This is a true story about one of the many breeds of dogs I once owned. Ginger, as we called her, was a short-legged, short-haired, short-tailed, little stick of dynamite — known as a Jack Russell.
Before we get to Ginger’s story, I think a little story on how the Jack Russell breed actually got started is in order. Like many historical beginnings, the breed known as the Jack Russell terrier began as a quest. In this case, it was a quest for a better hunting dog. This story began somewhere between 1815 and 1820 in the rolling hills around Devon, England. Fox hunting was considered to be the sport of that day and time. Hounds and horses were used to chase the wily foxes, but when the fox took a hole, some type of smaller dog had to be used to get the fox out of the hole. Mostly, some type of small terrier was used for this purpose.
Seems a reverend by the name of John Russell, the vicar of Swimbridge in Devon, decided he wanted a more efficient fox-hunting terrier. Rather than search the world over to find a perfect hunting companion, Parson Jack, as he was affectionately known, decided to take the best dogs he could find in the area and breed exactly the type of terrier he sought. Thus the Jack Russell terriers were born.
The original female was a terrier named Trump — don’t know for sure if she is any relation to our new president or not. Stories say that Trump was predominantly white, with only a patch of tan over each eye and a penny-sized dot at the base of her tail. Her coat was wiry, and she sported a short tail. Her little body was strong and sturdy. She was between 13 and 14 inches tall and possessed all the traits Parson Jack had been looking for in a hunting dog.
In spite of Parson Jack’s preference for a white coat, the first mating is thought to have occurred between Trump and a fine young terrier with a black and tan broken coat. The resulting litter created history as the foundation stock for the Jack Russell type of terrier.
My first encounter of owning a full-blooded JRT happened on a Saturday morning as I was hitting all the yard sales in the area. So happened I stopped at a house in East Rockingham where a guy had a moving sale sign in front of his home.
As I browsed around looking over his merchandise, I spotted a cute little Jack Russell tied on a chain in the man’s back yard. You could tell she wasn’t very old and was one of the friendliest dogs I’d ever seen. “Reckon you going to take this dog with you,” I asked the man. “Not if’en I can sell her,” was his answer.
Well, for only 50 bucks, I bought a dog house, a bag of dog feed, a chain and a little energetic dog that loved to ride.
Now, my wife has long-since known that when I go on a buying or trading spree, ain’t no telling what I might bring home, Yes-sir-re, anything from a pig, a boat or a shotgun. But this time, it happened to be a little white and tan (ginger) colored Jack Russell.
Naturally. we called our new dog Ginger and she took to our farm like bees to honey. She made friends with all the other hunting dogs — but her and the cat, why, they just didn’t see eye-to-eye. Ginger kept the cat treed so much that he must have thought he lived in a tree.
Won’t long, as most JRTs naturally do, she started digging holes in our yard looking for moles. Rats and baby rabbits didn’t stand a chance cause Ginger would seldom give up until she caught whatever she got after.
Ginger followed me or led me everywhere I went on the farm. The garden was her favorite spot. Why, while I was pulling corn or gathering squash, she would chase lizards, snakes and rabbits out of the garden.
Ginger loved kids and would lie on her side expecting a full belly rub from each of the grandkids when they came for a visit. I could always tell when Ginger was fast asleep because she would lay on her back and stick all four feet straight up in the air and snooze away.
Why, even those long-legged hounds of mine found it tough to leave Ginger behind. She would run right along with them, not barking a lick. My neighbors thought it was the funniest thing watching Ginger run along with the big dogs while they chased a fox or a deer all around our neighborhood.
Ginger was a wonderful little pet and hunting dog but she had her faults. For some unknown reason, she hated utility trailers or boat trailers. She would try her best to bite the tires right off the trailer as it went down the road. That’s the reason she got run over the first time, by darting out in the highway after a pickup pulling a trailer load of trash down the highway. She got lucky that time, coming out with only a few bruises. I thought she had learned her lesson, but a few years later her luck ran out doing the same thing.
All my family missed little Ginger, because she had brought so such joy and entertainment to our daily lives. I don’t know who took her death the hardest, me or my grandchildren. “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” Losing a pet is similar to losing a good friend. You can’t replace them, so you just hang on to their precious memories.
So if anyone of you ever decide to own a Jack Russell terrier, they make great pets and provide lots of entertainment; however, be prepared for their high energy level and ball-of-fire type of attitude. You might also need a good shovel handy to cover up the holes they’ll dig in your yard and garden. Another thing, if’en you own a cat you might not want to own a JRT either — unless you want it to live in a tree.
J.A. Bolton is a member of the N.C. Storytelling Guild, Anson County Writer’s Club, Anson and Richmond County Historical Societies and author of his new book, “Just Passing Time.”