When I first ask Jacob to sit with me over coffee at the Eterneva offices to chat about his late pet Miss Piggy, we have to reschedule a couple times.
He’s a busy man, after all, coming in to work by 7 a.m. to leave by 3 p.m. to check in on his newly expanded family (he is in the process of adopting his pre-teen nieces). Nothing can budge him from those commitments –– a lesson he says is bolstered by his work helping grieving families find the right memorial option for those they’ve lost.
When we finally do sit down, it’s late afternoon. He’s packed up and ready to go at 2:30, done with his calls for the day and on a single minded mission.
You wouldn’t know it, of course. His nonchalant demeanor is misleading, at best.
“I don’t care,” he says to my thanking him for staying to chat. It wasn’t a shake off, if it reads that way. “Don't let [the time] affect this in any way. Take as long as you need.”
It’s the perfect opening to our conversation, a moment that captures the essence of a colleague I’ve gotten to know day by day over the last 3 months.
He is at once stern and un-shaking, and then, in a blink of an eye, kind and compassionate. He’s the type of man to work with those who are grieving every single day, to adopt his nieces and raise them as his own, to name his dogs Miss Piggy and Taylor Swift.
It’s those layers I’ll have to peel back to through the interview, shrouded as a conversation. My goal is both innocuous and demanding: “Tell me the story of one of the most painful losses of your life.”
I don’t phrase it this way, of course. Not yet.
The Bonding Mechanisms of Farting
Miss Piggy didn’t yet have a name when she first ventured into the vet’s office. Jacob left the name section of the paperwork blank.
“An ex-girlfriend had a Boston before we got Miss Piggy, and she wanted us to go look at another one. So, we went and looked at these different Bostons and we saw Piggy. She had this funny little nose. I just decided that was going to be her.
I didn't have her name picked out or anything like that. Honestly, I didn't have her named picked out until I was at the vet's and waiting for the vet to come in. That’s when Piggy did this snort thing, and it sounded like a pig. It just hit me: ‘Miss Piggy.’”
It was an apt name, not only for the pig reference, but because similar to the puppet character, this Miss Piggy was pumped full of personality –– and completely fearless of the repercussions.
“It never mattered how big the other dog was, Miss Piggy would stand her ground. There used to be this mastiff who lived near us. His name was Blue. He would just bark and bark and bark at her. He was huge! And Miss Piggy would just stand there perfectly still, not move as he got closer and then as soon as he was in distance, she’d bite his lip!”
With people, though, she didn’t have any biting bones in her body.
- She was a chaser of any ball you threw, refusing to come back without it in her tiny mouth.
- She was a lover of swimming, so much so she needed a life jacket to stay out longer without getting much too tired.
- She was also a farter.
“Bostons are very gassy dogs! Anyone who's owned a Boston knows this,” Jacob says through a smile.
“They are extremely gassy and one day I was driving with Miss Piggy on my lap. Suddenly, the smell hit me and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness!’ That’s when I looked down and unfortunately it was not passing gas.
“She had just gone to the bathroom all over! She was sick, and it went all over me! Luckily, I was near a car wash. I pulled over into the car wash and just washed my car, myself and her.”
It’s a memory that’s etched into Jacob’s mind, a story you get the sense he thinks about often, a time which bonded person and pet through sickness and health.
But more sickness was to come, and far too soon.
An Unexpected Prognosis, Miracle, and Not So Happy Ending
Miss Piggy was likely born with a heart murmur. And like so many things, it wasn’t a problem until it was.
In one of her regular checkups, the vet noticed the heart murmur had progressed significantly. The vet was concerned.
“Our vet said at the stage Miss Piggy was at, she'd never seen a dog go more than 12 months,” says Jacob.
He was heartbroken, but confident, as is his nature.
He started taking Piggy in to the vet multiple times a month for check ups to monitor progress. And it was in one of those that the new of the murmur took a backseat.
Miss Piggy had a tumor, one that wasn’t there two weeks prior at their last visit. It was growing quickly –– giving her a prognosis of two weeks to live.
“I was a mess. I remember sitting in my car crying for an hour crying before I even drove anywhere. It was just so scary. What was life going to be like without her?” Jacob says.
“Then, I texted my vet at midnight, saying I do not accept this! I was being completely irrational. But we couldn't do surgery because she wouldn't have survived the surgery with the heart problem. And I wouldn't put her through that.”
Instead, Jacob’s goal was to make her as comfortable as possible and embrace every moment he had left with a dog who had seen him through a break up, went to work with him every single day, and was his comfort and support system.
“I didn't leave my house. If I went to the grocery store, I’d be gone maybe 10 minutes. Then, I’d come back and wouldn’t do absolutely anything else. I just stayed with her throughout those two weeks.”
Those two weeks became three, and then four.
He worked it out with his boss for him to work from home to be close to his dog. The vet started coming to his house for Miss Piggy’s appointments.
Life revolved around keeping her comfortable.
And then, a miracle: the tumor started shrinking. Miss Piggy’s two weeks to live diagnosis dropped away. It just didn’t matter anymore.
But her 12 months was coming up.
A Fighter to the Very End
Prior to her diagnosis (and through the entire ordeal), Miss Piggy was a fighter. Not just for herself or against the bigger dogs, but in everything she did.
“She’d protect her other dog friends. She was definitely the leader,” Jacob laughs.
And she was incredible athletic, being able to jump onto a ledge at least 5 feet in the air –– quite the feat for an 18 pound Boston.
Nothing stood in her way.
- Not a tumor.
- Not a heart murmur.
- Not a textbook prognosis.
It was 18 months after she was given 12 to live that Miss Piggy passed.
Jacob’s boss at the time, Jay, brought over flowers and cards. His new girlfriend, Sarah, took care of chores and meals as Jacob mourned.
“I remember just getting up in the middle of the night and knowing she just wasn’t there. I’d just grab her jacket she always wore during the winter time, and just hold it on the couch and fell asleep that way.”
“It was all just really, really difficult. I remember my first day back to work. I sobbed for 30 minutes at my desk. Miss Piggy had always come to work with me, every single day.”
Back at home, Miss Piggy’s physical absence could be both heard and felt. Sarah’s dog Calvin was there, but no longer was the sound of he and Miss Piggy playing. The house felt empty.
“It was like this big empty space now, because she just owned the room,” says Jacob.
Later, Jacob and Sarah (now his wife) would adopt Taylor Swift. A Frenchie with the same gassy ways as the Bostons, Jacob explains.
“I wanted to get another dog. To give her my love that wasn't able to be given to Piggy anymore. I had love I needed to give to another dog,” says Jacob.
“But, I just couldn't go to another Boston. It was just going to be too traumatic. I was just going to judge her against Miss Piggy, and that wouldn't be fair. I do like the short nose dogs, though, so that's why I decided to get a Frenchie.”
Taylor Swift and Calvin.
Miss Piggy’s Pink Diamond Comes Homes
After Piggy passed, Jacob worked with a pet loss center to get her paw print and a nice urn for her ashes. He then put that with other of her items including a picture in a shadow box.
He thought that’d be what he had left. A memory box, of sorts, for the most important pet in his life.
But in 2018, he won the employee of the year at Eterneva and the co-founders made a decision that would alter his memorial of Piggy, and his relationship to Eterneva customers forever.
Everyone had heard the stories of Piggy –– and so the offer was made to turn her ashes into a diamond. Jacob accepted, and chose a .25 carat pink diamond to honor her name, and that cute, pink little snout that earned it.
“Now I'm going through the journey, which gives you such a different perspective. You get one perspective when you work with people who are doing this for their pets and loved ones, and that gives you so much learning about the kind of relationships that are important in this world,” says Jacob.
“But when you go through the journey yourself, it’s just so different.”
First was the process of getting a ½ cup of ashes.
“I remember I had her ashes on my desk. Garrett asked me, ‘Do you want any help with that?’ I said no. I wanted to be the one to do it,” says Jacob.
“I remember a single tear rolling down when I was doing that because I had never touched the bag or opened it up. I wouldn't have had the need. I wouldn't want to spread her anywhere. I wanted to keep her with me. So yeah, that was a surreal moment, doing that.”
Throughout the Eterneva journey, Jacob and other team members send regular updates to customers about the progress of their loved one’s diamond. After all, growing a memorial diamond takes 7-11 months.
But each step along the way is a moment of reflection, one that so many people share with their friends and family, moments that flood the memories back, those that bring a smile back to your face.
And one day when sending those updates to his customers, Jacob ran across Miss Piggy’s.
“We send these amazing updates to our clients, and one of the updates is the carbon video, where they get to see the carbon after the ashes or hair has been purified. Anyway, I was doing that one day, sending the updates to the customers, and I was going down the list and grabbed the next one. Then, I was like, ‘Oh, this is Piggy!’ I didn't know I was doing that. I didn't know her video had come back that day,” says Jacob.
“It was a crazy moment. I had to just take a step back and kind of really let it all sink in. This is her. It’s how I felt with every update, from her rough diamond to her cut diamond. For the colored diamond, though, I asked not to see a picture. I want to be surprised.”
And surprised he was.
For Miss Piggy’s homecoming, the Eterneva team went on a team lunch to a local brewery. There, our video crew was set up and Jacob was indeed surprised. Miss Piggy’s diamond came out the perfect shade of pink ––– a VS1 quality from the IGI (International Gemological Institute) grading report.
Now, Jacob will put that diamond in a black watch to highlight the pink hue, and catch his eye as well as anyone who looks in the watch’s direction. It’s a sentimental piece he’s proud to talk about.
“Miss Piggy’s diamond is the size of my wedding ring now, and like my wedding ring it ranks right up there with my prized possessions that really have sentimental value. The only other thing I can remember that I have that is similar beyond my wedding ring and Miss Piggy’s diamond is a seashell that my mom got me before she passed away. I still have it to this day, almost 30 years later,” says Jacob.
“Miss Piggy’s diamond is one of those amazing things that truly means a lot. We have all these material things in our life that we love and that we think are important, but if you really lost them, would you care after a month that it's gone? No. I want possessions that mean something to me, that carry my story and the story of those I love with me through thick and thin.”