The Sunday Magazine: Jackson Year 4


It was four years ago on January 2 when we adopted Jackson from a rescue organization. Ever since the first post of the year in this column has been about his last year. I’ve also realized this post is a little bit about my last year, too. Plus Jackson is probably the second most asked about subject in e-mails.

Jackson Pre-Quarantine and Pre-Pooch

At the beginning of the year Jackson was an only poodle. Henry passed away the previous November. Mrs. C is the word on if or when we adopt another dog. I knew Jackson was going to have company when she started looking online to see what was available. By the end of February she had found a seven-year-old black poodle, Pooch, who’s owner was unable to take care of him anymore. We went and got him the first week of March just before everything shut down, including Poodlesville.

Just like most everyone else Jackson has spent the year in quarantine with us. Mrs. C and I made the decision early on to minimize contact with the outside world. Which meant that my two-year long process of acclimating him to the world outside the yard was also paused. Jackson was left entirely alone in the year before we got him. Which means he is very cautious at any new experience. Except other dogs.

Jackson (r.) providing Pooch with a resting place

When we brought Pooch home the two of them spent an hour in the back yard. I held an imaginary conversation in my head as Jackson gave him all the 411 on Poodlesville. One funny thing that happened is in our big back yard we have a stand of trees and shrubs we call “the island”. Every dog we have had has run around it without going into it. Pooch dove right in that first hour, bursting out the other side. Jackson stood there as if he had discovered a new thing. Which of course he had. When I look out in the backyard these days and can’t see them. I am likely to see two black dogs leap out of the island in a breakneck run to the porch.

Both dogs but especially Jackson have become my surrogate for human contact. I am pretty sure I have hugged him more this year than the previous three combined. He also has an ability to make us laugh which has been invaluable.

It looks like it will be a few months before Jackson and I can get back out beyond the confines of our yard. For now we walk the perimeter every day. Pooch has also taught Jackson to nip at the back of my heel to encourage me to play. This is the first set of poodles that have coordinated their play. I am often throwing a toy while the other one is bringing back “his” toy that I threw before. It has been funny to see both dogs choose to collaborate like this. My throwing shoulder is getting stronger as a result.

Like I said this is about Jackson but it is also a little about everyone else in Poodlesville. We are all looking forward to the day, soon, when we can be back out in the world.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Jackson Year 3

I would like to believe that my readership has grown over the nearly six years I’ve been writing Colognoisseur because of my way of communicating about perfume. That is true for many of you. One thing I am sure there are a lot of readers who visit because of Jackson.

Jackson is our standard poodle we adopted three years ago on January 2. I’ve given a yearly update on him and it has become one of the most read things on the site. Along with the number of people I get communication from who ask about him along with perfume. Jackson is definitely one of the most popular things here. Time to give you the update for year three.

The biggest change in his life was the loss of his older poodle pack mate Henry in November. For most of the time Jackson has been with us it has been Henry who passed along the rules of Poodlesville. He taught him to bark at the twilight deer who walk through our front yard. He also showed him that all squirrels belonged in the trees in our fenced back yard. He also showed him how to butt his head under an arm for attention. Jackson has gotten very good at that one.

Mrs. C has been very wise in how we deal with the passing of a poodle in our house. We have always taken the survivor with us to the vet on the day. After the vet had administered the shots and Henry was gone, we let Jackson walk over to him. It allowed Jackson to register, however dogs do that, Henry was gone. It kept Jackson from looking for Henry. I wish it would’ve kept me from looking for Henry in all his familiar places right after.

It has been interesting watching Jackson get used to be an only poodle. When there was another dog Jackson would scarf up his food immediately. Now eating is a leisurely all-day affair. When Henry was here the order on our sofa was Henry, Jackson, Me, and Mrs. C. Now it has changed to Me, Jackson, and Mrs. C. It seems like he is doing okay without a wingman.

The other ongoing project is getting him to be less scared of the world outside of Poodlesville. That is accomplished by my taking him for walks where he runs right into the new sensations in his world. He still perceives anything new as a threat running to put me in between him and the new scary thing.

What has been very gratifying to see is his interaction with a family I play Pokemon Go with. They have a young daughter who has become the only other human being Jackson willingly goes to. Whenever Jackson sees her his tail wags while he cranes his head forward for the ear scratching she gives him. He likes her Mom and Dad, too. He doesn’t shy away from them if we run into them without their daughter. This is tremendous progress for a poodle who viewed every other person as something to be frightened of. When he slowly wags his tail while getting scratched by his little girl, I smile all over.

For all of you who have asked; Jackson is doing very well. He might not have another poodle to snuggle with, but I feel he knows he has a lot of fans out there. Thanks to all of you who care about him, too.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Jackson Year 2


As someone who writes a blog and puts their words out there you have a question which is hard to answer. Is anyone reading? I have all manner of metric measuring tools which give me the answer in graphs and percentages. I’ve realized over this past year that fundamental question carries a deeper corollary. Does anybody care? The best analytic site can’t give me any insight into that. My best way of measuring that is a single sentence added to the end of a lot of the e-mail I’ve received this year. It goes like this, “Give Jackson a scratch for me?” Or “How’s Jackson?”

I introduced our black standard poodle, Jackson, here in this column a year ago. We adopted Jackson on January 2, 2017, what is called “Gotcha Day”, from a rescue dog organization. As I recounted in last year’s column much of the first year was convincing Jackson I wasn’t the scariest thing in the world. By the end of his first year that was mostly accomplished. It taught me patience and love can cure a lot of ills.

Henry (l.) and Jackson

The first year was giving Jackson the socialization he was denied for his first year of life before we adopted him. He came to trust his new pack members; me, Mrs. C, and our other older rescue poodle Henry. By the end of that year within the confines of Poodlesville he was a happy confident young canine.

One of the things that was left to do was take him out into the rest of the world outside of home. I knew he was going to go back to being scared. I just thought it was important to start giving him the chance to learn there weren’t dragons on the other side of the fence.

What this has meant is four or five days a week I put Jackson on a leash and take him on a walk. We are lucky to have many options within a short drive of home to walk him. To start I just took him to the wide common park in the center of town for a few laps around it.

Our first excursion was one of half curiosity half fright. Every noise and other person we walked past glued him to my thigh; making sure I was between him and the perceived threat. The tail was tucked the entire time we took that first walk. The worst moment came when we walked by the flagpoles and the wind made them clank against the lanyards. I thought Jackson was going to jump in my arms.

Jackson taking a nap on his favorite pillow…

Ove a few weeks things got better. The tail began to move upward. The sniffing began. He jumped up excitedly when I picked up the leash. He even cried at me one day when I drove by the park to use the bank drive-thru. He got very used to the commons. Except for Halloween. Our town has a scarecrow contest where various organizations put up scarecrows. As they went up Jackson noted them but seemed to ignore them. Until the one which was made from a posable skeleton reaching out towards the path was installed. Every time we got to that corner of the common Jackson would drop his tail and keep an eye on it until we passed. At which point the tail began to wag again.

Because of the scarecrows it seemed time to expand our horizons. I began taking him to a park which had a wooded trail. The trail remains a sensorial overload for him which vacillates between momentary fright and poodle inquisitiveness. He still isn’t fond of the way a dog in one of the houses barks at him.

One day we got to the park and the trail was closed while they did some repair work on it. There was still a large soccer field to walk around and I thought we could do that. What made this interesting was there was a team practicing on the field which was taking a break. I came upon one of the young men playing as we turned a corner. Jackson hugged in close to me. The boy asked if he could pet him. I told him to be cautious and bend down to Jackson’s level. He did everything correct in approaching an unfamiliar dog. Jackson was soon getting his ears scratched by a stranger. Unbeknownst to him was a few teammates had come looking for their missing man. As they approached, they began to scratch Jackson all over his back. Jackson’s eyes opened as soon as he felt the first unfamiliar hand. Then as soon as he was receiving an all over scratch his eyes closed in pleasure and the tail wagged.

Like my readers when we walk past the boys practicing they ask, “How’s Jackson?” My answer is to all who ask, “He’s doing great!”

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: A Year with Jackson


Mrs. C and I have had standard poodles in the house for nearly twenty years now. All of them have been adopted from rescue agencies. I have loved every one of them to the fullest extent of that emotion. All our previous family members came to us with physical deformities, mostly. There might be some lingering effects of abuse but that was small. A year ago, we picked up our latest rescue, Jackson, and he was full of emotional deformities. Over the past year it has been one of my favorite times with any of our poodles watching him slowly realize he had a family who loved him.

It wasn’t that way at the start. We picked him up on January 2, Gotcha Day. We had been out to visit him the week before to see whether he would be a fit with our other poodle, Henry. Our vet came along to let us know what other physical issues we might face. Jackson’s foster mother warned us he was not fond of men. I was told to leave my hat at home along with any expectations he would warm to me. On that first visit he and Henry played together. Mrs. C and our vet got him to come to them. What I received was a look that would be familiar for the next few weeks; eyes rimmed with white, cut to the side, while panting. To even lay a hand on him I had to lay on the ground while our vet gently moved him towards me. On the way home we decided Jackson would come join us at Poodlesville.

Jackson on the ride home on Gotcha Day

When we picked him up a week later the only one he trusted enough to get in the car with was Mrs. C and only in the backseat. You can see what that looked like above. For the first night in his new home Jackson wanted nothing to do with me. I was always on his radar and whenever I got close enough he moved away. It took remembering that he did relax into my hand once I got him close to me on our previous visit to believe it would eventually work out.. I just had to let him decide when that was going to be.

Jackson and Henry

It didn’t take long, a week or two, for the fear to be breached. When I wake up in the morning I grab my iPad and read the news while sitting against the headboard. Our dogs are welcome in our bed, but Jackson had not availed himself of it. Which was why I was surprised to feel him jump up on the bed. As I looked up over my iPad he began something which gets repeated most mornings. He commando crawled up to my crossed legs and laid his head down in my lap. On this first morning I froze. I wasn’t sure what to do. I kept reading and slowly laid a hand on his head, scratching the ear closest to me. Then amazingly he sighed and fell into a deep sleep as I felt the dead weight of his head settle onto my legs. Mrs. C woke up soon after and he jerked his head up jumped off the bed and looked back at her like, “You didn’t see that.” Later that same morning there was still the same keeping his distance from me which had become familiar.

Jackson and I on Gotcha Day + 1 year

From that beginning day-by-day, step-by-step, scratch-by-scratch Jackson and I have built up a typical relationship I have had with my poodles. We now play, tugging on toys, and fetch. He will bark at me when he wants to play. My heart swelled the first time that happened. Deep inside there are still scars and sometimes if I let out a whoop at something, I see the white-rimmed eyes of nervousness. What is different is he shakes it off and returns to me easily.

I have loved all our rescue poodles but the transformation of Jackson over this past year feels like a blessing. It offered healing to both of us. It was a scar for me that I had papered over for far too long. A year with Jackson has left both of us in a better emotional place.

Mark Behnke