I must admit that I am not much of an animal lover. It’s not that I don’t like animals. I would never want to see one hurt but I don’t know if I ever had a real attachment to a pet. There never seemed to be enough time in the day and a dog only added to the laundry list of things to do…feed them, walk them, pet them, bath them….The list seemed much longer until a week ago. An animal was nothing more than another responsibility.
One week ago today, I, along with my children, made the horrible decision to put our dog down. She had swallowed a toothpick that punctured her heart. When we arrived home we found her suffering. Within an hour of arriving at the vet we were listening to a doctor who we had never met before that the prognosis was not good. She needed open heart surgery and the extent of her injury and her eight years were nothing more than cards stacked against her. The success of open heart surgery was nil and watching her suffer was not what any of us wanted. It was so hard to see her transform from this happy-go-lucky dog to one that could barely lift her head. Equally, it was agonizing seeing my children struggle to say goodbye to a friend they had shared half of their lives.
They wheeled her in for our last chance to pet her chocolate-brown fur and hug her neck. She looked better than when she came in which of course was only going to be temporary. She came through the doors and I caught her eyes with mine. I realized then that I was about to lose an irreplaceable friend. We spoke softly to her and kissed the top of her head. It was unbelievable that we would never see her again and for the first time I realized Jessie was much more than a pet to us…she was our family.
Jessie came to us eight years ago. My grandmother was dying, my husband was leaving me, and my kids were still young. One day, I walked into my house and Jessie was snuggled up with my children…a surprise. I was not happy. Life was already too complicated. This was bound to make matters worse.
Yet Jessie did not let that small complication of my preconceived notions get in the way of us building a friendship. A friendship, I am afraid that I will grieve for a long time. She was my side kick, an assistant, a junior mother…and a confident. She never let our secrets out or breached our confidences. Instead, she would greet the kids at the school bus and walk them down the lane. She would catch every ball, including footballs, my children threw when I didn’t have time to play with them. Always happy to clean up any food that accidentally fell on the floor, her tongue would go into quick clean up mode leaving the floor spotless. She would guard our home and once in a while even bark at us when we came home to insure us that she was on the job.
This was a tough year for us. I left my marriage, took my kids and the dog and went to start a new life. My daughter became busy at school. My son was tied up at work and my other son was at practice of one kind or another. It was me and the dog…and sadness, fear, and at times…anxiety, but with her in the house…I was never lonely.
She was getting older. Her dark brown chocolate fur was turning gray in patches and she wasn’t as quick to get up anymore. She made our quiet little house a home again. I often found myself talking to her when I was aggravated by life only to be relieved not to have her back talk me in return. We had formed a bond. She was getting large and my daughter put her on a diet. I was sneaking her treats. Isn’t that what friends do? I felt like I understood her because I had my own struggles. Her breath was ungodly and she would lick you to no end if you would let her. Since our move into our new life she became almost overbearing at times and often seemed unusually needy. She was always laying her head on my lap provoking me to pet her. There were days I didn’t have time or I was busy making dinner. She didn’t hold it against me. She would just try again.
So a week has passed and her passing has left a horrible vacancy in not only our home but in my heart. I thought about her today and realized that she wasn’t putting her head on my lap to be petted because she was needy but because my old friend knew how much I was needy. Thank you Jessie, for showing me unconditional love and helping to raise “our” kids, our lives will never be the same without you.
Kisses Bellas and Kisses Goodnight to You Jess.