the first thing I worried about was him having a comfortable backyard. I wanted Jackson to feel extremely loved and cared for his entire life. And I think it’s safe to say that even through his challenging health struggles, he still felt deep love from me.

After we lost Jackson, I journaled A LOT. And I still do every day. I even write letters to him when I’m really struggling. While I wrote down my thoughts the first few days and tried to understand why life threw Jackson this difficult hand and why we had to lose him so early, I was able to find some life lessons he taught me throughout our time together. Some lessons are beautiful and really guided me to where I am today, while some are a bit harder to swallow. But no matter what the lesson is, I’m thankful for every moment, every up and down, and every puppy kiss I got along the way. Losing Jackson was some of the most pain I’ve ever been in, but the memories of deep love I have for him hold so much stronger in my brain. And I’m so thankful for all of it.

PaleOMG x Jackson

PaleOMG x Jackson

PaleOMG x Jackson

Life Lesson #1: I can love something out of myself.

I know this lesson sounds extremely self absorbed, because it is, but I’ve always been a more selfish person. Putting myself first just always felt right. After dealing with health issues and unhealthy relationships most of my life, it just felt natural to put my physical and mental health first, which turned me to thinking that I didn’t have time for much else. It’s a bit hard to fully explain, but I couldn’t imagine a life not being selfish at all times. Jackson changed that. He showed me what deep, deep love feels like. And I think that feeling of deep love for someone outside myself has really transferred over into my decision to have children (currently pregnant with our girl that is due in July!). With Jackson, I always wanted to put his happiness and his health first. When he wasn’t sick, I would move my entire schedule around so he could get in 2 walks each day. I would shift plans around so I could spend quality time with him before hanging out with friends. I began letting him sleep on my side of the bed with me, even though I would always wake up with a sore back, just because I knew it would make him so happy. I put someone else’s happiness before my own and it has made me really excited to do that for a child someday.

PaleOMG x Jackson

Life Lesson #2: I can advocate when no one else will.

A huge life lesson Jackson taught me was in 2020 when he had emergency surgery on his neck from a disc extrusion. After the surgery, the vet said he was having an allergic reaction that was causing edema. Something didn’t feel right and I continued to ask questions, like if it was from his kidneys and if I should transfer him somewhere else. I was met with pushback from the vet, who told me we had to just wait it out. Even though my gut told me to move him somewhere else, I tried to trust the vet’s expertise…until Jackson had a seizure in front of me. That next day, I transferred him to a new vet hospital where I was informed that multiple things were wrong with Jackson, including his kidneys. Instead of listening to the first vet, I finally listened to my gut and I advocated for Jackson and in turn, saved his life. I have gone through many health struggles on my own and haven’t had any answers from MD’s, but through Jackson’s experience, I’ve learned to advocate for myself and look outside the box. And knowing I can do this for myself and Jackson, I know I can do it for our little babe someday.

PaleOMG x Jackson

Life Lesson #3: You’ll miss the hard moments when they are gone.

This lesson was huge for me. When Jackson was very sick before we lost him. We had to express his bladder multiple times per day, we had many poop clean ups in our house, we dealt with tons of diapers, and carrying him everywhere we could. Since I was in my first trimester of pregnancy, I would often have to vomit real quick then express his bladder immediately after. It was a really hard time in our life that caused so much stress for everyone at our house. But as soon as he was gone, we missed it all. I cried thinking about not being able to care for him anymore, even though that care had exhausted me days before. This experience was such an intense reminder of moments to come for us with a newborn. I’m not a baby person nor am I looking forward to those first couple months that we feel like we were hit by a bus, but this experience with Jackson has reminded me that we will miss the hard moments once they are gone and cherish that time we had with our little one, just like the moments we had with Jackson.

PaleOMG x Jackson

Life Lesson #4: Life sometimes just doesn’t make sense.

When I think about why Jackson was dealt such a tough card, filled with so many struggles, it’s hard for me to understand why such an innocent, loving creature would have to go through that when other dogs never do. But I feel that same way for my friends who have lost children or for friends who have passed away unexpectedly or friends who have had to deal with extreme longterm health issues. For me, I like to try to find a lesson in any experience, but at the end of the day, sometimes it seems like life just doesn’t make sense. And sometimes it’s extremely unfair to those who deserve it the least. I think most of us can relate to this in one way or another, but it’s a hard pill to swallow at times. As I cried many tears throughout the years, wondering why Jackson had to go through so much pain, I remind myself that sometimes life just doesn’t make sense. Earth is hard and sometimes it’s extremely hard. And even though this life lesson is not fulfilling or heartwarming, it’s the truth. And the truth is as simple as that sometimes.

PaleOMG x Jackson

Life Lesson #5: Life’s most beautiful moments are in the smallest details.

When I think back to moments with Jackson, I think back to the smallest moments. Like when we went to a lake for the first thing and he sprinted back and forth in the sand. Or when we moved into our first house and he would sit happily in the sun for hours. Or when it would snow and we would go in the park to run sprints with each other. These small moments fill my brain, but many have been lost as the years have gone by. I wish I would have been journaling when Brian first brought Jackson home and throughout the 8 years we had together. I wish I would have written down those little moments so I could go back and read them now. Luckily I’ve began journaling throughout the past year so I have some things to read, but I wish I had more. This is a great reminder of how much journaling will mean to me later on, as our daughter grows. It’s not about the big life moments, it’s about the smallest details that make life so beautiful.

PaleOMG x Jackson

Jackson will forever be one of the great loves of my life. He will forever be a soulmate that I am tied to. And I hope that wherever he is now, he’s running free, eating all the snacks, and lifting his leg to mark his territory anywhere he goes. Jackson may not have had the easiest life while he was here, but he had a life filled with billions of kisses, millions of scratches, and thousands of scraps from the table. His life was filled with so much love. Jackson was more than a dog to me, he was my best friend. My best friend soulmate. And I will miss that best friend soulmate for the rest of my life. Love you Jackson. Love you so much. See you again, someday.

PaleOMG x Jackson

Oh, Hi! I’m Juli.

I’m a food hoarder. And a really bad dancer. If you don’t know me well, you will probably not understand my humor. Therefore, I apologize ahead of time. Thanks for listening to my ramblings of my ever-changing life and trusting my kitchen mishaps. Your trust in me is appreciated.


24 thoughts on “5 Life Lessons Jackson Taught Me Through The Years”

  1. Julie, I am so terribly sorry for your loss. I have been where you are, and the Jackson sized hole will never be filled. But you loved him the best, and he did the most important thing in the world to him…. and that was to love you back. I lost my 4 year old Frenchie Leo to IVDD last August. He was my little man, my best friend, and the closest thing I will ever have to a child. He had an outsized personality, and no matter his health issues he lived life headfirst and with such joy. He taught me to cherish time with those we love. I talk to him still daily, and try to live life they way he did. I hope your time for tears come less often than your times for laughter. And maybe Leo and Jackson are chasing squirrels and lounging in the sun together, relaxing after a job well done. The job was to love us…. And they did, they did.

  2. I’m so, so sorry for your loss, Juli! When I saw the title of the post, my heart just sank and I gasped. I was worried something was wrong when you hadn’t posted on the blog or had a podcast lately. I am so sorry for the unimaginable grief you are feeling. Anyone could see plain as day how much you loved Jackson and would do anything for him. This post is a beautiful tribute to your soulmate. He undoubtedly basked in your love until his last breath. I hope your wonderful memories of Jackson will comfort you during this extremely painful time. I’ve always felt a Mom-kinship with you since I too have a (human) son named Jackson. You and Brian are in my thoughts! Take care of yourself and remember there are lots of people out here virtually who are thinking of you guys.

  3. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. I too lost our dog while I was pregnant with my first child. It was such a terrible time of grief – the most intense tears I’ve ever experienced. Our dog was my first son, he wasn’t just a dog. My first son’s middle name is his name. Many people will think it’s silly to name your child after a dog – but I know you would understand. The grief will lessen but never go away. Wishing you and Brian comfort during this time.

  4. Wow Julie, I am so sorry about the loss of Jackson, cause I know how much you loved him and what a huge part of your life he was! I was so sad to read that he had passed. I love what you wrote-you have grown and learned beautiful (though hard and painful) life lessons through this, it’s obvious. His life meant so much. I feel like through loving him, you will be so much more prepared for this precious baby that is coming your way. God gave you Jackson as a gift and his suffering was not in vain.
    Lots of love, hugs, and prayers coming your way from a long-time reader ❤️😘

  5. I am so very sorry for your loss <3 You loved him so much and did all you could for him. He had an amazing life because of you!

  6. I am bawling right now because you lost your pup and because your post was so heartfelt. It hurts. I lost my first dog when I was pregnant and the vet was worried about me because it just tore me to pieces and I could not stop crying. I have an ornament on our tree for her.
    Thank you for sharing that. I know it was hard to write but also healing.

  7. I’m so sorry for your loss. I loved following along and loved the bond that you two shared. I know that he loves you so much and you gave him the best life ever. You’ll meet again someday and right now he is happy and running free.

  8. Just over here crying & laughing & crying & loving your incredibly deep connection with a true puppy Angel. I’ve lost a couple of my puppy soulmates & they taught me more about life than I’ll ever be able to put into words. You are gift to this world & I can’t wait to read about this next amazing chapter in your life! Your heart is so damn big! It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing!

  9. I’m so incredibly sorry for your loss, Juli. I lost my Frenchie, Harley, 18 months ago and I still cry most days. The hole hasn’t gone away for me and doubt that it ever will, but it gets easier with time. Thinking of you. You and Jackson had a beautiful bond and so fortunate to share so many wonderful memories together. Hugs

    1. it’s amazing how shocking that loss still feels, i’m still surprised daily when i remember that i’ll never see him again. i’m so sorry for your own loss

  10. I’m so sorry for your loss Juli. I teared up as I was reading your heart felt post. To be honest I tear up every time I think of Jackson. I love him even though I never met him in person. My dog is my shadow. She too showed me love I never experienced before. Your relationship with Jackson motivated me to have a dog. I was never a dog person and now I can’t imagine my life without her. I have you and Jackson to thank for that love and I will forever be grateful to both of you.

    1. i feel the same way about people i follow on ig who constantly share their pets – when they are gone, i feel so deeply for them. and that’s so amazing my relationship with jackson motivated you to get your own dog, that’s so so beautiful!!

  11. I’m so incredibly sorry for your loss. I completely understand the immense pain of losing your fur-soulmate. We lost ours in 2017, completely unexpected. He collapsed while we were walking and was instantly gone…He was only 7 years old but he had lived a life of many issues like your sweet Jackson. We found our boy “Odin” on a street corner in 2011, dying of starvation, infected wounds all over his body, and dehydrated. We swooped him up from the street and rushed him to a local vet who saved his life. Over the years he had many medical issues due to his poor treatment prior to his life with us, but we always nursed him right back to health. Our love for him and our connection was deeply connected within our souls, just like you and sweet Mr. Jackson. Time eases the pain but there will always be that one deep love that leaves a void. It’s wonderful that you have journaled and found peace in the lessons his love brought you. Thank you so much for sharing with all of us. Sending you healing vibes and blessings ahead with your little girl 💜

    1. omg jen, that is so shocking and awful, i’m so sorry you had to lose him like that. and we’ve talked about how we hope our next dog just falls into our life, almost like Odin has for you. i’m so glad you’ve been able to give him a home!

  12. Thank you for sharing Jackson with all of your followers. It brought me so much joy seeing Panda’s face on my feed. I have a similar relationship with my pup, and I cannot imagine how hard this must be for you and Brian. This is so beautifully written and reminds us all to soak up all the small moments. You and Jackson were so lucky to have found each other in this world: best friend soulmates <3

  13. Julie, I lost my 5 year old soulmate cat extremely unexpectedly about a week after you lost sweet Jackson. Watching you navigate through grief so gracefully has really helped me. Thank you <3

  14. I’m so sorry Jackson passed away. I know that feeling of a dog cracking open your heart. For me that was our sweet bichon Zoe, who passed away last year. I’d had dogs before, but she was special.

  15. Hi, Juli. I’ve been off of social media since November 2021, and I came here looking for a new recipe to try and saw this post and I am just heartbroken for you. I lost my shepherd mix, Norman, last February and I still feel that loss in the depths of my soul, 13 months later. He was my foster failure (the only foster dog I kept out of 9). He had been hit by a car and spent 12 weeks kennel confined in my home while he healed from surgery (they put a steel plate in his back left leg). My god, he was a finicky eater in recovery, the only thing he would eat for weeks was shepherds pie, so I’d make a huge batch every week for him. He was 5 years old when I brought him home and I spent an amazing, long 10 years with him. He got lymphoma and I selfishly kept him alive for weeks when I should have let him go but couldn’t. He was my very best friend, my companion, my partner in crime. He helped me raise my kids and was there with me through a nasty divorce, he lived in the first house I bought on my own, and he died in my arms in that back yard (we opted to do in home euthanasia)… I am so sad to hear that Jackson is gone, but so grateful that you were able to have that intense, endless love for him, and him for you. There is nothing quite like the literal unconditional love of a dog. Just nothing like it.

  16. I lost our dog yesterday and it’s been one of the toughest things to go through. I turned to your posts about Jackson because I knew it you had similar feelings. I just want to say thank you for sharing this. Although, I am still heartbroken, it always helps to hear from other people who have similar experiences. Thank you again for sharing this with your readers. Zeplin will always be in my heart no matter how much time passes, just as Jackson will be in yours.

    1. i’m so so sorry, Tanya. just know that with each day, it does get better and it does get easier. sure, you’ll have some tough days along the way, but you’re continually healing and processing through everything. i’m so sorry for your loss. dogs are truly the greatest gift.

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