Shootin' the Breeze

by "Bummer"

bummer @ abate

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November 2009

    (WARNING: This one is intended for you animal lovers. If you’re not one, or you expect and/or insist upon one of my usual columns….what I normally write, ya might wanna complain that it’s not the same old same old. Please don’t. Just turn the page and I’ll probably be here for ya next month.)

We buried our wonderful dog today.
    That’s a hell of a way to start a column that’s usually sorta humorous isn’t it? The only reason I even considered writing about this now is Jessie was a humorous dog, not in your typically funny puppy, bumbling way, but she always seemed to be in good humor and even seemed to always have a smile on her face. That, and I often write about things that are going down in my personal daily life anyway. Why bother to see a shrink when I can share things with thousands of people?

    Someone once said to me,....
“Bummer, every time I open the Outspokin’ I say to myself, ‘So, what’s happening with Bummer today?”
    Well this is what’s happening right now, and I wish it wasn’t.....

    I met Jessie the first day I went to my (then to be) wife’s house. Her dog Jessie at first made sure I wasn’t a threat to Julie, then smiled at me like, ‘Okay. Are you good people? Did you come to play with me?’ I looked at her and said to myself,‘Oh crap! She has a dog. What kinda problem is this gonna be?’ I smiled, petted the mutt, then the dog and I spent the next few hours glancing at each other in between the flirting and the passes I made at Julie.

    I soon found her to be the most gentle and, oddly enough, lady-like dog I’ve ever known. I mean the dog NEVER seemed to act badly. If something like a hamburger, or even a steak, was left on a tray in the living room, she wouldn’t even sniff at it, let alone gobble it up, no matter how long it was left there unguarded! She was never destructive. She never ran off or even go out of her yard once Julie walked her around and showed her the perimeter. She didn’t bark except when someone came to the door or was in our yard, and she never made a mess or slobber on anyone when she greeted them. And, she never bit anyone or attacked ANY other animal that wasn’t considered by her to be a threat to her family (including that time she nosed a skunk in greeting and suffered the results).

    Julie raised Jessie from a puppy, and the only reason we even own a leash is for the sake of other people’s concerns….and the law of course. Hell, I don’t think Jessie’s ever been tied up! To illustrate her self-control, she’s a 9 year-old Black Lab mix with webbed feet who LOVES to swim and has NEVER even tried to jump in our pool, though I’m sure the temptation has been excruciating for her, especially when we were in it splashing around, laughing and having fun.

    Jessie was raised with cats and kids. After months of courtship, when Julie agreed to move in with me, she brought Jess over to my place. We both were concerned how she’d work out with my cat, Pussy. Jessie walked up to Pussy to say hello and Pussy FREAKED! The poor cat spent most of the next two weeks in self-imposed exile in a corner of the basement. We moved her litter box down and actually had to take food to her to make sure she didn’t starve.

    Julie brought a cat with her too. Her name is Emmy. But she and Pussy seemed to get along just fine from the start, other than the fact that at first Emmy seemed to look at Pussy with disdain, as if to say, “What’s YOUR problem you little spoiled bitch?” Clear up until last night I’d get a chuckle every time I’d wake up in the middle of the night (which I do often these days) and find Emmy and Jessie curled up and sleeping together on the floor in the hall. Pussy eventually adjusted to the fact that her home would have to be shared by, what seemed to her I’m sure, illegal alien intruders, but she never joined in when it came to their sleeping arrangements at bed time. I guess inter-species lesbian threesomes just ain’t her thing.

    Later, when Julie and I married, Jessie was there. In fact Julie insisted on her taking part in the festivities, and I agreed whole-heartedly. The wedding was held outside and informal, and Jessie was supposed to be the ring bearer. But we decided against that just in case she’d get a whiff of a squirrel and would want to suddenly go play while we were walking down the “aisle”.

    Jessie was in her glory that day. We all ate roasted pig and EVERYONE gave her a little something from their plates. We were concerned Jessie would get sick from literally “pigging out”, but she was fine. Later that day, when we returned from a short bike procession (Jess NEVER minded the bike, except that she always wanted to come too), there she was, sitting there with that damned smile on her face and her long tongue dangling out.

    Over the past few years I’ve come to be amazed at just HOW perfect this fine animal and friend could be. And I’ve NEVER seen any animal and human have the bond that Julie and Jessie has, nor have I ever for one second been jealous or resentful of it. In fact I’m actually proud Jessie immediately warmed up to me. But whenever Julie wasn’t feeling too good Jessie would sense that and lie on the floor at her side, not budging until her best friend was feeling better, no matter how long it took. When Julie would go away without her for any reason, Jessie would sadly stare out the window, then begin whimpering, dancing around and wagging her tail when she’d see her mistress pull in the drive, as if to say, “Mom’s home! Mom’s home! Yippee!”

    Over recent months Jessie stopped smiling so often and she began to have more and more trouble climbing in the van or the car whenever we’d take her anywhere. I chalked it up to age and the hip displacement that occurs in most of the medium and larger breeds, but that wasn’t to be the case. Though Julie was sure something was terribly wrong when she began to notice mysterious lumps under Jessie’s skin, I managed to convince her to wait until the vet had a look at her before she should really worry about it too much. We had to help our 9 year-old pup into the van to take her for a check-up and some blood work. But then, as we awaited the results, Jess seemed to return to her old self and that warm smile returned to her face, making us both think things were gonna turn out fine.

    A few days later the vet called and we found out she had a rapidly progressive form of lymphatic cancer, has had it for 6 months to a year, and there was nothing we could do about it. Her suffering would quickly grow and the symptoms would multiply until she’d know nothing but pain. We helped her in the van one last time and took her to her favorite park, where she and Julie went for a walk among the trees as I watched from a bench. With her nose to the ground on the scent of something, I just knew she was tracking down someone or something to say hello to.

    We made an appointment to have the vet come to our house to put her to sleep when things started going downhill again and the vet reaffirmed it was hopeless. As we’ve sadly waited for these final days to crawl on, her soft, big dark eyes seemed to see and understand everything, though we pretended things were all right for her sake, and ours. Last night after all the “people food” she wanted, including a big bar of that chocolate she’s been denied all her life because it would lead to heart problems in dogs, Julie lay on the floor beside Jess and slept through the night with her arms wrapped around possibly the only being who’s NEVER ceased giving her unquestioned loyalty and devotion, and never really asked for anything in return except love….and chocolate. Of course I understood completely and it tore my heart out.

    This afternoon, after the vet left, we buried Jess behind Julie’s dad’s farm-house in a shady place wrapped in her blanket with her favorite toy, a ridiculous squeaky plush ground hog, and one of Julie’s old shirts. I almost lost it when that damned hog squeaked loudly one last time as I shoveled in the dirt. It seemed as though Jess was saying goodbye, and Julie again broke down in tears.

    Julie and I have both lost friends and family. But there’s something about losing your dog that can seem to affect a person on an entirely different and almost deeper level. I think the only people who can’t understand this are people who’ve never known a truly great dog. If you’ve been lucky enough to find one who has accepted you into their pack or, as in the case of Julie and Jessie, have bonded as closely as they have, you’ve lost someone who’s very life has been completely centered around you. You’ve given them a reason to exist. A purpose. And Jessie has fulfilled her purpose completely.

    Goodnight old girl ......,

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