Inconsolable. That’s pretty much how I felt as Janet and I held our Black Labrador Retriever, Jet, in our arms as his life slipped from us. It was a heart-wrenching ending of the life of a dog that has been my inseparable companion and confidante for almost 15 years. His wonderful disposition won the heart of all who met him. No one or nothing could make him angry or cause him to lose his temper. His life had one purpose—to please me and to be with me. If I could be as good a Christian as Jet was a dog, it would be as close to perfect as a human could achieve. I got Jet as an anniversary gift in 1998 when he was not quite 7 weeks old. I held him in my arms nonstop for the first 5 hours we were together, and we bonded as surely as man and dog can unite. It was only fitting that in his last hour on this earth, he was again in my arms. He lived his first 8 ½ years in the Governor’s Mansion of Arkansas which was about as great a life as a dog could have. When I wasn’t there, he was pampered 24 hours a day by the rest of the family and the staff of the mansion, all of whom knew that “nothing better happen to that dog!” He was my fishing buddy and my hunting dog. Some of the best days of my life were spent in the flooded timber duck woods in Arkansas during duck season when Jet would show his speed, focus, energy, and sheer tenacity to retrieve. In my boat, Jet had his very own place riding at my feet as we ran full speed across Lake Greeson or down the Arkansas River. Once the boat slowed to idle or a trolling speed, Jet immediately took his place on the bow, always with his face joyfully positioned as far forward as was possible. News stories were written about him, he graced the cover of magazines and a campaign billboard, and he even had his own trading card. His life as “First Dog” was one to be envied. My staff used to joke that in another life they wanted to come back as Jet, meaning that my devotion and unconditional love for that dog was exceeded only by his even greater devotion to me and his unconditional love. He taught me patience because it never irritated him if I was late, or had “one more thing to do.” He taught me forgiveness for he never withheld his affections or love even when I broke a promise to throw things for him to retrieve or to reward him with a treat. He taught me to relax—so much so that in campaigns, the staff actually plotted for ways to keep him with me because his ability to lower my blood pressure and keep me tranquil was visible and palpable.

Jet asked for nothing except for basic necessities and a little bit of attention. For that, I enjoyed his unflinching loyalty, fidelity, and his calming presence. I loved that dog and always will. There was never a day that Jet didn’t make me laugh in the almost 15 years we were together. Only on his last day with me did he make me cry. Please don’t tell me “He was just a dog.” You might be “just a person, “ but Jet was my best friend and was there for me when everyone else had given up on me, or simply had gone to bed. It was never too early in the morning or too late at night for Jet to be with me. He fathered some great dogs who are spectacular in their own right, but as far as I’m concerned, there will never be another like him. Some people doubt that dogs go to heaven, but I don’t have any doubts. If heaven is a place of the best, then Jet will be there. When I make it, I won’t be surprised to see him there. I just hope he isn’t surprised to see me there.

Comments 1-5 of 101

  • Richard T Favara

    08/03/2014 09:29 PM

    Sam, my black lab also died in my arms. I wrote this the evening I came back from the crematorium. I still don't know how I was able to put this on paper in one evening. God's hand is certainly in play when it comes to the connection between a dog and his human partner.

    Suddenly I Understood

    to God, for my friend Sam

    I remember when he was young, eager and gay,
    I was old, but still young enough to play

    Time gave him intelligence, and a great friend he became,
    but with that time our ages became the same;

    I was amused at the gray, beard and muzzle together,
    but I refused to see the arrival of this difficult last chapter.

    Sam was so smart, I knew he could count,
    and intelligent reasoning, why he had that without doubt.

    We celebrated the tranquility of autumn,
    I in denial, he innocently unaware of that beating drum’s increasing volume.

    And then that day broke with no warning,
    autumn suddenly was winter bringing its relentless tears of mourning.

    Here in that overwhelming moment, I unexpectedly understood!
    Our roles were now reversed; my place now is where Sam stood.

    His unconditional devotion gave me peace and helped me to believe;
    now the next difficult and arduous step is mine alone to weave.

    Sam, my dear unforgettable friend, it seems your life on this earth is now done;
    I pray you pass in peace back to the arms of God, who clearly only made one.

    R T Favara

  • Denise Clark

    02/09/2013 11:52 PM

    We, too, had to say goodbye to our almost 15 year old retriever mix dog, Pepper. She is buried at my parents' farm, facing east in the barnyard that she loved to spend time when we were vacationing. It was truly her second home. My dad (83 years old) lovingly dug the resting place for her, and even made and painted a cross to mark her grave.
    Maybe you've seen this exerpt, but if you haven't, I hope that it speaks to you as it did to us. It sounds like our Pepper...does it sound like Jet? We are truly sorry for your loss...

    Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride.
    Allow the experience of fresh air and wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
    When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
    When it's in your best interest, practice obedience.
    Let others know when they have invaded your territory.
    Take naps and stretch before rising.
    Run, romp, and play daily.
    Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
    Be loyal.
    Never pretend to be something you're not.
    If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
    When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by,
    and nuzzle him or her gently.
    Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
    Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
    On hot days drink lots of water or rest under a shady tree.
    When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
    Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
    No matter how often you are scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout. 
    Run right back and make friends.

  • Nancy Burlison

    02/09/2013 01:00 PM

    Dear Mike~
    I just read your tribute to your beloved Jet. I tried to read it right after your loss but it was too difficult. We lost our precious Brittany/Springer "Griffey" on August 4, 2010, to lymphoma. Our hearts still grieve as he was our baby, our child, our constant companion who gave us his sweet and constant unconditional love. He had just had his 11th birthday.
    You are so right!! Our Griffey and your Jet are in Heaven. Through a "divine appointment" with a Christian lady we did not know, my Husband was lead to pray about our depression. But he was lead by the Holy Spirit to add: "and God if You would, let Nancy see Griffey in Heaven." In that split second I saw him playing (tugging and pulling) on the bottom (the hem) of a beautiful robe. He was fully healthy and happy. I knew instantly it was Jesus' robe. God is soooooo Good to us!!! He meets us in our sorrow. Also, I realized later the date of that beautiful peek into Heaven - - it was August 28, my younger sister Kathy's birthday. She was murdered by a total stranger at the age of 40. Kathy loved Jesus and served him boldly. So I know our Griffey is being loved on by Kathy till we get there. We can hardly wait for that great reunion - - and all because of what Jesus did for us on the Cross. God Bless, richly, you and your family. Thank you for sharing your heart with us about Jet. It means more to us than you can know.

  • Sue Rosinbum

    02/03/2013 10:15 PM

    Mr. Huckabee, I am so sorry about Jet. I read your tribute, and it brought tears to my eyes. I know all too well about the loving bond of a dog, as I had to put down my border collie mix in Nov. It is so hard. I understand.

    I help on a pet memorial page on Facebook called "Rainbow Bridge".... someone requested that they do a memorial for Jet. How can we get it to you? It is free, and it is a photo that you can print off and frame. They did one for me when I lost Skip. I wrote you a message on your Facebook page. Can you or one of your staff get back to me on this? On Facebook, I am Sue Stratton Rosinbum, and I just sent you a message. If not there, email me at the email address above to let us know how to get that to you. Thank you. Sue Nashville, TN

  • Claudette Rheaume

    01/31/2013 07:09 AM

    Dear Mike my thoughts and prayers are with you. My giant lovable blond golden Maximus past away in our arms yesterday Jan.30 2013. Feb.17 2001 he was born. He almost made it to 12. I know our buddies are in heaven. When we get there they will probably say " So what took you so long?" My tears and prayers are with you.

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