The most handsome, happy man.
I've kind of been putting off this post because it's another step in the "admitting it's true" direction, and that's still too hard to believe.
Having grown up with all sorts of animals and having maybe a cumulative year and a half of pet-less time in my whole life there've been some really awesome animals. Joker was one of them, and the best dog I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. Everyone who knew him, even everyone who just met him passing by or at the park commented on what a wonderful dog he was. No one didn't like Joker.
Staring down the ball.
Joker was the smartest and most obedient dog I've seen by far, and one of the most loyal, most loving and most eager to please creatures on the planet. Part of that was his breeding, but a lot of it was his personality. When you sat on the couch he'd come sit right next to you and put his head on your leg, staring up into your eyes with such unashamed adoration. If you didn't immediately respond with love he nudged you with his chest, then threw his leg up on you. He needed to be next to the ones he loved as often as possible.
I GOT THE BALL!
The mere sight of his leash or a ball or frisbee or the neighbor kids or anything that could be chased (rock, tree bark, water bottle, dart, some other dog's ball) he would wag his whole body with explosive excitement. Sometimes it looked like he'd fall over from wagging too much. At the dog park he almost completely ignored other dogs and people and stared at the ball like it was an enemy to destroy. He outran all other dogs in the chase, flew headfirst into wherever the ball landed, often coming back with a face full of dirt or grass but always an unmistakably happy grin of accomplishment. His teeth were so worn down because of his enthusiasm for playing. Sometimes he got so wound up over fetch that he'd throw the ball back in your general direction, too eager for the next game to bring it all the way to your hand. But just call him over and ask for it nicely and he'd put it gently in your hand. It took all of his self control to do that. It was amazing.
What he lived for.
Joker died quite suddenly on Halloween night. His absence has left a gaping hole in his family, his house is empty, and those who loved him have hollow hearts. People often live for animals more than they realize, and losing one, especially when he was the most amazing animal, can make life seem worthless. Joker was too young and far too good to die. He should have lived forever, or at least until right before his family died, so that way he'd never have to feel the pain of separation.
If there is a rainbow bridge or a heaven or a place where good souls go, Joker's is there. And I hope there is so he can see those he loved again, and so they can play endless games of fetch and so they can lay down, dog tired, together again.