Gero-Punk Preoccupation: Betty and Jake

We saw Jake and his human Betty almost every day when we (Happy-the-dog and me) walked or ran in our park.

Both Jake and Betty were gray on their tips and edges. They’d both seen quite a lot of life though not at the same velocity. As for Happy and me: Happy is gray on his chin and I have gray stripes, just in case you are wondering.

Happy and I and Betty and Jake would always stop to chat. Even if Happy and I were on a run and trying to beat our last time, we’d stop and keep pace with Betty and Jake.

Last fall, sometime in November, we realized we hadn’t seen Betty and Jake for quite some time and so we began to wonder. And then we began to worry because their usual park routine was so far from what we had come to count on.

And then one time when we were walking in our park, a bit before winter began, we ran into Betty but Jake wasn’t with her. Betty wasn’t walking in our park, she was in her car driving by the park and she’d stopped her car and rolled down the window so she could talk to us and tell us that Jake had died of old age.

We told Betty we were quite sad and sorry to hear this though we had wondered if something had happened to Jake because we hadn’t seen him and Betty in the park for a few weeks.  We asked Betty if we could do anything and she said it was really difficult to live without Jake. I (but not Happy) suggested that it was very important that she continue to take walks even though Jake was gone. And I (but not Happy) told her that I would be happy to take walks with her any time.  Betty thanked me.

We haven’t seen Betty since then and that was in the late fall, before the winter solstice, before the winter holidays. Every day when we are in the park running or walking we look for Betty but we’ve never seen her.

We have a general idea about where Betty lives (and where Jake used to live). We know what Betty’s car looks like. Today at the end of our walk in our park we did some reconnaissance at Betty’s condominium complex to see if we could determine exactly where she lives. We had in mind that if we saw her car and determined which condo she lives in we might knock on the door and invite her out for a nice walk. But her car wasn’t in the parking lot and so we abandoned our mission.

I don’t know about Happy-the-dog, but I can’t quite yet give up on my search for Betty. I know how devastating it is when one’s creature-companion goes back to the stars.

I also know how our dog friends walk us though we think we are walking them. And how important this silly pretend misunderstanding is for keeping we humans engaged in the wide world. We think we are taking care of them. But they are taking care of us.

About Jenny Sasser, Ph.D.

I am a freelance educational gerontologist, writer, community activist and facilitator. I am former Chair of the Department of Human Sciences and Director of Gerontology at Marylhurst University. I joined the faculty as an adjunct member of the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program in 1997 and since that time, I've been involved in designing many on-campus and web-based courses and programs for adult learners, including in Gerontology. As an undergraduate I attended Willamette University, graduating Cum Laude in Psychology and Music; my interdisciplinary graduate studies at University of Oregon and Oregon State University focused on the Human Sciences, with specialization areas in adult development and aging, women’s studies, and critical social theory and alternative research methodologies. My dissertation became part of a book published in 1996 and co-authored with Dr. Janet Lee--Blood Stories: Menarche and the Politics of the Female Body in Contemporary US Society. Over the past twenty (or more!) years I have been involved in inquiry in the areas of creativity in later life; older women's embodiment; sexuality and aging; critical Gerontological theory; transformational adult learning practices; and inter-generational friendships and cross-generational collaborative inquiry. I am co-author, with Dr. Harry R. Moody of Aging: Concepts and Controversies (now in its 10th edition!) and first author, also with Moody, of the recently published Gerontology: The Basics, as well as author/co-author of several book chapters, articles and essays. I am on the Portland Community College Gerontology Program faculty.
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2 Responses to Gero-Punk Preoccupation: Betty and Jake

  1. Erica says:

    Oh Jenny, so true. Your words are so comforting. xo ew

  2. Helen Fern says:

    Yep. I walk my cats, yes on a leash – and my Boudicca certainly does walk me.

    Your concern for Betty is what keeps me thinking positive of humanity. With so much ugliness in our world, connecting with one another in small ways becomes huge. Thanks for sharing – I’ll think positive thoughts that you find Betty soon!

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