We met Jack and Mickie during our stay at MacDill AFB in Tampa, Fl. The encounter took place at the dog park we visited every day, just like them, but apparently never at the same time up to that point. Jack and Mickie were already inside the gated area, designated to four-legged companions looking to have some fun, when we walked in with Richey. Thinking nothing would be different that day than the rest, we released Richey from his leash and watched him bounce over to a beautiful, mostly all white, Husky and Chow mix dog donning a pink collar to let everyone know she’s a girl. Not that there was any doubt, however. She’s beautiful, even stunning, and had a lady-like trot. Her name is Mickie. Richey was very interested in getting to know Mickie, but we were nervous that such a sophisticated creature wouldn’t be the slightest bit interested in his childish antics, or getting her beautiful coat dirtied by some immature pup. We thought he might annoy her more than anything, and feared he’d leave the park without having made a friend.
Even though Richey’s only six-months old, he has a way of winning over everyone, and I’m sure he was thinking he just needed a little time to win over Mickie, too. But as it would turn out, Mickie didn’t need any convincing at all. She was game! She’s beautiful, proper and every bit the lady, but she’s also energetic, loving and just as playful as Richey. Looks AND personality! Richey was in heaven. In no time at all, Richey and Mickie had become best friends.
While Richey and Mickie were carrying on like they had known each other for twenty years, we started talking to Mickie’s two-legged companion, Jack. It wasn’t hard to dive right into
conversation since Jack is a laid-back sort of guy with a friendly disposition. He’s witty and hilarious with a sense of humor we appreciated, so we were immediately drawn to him. He’s also retired from the military and a full-time RV’er, so we had plenty in common and lots to talk about. He also loves Mickie very much, which stood out the most. We spent the next hour or so getting to know each other until it was time to go, but we made sure to make a standing play date for Richey and Mickie so they could see each other every day until one of our little families moved on to another city or state. We leashed up Richey and walked him back to our tiny home as Jack walked Mickie back to theirs. Richey kept looking behind him at Mickie as the distance between them grew greater. It was adorable. He already missed his friend. When we got inside our home, Richey peered through the window for hours just in case Mickie decided to go back to the dog park and mistakenly forgot to invite him. Richey was just beside himself. He never exhibited that type of fondness for another dog that lasted beyond the initial meeting, but apparently, he saw something very special in Mickie.
From that day forward, for about a week and without fail, Richey and Mickie would meet at the dog park. They would be so excited to see each other that they would jump up and give each other what looked like a hug. They would run around, chase balls, play fight and sometimes just chill out, but they did everything together. And while Richey and Mickie were busy nurturing their newly found friendship, Jack, Hakam and I worked on a friendship of our own. As we watched our furry companions have the best of times, so did we. We chatted, cracked jokes and became a little more familiar with each other. And since Jack is much more familiar with the RV’ing lifestyle than we are, when we weren’t being entertained, we were learning something. The time just seemed to vanish.
We learned that Jack and Mickie’s next stop was Key West, Florida, just like ours. Unfortunately, they were leaving MacDill AFB before us and their time in Key West would conclude before we got there. So, as each day passed, the inevitable loneliness Richey would feel became a little more real. They were best friends and the best part of each other’s day, and we knew he would take it hard. As for Jack…. well, we grew quite fond of him, too. It’s impossible not to. His infectious personality makes you want to be around him. He had become just as much a part of our day as Mickie had become of Richey’s. We knew we would miss him.
On the last play date Richey and Mickie would ever have, we all met at the usual spot. Richey and Mickie were of course elated to see each other, as usual, and went about their play time none the wiser it would be their last. It was almost heart-breaking to watch. But then, surprisingly, Jack advised he extended his stay in Key West so that he would be leaving at the same time as us! Apparently, Mickie had a bad case of the “Richey’s”, and I would presume she spent the previous night convincing Jack to make some changes to their reservations. We were thrilled for Richey, and expressed as much, but secretly thrilled for us, too.
Jack and Mickie left for Key West that following morning, but in just a few days we would be joining them at the same campground. It was a long few days for Richey, though. He moped around and the dog park just wasn’t the same. He was excited to get there every day, hoping to see Mickie, but was quickly deflated when she was nowhere to be found. There were other dogs there, sure, but play time wasn’t the same because he was always on the lookout for Mickie. And when at home, he became a permanent fixture by the window hoping to catch a glimpse of her. If only Richey understood the human language, he would have known there was no need to be sad because he was only a few days away from seeing Mickie again. Richey just missed his friend.
The day finally arrived when we headed to Key West. We drove through torrential downpour to get there, but we made it. We arrived late, so we didn’t meet up with Jack and Mickie until the next morning. But what a spectacle when we did! You would have thought a year had passed since Richey and Mickie saw each other, and of course they jumped up and gave each other one of those hugs. And as we expected, the two picked up right where they left off, as did Hakam, Jack and I.
We all hit the town of Key West several times during our week-long visit. We went to Mallory Square for some street entertainment and a sunset, the southernmost point for a photo, and Duval Street for a little gift-shopping. We walked the lived-in neighborhoods while admiring the homes and landscaping, and we shared some great meals accompanied
by even greater conversations. We swapped stories, laughed a lot, and took-in Key West together. Each day we learned more and more about Jack, and each day we grew fonder and fonder of him. What an interesting guy with a fabulous personality! It’s safe to say we were drawn to Jack from the very beginning, but the time spent together revealed all the reasons why. Just as Richey had found something special in Mickie, we found something special in Jack.
On the morning of our departure, Richey and Mickie spent their last minutes close to one another seemingly saying their goodbyes. It was bitter sweet. We were so happy Richey made a friend like Mickie, but we knew the heartbreak that was sure to follow when he would no longer get to spend time with her and fail to understand why. We, on the other hand, always knew our time with Jack would come to an end, which is why we wish he wasn’t such a great guy. This go-around would be just as tough for us as it was for Richey the first, and soon to be last. And with that, Jack and Mickie climbed into their tiny home and slowly drove away. Contrary to what we thought, Richey seemed to understand exactly what was happening as he watched his friend move farther and farther away. The look in his eyes, and the tilt of his head, said it all.
It’s been a couple weeks now since our split and Richey still thinks about Mickie. Whenever there’s a white dog in the distance, Richey stops and stares intensely trying to figure out if it’s her. And if we say Mickie’s name, Richey’s ears immediately perk up as he runs to the window in our tiny home and looks out hoping to see her on the other side. As for Jack… he’s thought about and talked about often. Sometimes we’ll see the same RV Jack and Mickie travel in and strike up conversation about him, or we’ll see a Cuban restaurant and remember the great meals we shared and conversations we had, or we’ll simply sit down for dinner in our little home and talk about the friend we miss. We’re so happy we took Richey to the dog park on that particular day and at that particular time, because if we hadn’t he would have missed out on something so special with Mickie. But it’s possible, however, that Richey took us to the park that day, just as Mickie took Jack, so that we wouldn’t miss out on something special, too.
They say the best part about traveling is meeting new people, and I can believe that’s true. But when you’re lucky enough to cross paths with someone like Jack, and his travel companion, Mickie, like we were, the best part about traveling can also be cruel. We miss our friends, and we’ll never forget the great times spent together in Tampa, Key West, and the Everglades. We still keep in touch with them, and hope to meet up again on the road somewhere so that Richey and Mickie can pick up right where they left off, and Jack, Hakam and I can do the same.
Jack and Mickie – Thank you for giving us the most valuable gift in the world…. your time. You and Mickie jumpstarted our “life on the road” with a great experience, which validated our decision to travel full-time and inspired us to carry on with great expectations. Your positive impact on us will be shared with others. Until we meet again….