There are probably no more than three reasons for this writing project, but there is only one fundamental motivating force bringing it into practice. That would be Jessie. Jessie is, to all outward appearances, just an ordinary dog. A mutt, really. Easily identified as a mix of Labrador Retriever and German Shepherd Dog. Thin and rangy, she has a wolf-like look and lope. Skittish, vulnerable, and slow to warm to those she doesn’t know, and know well. Always, always a challenge to me. And she is the best dog in the whole world, because I have decided that she is. In this way Jessie has taught me about the finer points of unconditional love.
She came to us when she was just shy of her first birthday. That was almost 12 years ago, as of this writing in early 2018. Jessie was a challenge out of the box. Having spent much of her first year a stray, she knew nothing about sharing space with humans, other dogs, with anyone, really. She didn’t know the rules, or the ropes. I’d like to be able to tell you that through deft perception, keen insight, and a steady hand I was able to bring Jessie along into being a dog acclimated to the world of humans, solid in her confidence of self and me, and an example of loyal obedience. The true story is that neither one of us had a clue from the start. We built a relationship from the ground up, in spite of libraries of books, classes, and behavioral consults. It was somewhere in all of that struggle that I decided to love this dog, no matter what. That for me, though I have known many, many wonderful dogs, Jessie is The Best Dog In The World. *
The idea and inception for this writing project coincides with the beginning of 2018, and the middle of Jessie’s 12th year (she will be 13 in late May, 2018). The signs of her aging are now achingly evident. The youthful pitch-black muzzle is now completely white. Her bark has softened, and become hoarse. Once endlessly curious about walks and unshuttered windows on the world, she now spends most of her day napping. Most distressing, her legs are beginning to fail her. Possibly arthritis, perhaps a neuromuscular ailment common to her German Shepherd side, or maybe just the effects of age, whenever I see it my heart breaks. I know the time remaining with her is less than I want it to be.
So it is that I wish to honor Jessie by giving her careful thought and attention, and to chronicle the closing days, months, dare I hope for years of our journey together. I want to give this more than passing thoughts, but delve into the experience of serving this dog. I hope to explore ways of coping, ways of accepting, how to make this more about her, and less about me. And, if I can avoid feeling overly self-conscious about the writing, I will try sharing this with others who may be curious and interested.
Those three reasons I mentioned at the beginning? 1. I wish to fulfill a promise to myself to write, 2. I wish to be more conscious of this life I have been given, 3. I wish to stop endlessly scrolling through social media, yet still be expressive to anyone wanting to listen.
But, more than anything else, this is about Jessie.
* Closely followed by her younger “brother”, Max.