By Erika Webb
What better breed of dog for a legendary basketball coach than one who "loves to run, jump and fetch"?
Retired Stetson Coach Glenn Wilkes acquired his Jack Russell Terriers, Domino and Roxie, fairly unintentionally. He never expected the many life lessons they carried with them in their invisible suitcases.
There were so many that Mr. Wilkes decided to write a book: A Jack Russell Named Domino: Some Things Lost Are Gone Forever.
It is about loss. Domino lost his leg to cancer three years ago at nine years old. But as life so often demonstrates, loss has a paradoxical tendency to bestow innumerable gains. Those are what fills a large portion of the 122-page e-book.
The slow, low drawl of Mr. Wilkes' voice comes through in the pages of the book. He's a natural storyteller able to evoke tears and laughter simultaneously, as he describes Domino's larger than life personality and antics while unable to contain his love and admiration for his best friend.
"I write as if I'm talking," Mr. Wilkes said.
Roxie was given to his wife and him by their daughter, who asked them to keep her while she worked. Eventually, Roxie came to live full-time.
"We decided to let her have pups and then had her spayed," Mr. Wilkes said. "There were five little pups and Domino was the last one. It was a great experience."
Fear and disbelief beset Mr. Wilkes when he heard the words, "Your dog has cancer and his leg will have to be amputated."
Two more opinions revealed the same devastating news.
Mr. Wilkes had to walk through the fear. What he discovered is poignantly, comically, hopefully and educationally revealed in the pages of the book that turned out to be a very therapeutic endeavor for him.
"At first, amputation scared me, but it wasn't as bad as I thought," Mr. Wilkes said. "It was amazing to see him run to me the day after the amputation. It's been an amazing thing seeing how fast he could run with three legs. He'll see a squirrel and he'll take off and chase it as fast as ever."
During the week of the diagnosis, Mr. Wilkes began to take notes, journaling his own feelings of fear, uncertainty and grief. The note taking continued throughout Domino's recovery and advanced as a result of his admiration for the little dog's courage and determination.
Mr. Wilkes began to learn about the history of Jack Russells, their traits and characteristics along with the challenges and joys they present.
"You don't own them, they own you," he wrote.
The book contains anecdotes about other Jack Russells including "Krypto," Superman's dog and a real-life Jack Russell hero named George.
Domino's thoughts and perspective also are shared.
Mr. Wilkes said Domino enjoys the dog-park experience as much as any canine but tends to be aggressive toward larger dogs.
"The problem with Domino, when I go to a dog park or anyplace else, he wants to fight," Mr. Wilkes said. "He goes after the big dogs but almost sticks his nose in the air at little dogs."
Then there's the matter -- or not -- of the family cat.
"Domino never acknowledges the cat is present," Mr. Wilkes said. "He doesn't have anything to do with the cat, not a thing."
Matters of obedience, social skills, exercise, medical facts, coping mechanisms and, finally, valuable realizations all are packed into this compellingly honest account of one man's journey through the stages of unconditional love.
This was not Mr. Wilkes' first literary endeavor. He is the author of seven basketball books, including Winning Basketball Strategy, Basketball Coach's Complete Handbook, Fundamentals of Basketball Coaching, Basketball's Three-Point Shot, The Complete Book of the Flex Offense and How to Run a Basketball Camp.
In 1958, he originated the Glenn Wilkes Basketball School -- "the south's first basketball school," which he directed for 37 years. He's worked closely with all of the Nike Basketball Camps, directed the Shooting Stars Basketball Camp, the Shooting Stars Point Guard Camp, and the Shooting Stars Big Man Camp. He is assistant director of the Michael Jordan Flight School Basketball Camp for ages 8-18 annually in Santa Barbara, Calif.
"I don't do much work," he said of the Michael Jordan camp. "I ride around in a golf cart and check on the coaches, making corrections where needed. "It's been a great experience getting to know (Michael Jordan)."
Mr. Wilkes served as an advance scout for the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers from 1994 through 1998.
He earned the Central Florida Amateur Athlete 2000 Lifetime Achievement Award and selection into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame, the Nike Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, the Central Florida Sports Hall of Fame, the Mercer University Sports Hall of Fame, and the Stetson University Sports Hall of Fame.
He's traveled all over the world: Italy, Barcelona, Paris, Taiwan and Korea for basketball.
"I've had some wonderful experiences because of basketball," he said.
Mr. Wilkes is the site director of websites basketballsbest.com and worldclassbasketball.com.
"I'm an older person but I'll never be bored," Mr. Wilkes said. "I've stayed on the computer, learned a lot about it."
Recently he launched a website dedicated to teaching college students how to make an income online while they are busy attending college: internetmarketingforcollegestudents.com. And he's writing a book on the same subject.
Evidently he's passed some knowledge on to Domino who has his own website: ajackrussellnameddomino.com.
At 84, Mr. Wilkes moves with the times. With plenty of books in print, e-book publishing didn't daunt or feel beneath him. It made perfect sense.
"I decided to go to e-books with (some of) the basketball books," he said. "I read articles in newspapers about people doing e-books. I researched it and gained knowledge."
Kindle users can download Domino's story free and, for other e-readers, the cost is only $2.99. Those who want to sample the first chapter may go to amazon.com.
Mr. Wilkes said, at 12, Domino is slowing down a bit. Their walks are a little shorter these days.
"We take it slow," Mr. Wilkes said. "He's still eager to go, but not as far."
It may not be a stretch to say the teacher has become the student.
"I've learned a lot about Jack Russells. When I put those life lessons at the end (of the book), those stood out. That's where "some things lost are lost forever" came in. It made me aware of some of those things," Mr. Wilkes said.
Talking to him, one senses that some of the human tendencies toward fear, uncertainty and dread may have diminished along the way as Mr. Wilkes watched Domino cope with loss.
"If I got another dog it would be a Jack Russell, no question," he said. "I love them. I love the aggressiveness, the feistiness of them."