Jackson Is Only One of My Dogs Summary

Pam Houston


In Pam Houston's short story "Jackson Is Only One of My Dogs," the narrator opens by comparing herself to one of her dogs. Jackson, the narrator claims, was once suicidal, tending to place himself in precarious positions, such as challenging a wolfhound to a duel. Likewise, the narrator has just started dating a man who loves the song "Desperado."

The narrator actually has two dogs. The other one is just the opposite of Jackson. Her name is Hailey, and she is gentle. Jackson, on the other hand, is really a human who has become trapped inside the body of a canine. The narrator admits that Jackson is her favorite and also the bad child. Jackson is well-known to the dog catcher. And at one point, the dog is accused of biting a young boy, but the boy probably was lying; there were no teeth marks on the child's skin. Nevertheless, the dog-catcher takes Jackson for ten days to make sure the dog does not have rabies.

Debra is the narrator's best girlfriend. Debra continues to advise the narrator that the boyfriend she has is no good. Finally, the narrator breaks it off with this guy who loves "Desperado" and finds a gentler man. He is a kinder man who understands women's secrets. She plants a garden with this man. Because of this new boyfriend, the narrator stops thinking about skydiving, she says, and starts dreaming about having babies.

But one night, after her new boyfriend has fallen asleep, the narrator remembers one strange incident she had with her dog, Jackson. She had been hiking when she and Jackson came across the carcass of a cow. Jackson's reaction was to sniff the dead animal and then climb inside the cavity of its ribs and refuse to come out. Jackson stayed inside the dead cow for the rest of the day and through the night.

Los Angeles Times reviewer Judith Freeman referred to Houston's short story collection Cowboys Are My Weakness (in which "Jackson Is Only One of My Dogs" appeared) as a "brilliant first collection." By Houston sorting through her memories of cowboy-type boyfriends and their influence on her, Freeman found the result was "stories that strike at the heart" of what makes the male/female relationship so complex.