Jeremy Miller wasn’t looking for a dog when Jack found him almost 13 years ago. Miller, then a divorced single dad raising a young son, was living in Maryland when a friend called about a stray found wandering the streets.
“I had just lost a dog so I didn’t think I was ready for another but there was something about Jack. I was going through a rough time and he was my rock,” Miller tells PEOPLE of when he first took in the now-14-year-old Parson Russell terrier.
Miller remarried and he, wife Kim and son Shaun moved to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, about six years ago. They all agree that Jack is the best part of their family.
“He is just there when you need him, he can go from zero to 100 and play with you or just cuddle with you on your lap. He always knows exactly what you need, he’s my BFF,” Miller shares.
A few years ago Jack lost an eye to an infection and never skipped a beat. But a few weeks ago the dog’s family noticed his breath smelled bad and when they went to brush his teeth, blood came pouring out of his mouth.
They rushed him to the vet’s office, where they soon learned that Jack had cancer — an aggressive tumor in his upper jaw — and would likely make it just until Christmas.
“At first it was your worst nightmare. We were just an emotional wreck, but once we took a deep breath and my wife and I put our heads together, we decided to keep it positive. I’m a firm believer dogs sense if you’re happy or sad and hopefully it will help him. Maybe it sounds silly to some people, but if he can stay positive and we get an extra month with him, we owe that to him,” Miller says.
So they came up with a bucket list — things they thought would make Jack happy in his final days. Jeremy also created a Facebook page and posted about one of the first things on the list: “We wanted to take him on a boat ride to this uninhabited island so he could run free. I was willing to pay for the fuel but I needed someone with a boat.”
In minutes they had about a dozen responses from people with boats. They’ve also had people offering up spa visits, a state trooper offering a ride in his patrol car, and toys and gifts pouring in from people who have heard about Jack’s bucket list.
“The level of community support has been amazing,” Miller says, especially since the area is still recovering from a direct hit from Hurricane Florence. “The outreach from the Wilmington community with everything we’ve been going through, people are still displaced … it’s amazing,” he adds.
Miller says Jack loves any kind of ball and anything having to do with the water. His family hopes to take the pup to a petting zoo and to the mountains. They continue to add to the list often.
“They say he’s gonna go downhill in a matter of a week, so we’re trying to get in everything we can,” Miller shares.
Once the dog is gone, his family wants to create a foundation in Jack’s honor to help other families give their beloved pets “one happy day” toward the end.
“We’re trying to make the most out of our time with him and when he’s gone, we want him to live on, helping other folks … that’s all we need,” Miller says. “As much joy and love as he’s given us all these years, we have to do something big for him and the community is helping us make it happen.”