One Last Thing

A Memorial For A One-Of-A-Kind Dog

Jessie came to us at about 9 months of age. Her adoption was unplanned, but arose from a “love-at-first-sight” encounter at a sidewalk ASPCA event where I was hanging out waiting for Dee to finish a hair appointment. Jessie’s very first challenge was to win over existing dog, Shri, who was not immediately sure what to make of the interloper.

It was only a matter of time.

We came to learn that Jessie’s story began with her on the streets; a stray. By the time we adopted her she had missed the socialization window, and was afraid of just about every unfamiliar thing or person. She never entirely outgrew that. I guess, being dog pack oriented, she took to some other dogs (at first), but humans were dicey animals. Eventually we won her over, up to a point.

Crate training accomplished its intended goal, but at a price. Unwilling to be contained, we got the cold shoulder when we were around, and escape attempts were constant when we weren’t. She’s the only dog I’ve ever heard of chewing a hole in linoleum trying to find a way out of her kennel. That spirit of determination would mark the rest of her life, and we just had to learn to roll with it.

I’ve offered descriptions of Jessie elsewhere. For the rest of this tribute, though, I’m just going to select some of my favorite photos that I feel depict some of her prevalent traits. Even so, this falls far short of conveying the challenges and joys (oh, what joys!) of life with Jessie. You had to be there.

The only other thing I believe you need to know about Jessie is that she, for me, was the best dog in the world, and a one-time flash of lightening. I will miss her, reflect on our time together, and love her forever.

Loving

Sometimes aloof

Curious

Playful (and immodest)

Watchful and protective

Demanding

Impatient

Pensive

Diva

Engaging

Adventurous

Sweet and majestic

Beautiful in latter years

Lover of chairs (and beds) by windows

Lover of walks

Lover of snow

Lover of school buses and UPS trucks

Deeply loved by Dee, Maxx, and me

Release

It has been, now, 5 days since Jessie died. It has been a very bad week for me; self-recriminations, the sadness of loss, forced new routines, and the need to redefine my purpose. I am wondering this morning if the depth of my struggle might have something to do with my hyper-vigilance in trying to keep Jessie well, comfortable, and as happy as possible. I believe a core wish in all of that was to keep her alive for as long as I could. If so, her death last Monday was a failure. I let her down (in that story).

I can’t really go back and rewrite the stories that informed my actions and beliefs while I was Jessie’s caregiver, but I can edit those stories going forward. On examination I think the story closest to the truth is that I did the very best I could with whatever gifts and limitations I brought to the practice of caring for Jessie. Within reason I always gave more weight to her quality of life, over quantity of life.

Even so, with a host troubles and (likely) bad genes, she lived to a ripe, old doggy age of 13 years, and some measure over that. 12-and-a-half of those years were spent in the loving care of Dee and myself.

Considering the prospects of the thoroughly untrained, unsocialized, baggage-laden, broken, stray puppy picked up by the Charlottesville/Albemarle SPCA all those years ago, she did pretty well for herself.

There will undoubtedly be moments ahead when I look for her, and find heartache instead. I am certain I’ll find myself thinking of her, and long for her company. I don’t believe I will ever stop thinking of her as “the best dog in the whole world.” But I think it’s time I let her go, holding only her memory and the love in my heart.