By EB Tucker
Until last week I (E.B.) was excited to tell you about something very interesting I did in June. That’s going to have to wait.
On Thursday I got some difficult news. Friday I got confirmation with a second opinion. After several tearful days considering what he might want I’ve decided to let my best friend go tomorrow (Monday).
I’m sure you understand I can’t think about anything else right now. That’s why instead of telling you about something exciting I’m going to share with you a few details of an incredible nine year journey with the most unique creature I’ve ever known…
Tomorrow Afternoon I’ll Say Goodbye To My Best Friend
Nine years ago right now I was in a serious rut. I was thirty years old. I was just out of what I like to call a “practice marriage” in my late 20s that set me back a few years financially and emotionally. On top of that I now know I was growing up.
I hit a fork in the road around that time. I had some habits and behaviors keeping me from my full potential. Letting go of them wasn’t as easy at the time as it seems to be in retrospect.
I decided getting a dog would make me feel better. On a referral from a neighbor I put a deposit down with an old breeder in Lakeland, FL. Weeks went by….no dog. I drove over to confront her and she admitted the business went bust. She confessed to a pain pill addiction. She admitted that when I called looking for a dog she took the deposit because she needed the money. We ended up in small claims court the next month where I got my $500 back. No dog though.
Weeks later I came home on a Friday night. I was miserable. It seemed like I was so stuck I’d never get anything going. To be honest, life didn’t seem fair. What I know now is life had me right where I needed to be. It had me ready for an incredible transformation.
I turned on a rickety Hewlett Packard laptop I bought to aid my search for rental properties in the wake of the housing crisis. If you know my story that idea eventually turned out to be a gold mine for me. In the summer of 2009 I’d nearly given up my hunt as the price collapse was still underway and seemed like it would never end.
Out of sheer chance I looked on the County Animal Services website. I searched the inventory of dogs up for adoption. Here’s what I found.
In addition to being what looked like a pure bred Labrador, this dog looked out of place. Since I had virtually nothing going on I drove out to see him the next morning.
Turns out they took the first photo in a holding cell. When they walked me back to see him in general population they had him caged with a savage pit bull. He had 3 puncture wounds, two on his head and one on his right cheek. The pit attacked him and took his food. Seeing this jolted me.
Unfortunately someone else saw him online too. An older man in his 70s showed up first thing and put his name down for adoption. The staff said I could be the alternate but not to hold out much hope. They only take one name for adoption and one alternate. In this case I might want to pick out another dog.
I went home a little rattled from the experience. I didn’t know anything about him at the time other than no animal deserved to have his lunch stolen by a savage pit bull while trapped together in a 6-by-6 cell.
Two weeks went by and I expected the older gentleman had beaten me to the punch. At the time I thought here we go, another example of how life is unfair. Now I know that’s complete nonsense. Life unfolds exactly the way it’s supposed to.
What happened next was the first example of a lesson my soon to be best friend would teach me thousands of times over nine years. He proved to me again and again that life unfolds exactly the way it’s supposed to. Fighting it, fearing it or trying to cling on to what you think is supposed to be is utter foolishness.
A Call That Changed My Life
On a Friday in August I got a call from a surly county employee. “You can pick up Black Jack tomorrow between 8:00-11:00 AM. He’s being neutered today.” My response was, “Who’s Black Jack, why’s he being neutered, and who are you?”
The frustrated county worker told me they found a chip in this Labrador and called its owner. The owner came in and said, “His name is Black Jack, he’s crazy, he tried to kill my cat, I gave him away, I don’t know what happened to him after that and I don’t want him.” She surrendered him to the county. They neutered him and called the older gentleman who said after playing with him he was too rowdy and he’d pass. I was the alternate.
Up until the phone rang that day I was a malcontent stuck so deep in a rut a tractor couldn’t get me out. When I hung up I felt a wave of fear realizing that tomorrow I had to pick up this crazy beast. Worse yet I’d sign county forms making me legally responsible for him.
Little did I know that call was the first step on a journey so incredible that if anyone told me what was coming in advance, I would not have believed them.
Let The Journey Begin
The next day I picked up Black Jack. That was his given name on the paperwork so I kept it.
I had an old beat up Volvo at the time. It was on its last leg. Black Jack & I walked to the car tugging each other fiercely in opposite directions. I loaded him in the back seat and took him home.
The first day was a disaster. He reared up onto my counter and swung his snout back and forth knocking everything over looking for food. I tried to give him a toy duck and he jumped on me from behind as if he was going to mount me. The whole day went like this. I was so disturbed by him I did a Google search for Labrador Rescue just to see if they offered secondary adoption.
Around 10:00 PM I got up from the couch and muttered “screw you” under my breath. I walked to the hallway to go take a shower. I turned around and he was sitting upright, staring at me with his head cocked. For the first time all day I felt like maybe this guy is not a total monster. He was likely thinking the same thing.
What I know about my friend now is when your first owner locks you in a crate all day, gives you away, you end up on the streets eating from dumpsters until the dog catcher nabs you….you develop an edge. I have that same edge.
People that get to know me professionally are shocked when I tell them I left home at 14. That I dropped out of the 10th grade. That I ended up at a reform school in Northern Idaho where students were physically abused, more than one died at the hands of staff and suicide was common.
The difficulty I had early in life stoked a fire in me. I’m aggressive, fearless and determined. These are good qualities in moderation. Prior to the period I’m describing now I used them to excess. It wore me out. It wore out the people around me. And, it didn’t really get me what I wanted. Black Jack had the exact same experience.
It Didn’t Take Long
Within months we were inseparable. Every morning, I mean every morning, we drove to a nearby park and sat on the seawall.
I’d talk on the phone, bitching and complaining, worrying, and wasting energy on things that didn’t matter. Black Jack would patiently watch the birds waiting for one to land so he could attack.
One day as we sat there I had a unique vision pop into my head. It was so crystal clear I couldn’t doubt it. This was a superconscious flash. I looked at Black Jack and said to him, “You’re here to teach me how to be successful, meet a gorgeous woman who will be my soul mate, and to have a son…..then you’re going to pass on.” He licked the side of my face and turned back to birdwatching.
I felt sad for a moment, and then looked at him. He wasn’t sad at all. To him, this journey was his purpose. There’s no reason to be sad, worried or unsure of what’s next in life. You’ve got what you need. The things you don’t have yet will show up in your life exactly when you need them, not before, and not too late.
We Walked The Golden Path
Let me tell you how good things got…
Within months we bought 6 rental properties for pennies on the dollar. I liquidated my entire retirement account, paid penalties on the withdrawal and put it all to work. Black Jack went to work with me every day fixing the houses, renting them and collecting our money. I still own 4 of those today and collect 20% per year on my total investment after all expenses. I don’t have a mortgage on any of them and a property manager friend handles everything.
I already had this plan but hadn’t been able to execute well. The deals fell into my lap once I got out of my own way. All I had to do was show up ready to do my part every day with a confident attitude.
Black Jack taught me about confidence. Confidence is walking into a situation knowing that whatever you find you’ll be able to deal with. It means letting instinct guide you in every decision. He never showed undeserved aggression. He never cowered in fear, ever. He was confident. He radiated it and every creature he came in contact with could feel it.
With the houses up and running I had income. I dedicated more time to writing my blog. While it didn’t pay well I had things to say about the world and a place to say them.
That took me to a gold conference in early 2011 where I met my good friend and business partner Brett Heath. We hit it off. He’s the best gold equity analyst I know. I’m the best communicator he knows. We joined forces and launched a fund.
Black Jack listened to every conference call, argument, and success I had for nine years. He likely knows more about stocks, the economy and certainly the gold market than any person you’ll ever meet.
Over tens of thousands of hours he watched my energy. When I got twisted, he’d stare at me with piercing eyes, or he would deliberately ignore me. It was as if he said, “Let go man…..Did you forget that you’re on the golden path? Stop fighting it and just walk.”
Things Kept Getting Better
In 2013 gold took a dive and we ran into trouble at the fund. I wrote our stakeholders a letter returning capital and advising they hold on to the first class companies we owned. I on the other hand started worrying what I’d do next.
Every day we went to the park, took walks, and took rides in the truck. I worried, Black Jack enjoyed himself. He kept trying to tell me, “Let go….everything is just right.”
I started negotiations with a hedge fund that wanted me to take over institutional sales in New York. It was a good job. I’d make upwards of $1 million a year once I had the job under control. The downside was I’d have to leave Black Jack with friends while I did it. That unsettled me.
Around the same time I reconnected with Porter Stansberry. We were introduced socially by a fraternity brother of his who I knew. I sent Porter a message and he invited me to Baltimore to meet in person. I didn’t see this as an interview, more of a way to shake up another opportunity.
I took my best three articles from the blog, printed them out and bound them into a mock newsletter. I titled it The Heretic Letter. I told Porter I was different from most people. I see things before they happen. I tell people about them. While that sounds appealing it’s actually a trait that ends up getting you tied to a stake and burned.
To my surprise Porter burst into laughter. If you’ve ever met him he has a laugh that can shake a building. When he regained composure he said, “E.B. come work for me.”
To be honest I didn’t take him seriously. I didn’t really understand his business. He told me he knew I was a great stock picker and he read some of my work. He invited me to come to Baltimore and spend six months picking stocks for him and writing his letter. At the end if it wasn’t fun he’d give me one month’s pay as severance and we’d shake hands. I said I’d think about it.
On the way home I sat in the back of the plane fighting tears. I thought if I said no to the New York hedge fund gig I was abandoning my career. If I said yes I was abandoning Black Jack. A week went by and I decided screw the career working with a bunch of jerks. Black Jack & I went to Baltimore.
And Better and Better and Better
After two issues Porter insisted that I make a commitment to working with him. I wrote his letter with him for a year and a half. I wrote with Bill Bonner in the first six issues of his monthly letter. I wrote Stansberry International for a year. I wrote The Casey Report with Doug for three years and now I have the privilege of writing to you every month.
My investing success really kicked off in 2010 with the deal of a lifetime on rental houses. Things got better and better. Even when I had losses they were learning experiences.
Today I’m on the board of directors of a gold royalty company and my friend Brett Heath is the CEO. I’m in literally dozens of deals public and private. I have more opportunities to look at than I can physically process….even with the help of John Pangere who’s the most reliable analyst I’ve worked with. And yes, Black Jack met and approved of John.
My personal life is an even greater success. I don’t have much of a relationship with my family. I love them, but we have very little in common. We also have a troubled past. I let that go some years ago.
If you remember, Black Jack promised me success in my personal life too that day on the seawall in 2009. I had several great relationships in the coming years. Some ended in tears, most ended in apathy.
After spending much of 2014 living in super-hip Venice Beach, CA Black Jack & I moved back to Florida. We had a lot of fun in California. I dated a vapid soap opera actress who I thought surely had to be the one…thankfully I was wrong.
Black Jack & I drove back to Florida together around New Year’s 2015. Within 90 days the owner of my favorite yoga studio told me one of the teachers asked about me. Not even knowing which one I said, “Sure, set it up.”
Turns out Stephanie is a goddess in every sense. She is the most caring, compassionate, loving, attentive person I have ever met. What’s surprising is that she’s also a 10. She is truly a natural beauty inside and out. She knows me as deeply and intimately as Black Jack knows me. There’s not one thought I have that I wouldn’t share with her if it was necessary. She is my soul mate.
His Vision Had One Final Piece
The last part of Black Jack’s promise to me was I’d have a son before he left my side. In late December last year Stephanie and I had a son named Grant. He’s incredible.
I didn’t stop to think about what Black Jack promised me on the seawall that day until this weekend.
Earlier this spring, in the chaos of handling a newborn, being on the board of a company, running a newsletter, and the delusion associated with infant sleep deprivation I noticed Black Jack’s abdomen was a little swollen. I didn’t think anything of it.
A month later I asked Stephanie to change his diet a little and see if it helped. It did. The swelling went down about 25%. In June it came back. I still wrote it off as age-related. After all, we think he’s 12 now. In Labrador years that’s an age where your physique deserve a little grace.
Last Monday I went to the Casey office in Delray Beach to have lunch with my publisher Amber Mason. We talked about our dogs, personal lives and life in general. I like working for Amber because we handle business in a few minutes and spend the rest of the time talking about what really matters.
On the drive home Tuesday night Stephanie told me Black Jack threw up three times while I was gone. That’s unusual and also telling because he doesn’t like to show weakness around me. He clearly felt bad.
I took him in Thursday and had an ultrasound. The doctor told me his abdomen is full of fluid. The likely cause is a cluster of tumors growing on the right side of his liver. They’re wrapped around the gallbladder, liver bile duct and small intestine area. His right kidney also looked affected because he’s starting to show elevated toxins usually filtered by the kidneys.
The doctor’s advice to me was to make arrangements to say goodbye soon, at least within two weeks and as soon as I’m ready.
On Friday I had a separate doctor look at the data. He came to the same conclusion only adding the tumors appeared to be malignant. He encouraged me to consider giving Black Jack the gift of passing before undoubted severe pain set in.
His Last Day
Tomorrow morning we’ll wake up, eat something special, likely steak, and take a walk around the neighborhood before traffic picks up. Then we’ll drive out to a canine rehab center where Black Jack has had hydrotherapy for his arthritis for three and a half years. He loves it and the staff is enamored with him.
The therapy helped him get around as old age set in. Tomorrow he’ll get to have closure with his harem of admirers. They’ll get to have closure with him, their favorite patient of all time. Part of me thinks “favorite” in this case was influenced by the fact that most owners aren’t going to fork over the cash required to pay for 100 rehab sessions over three years.
I have a different way of looking at things. Black Jack is my best friend. The universe sent him into my life when I was useless. He was in trouble. We got together and started a journey. He never once said no to me. I’ve tried to never once say no to something he needs, even if it’s inconvenient, and especially if it’s expensive.
After his final session tomorrow we’ll drive home in the pickup. I have an F150 work truck at the house. It’s his favorite. He sits upright, swollen belly and all, and stares out the window as we ride. Looking over at him I’ve always thought he has his own plans of what he’d do if he could take the wheel. Keep in mind, over the course of our relationship we drove as far north as Pennsylvania, as far south as Key Largo and as far west as Venice Beach, CA. We’ve logged a lot of miles together.
Just to give you some idea of the ground he’s covered, Black Jack stayed in a Ritz Carlton hotels three times. He rode in a Porsche. He swam in the Pacific Ocean at legendary Point Dume north of Malibu, CA. He was once in a bikini catalog walking with a model holding his leash while the producer held a treat 10 feet ahead to keep his attention.
I don’t have enough space to list what we’ve done together. I can only say that for nine years I’ve never worked in an office while leaving him at home. I’ve never been away from him for more than two weeks. The longest trip was to France while working with Bill Bonner. Bill sent me on to Sicily to investigate a village selling houses for €1. I couldn’t say no.
I don’t have to tell you that what I’m about to do is going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I have to say more than goodbye to my best friend. I have to say, “Thank you, you did your job, you are a good boy.”
Black Jack is of course physically a dog. My connection is not with his physical body. It’s with his consciousness. That’s what I shared my life with. That’s the loss I have to mourn.
I decided to say goodbye tomorrow because I know that things are about to get very difficult for him. I sat with him this weekend, sobbing of course, and told him what I thought we should do.
I told him I know he’s in pain, I know he’s throwing up when I’m not home, I know his abdomen is swollen and filled with fluid. I know he can’t properly go to the bathroom and is starting to have accidents. I told him this is all OK. But, I wanted to offer him the gift of letting go now while he’s still able to enjoy a steak dinner, or three. While we can let him go from his bed at home where he’s comfortable and not a sterile emergency veterinary clinic late at night when he’s in agony.
Malignant tumors clustered on your liver is not something that improves in this case. At twelve years old in a Labrador it’s death by torture if someone doesn’t offer a way out.
My fear of loss, of living without someone who’s been by my side every day for a decade is not important right now. I have the chance to save my best friend from agony and pain I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. My instinct tells me it’s the right thing to offer him and tomorrow afternoon is the time, after he’s had a beautiful day doing everything he loves.
While this won’t be easy I do know what to do. Black Jack taught me how to live life with confidence. Confidence is not fearing loss. Loss is part of experiencing anything of value. In this case the pain will match the gift he gave me. I will never forget this journey. How could I?
Goodbye Black Jack. It’s OK to let go. You did your job here. You saved me from myself. You showed me what was possible if I get out of my own way. You loved me unconditionally. That’s how I love you. Now you can let go and know that I’ll be OK.
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