HIS NAMES WERE MANY.
Jesse, Jess, The Boo Boo, Needy Boy, Worry Wart, J, J-Man, J-J, Captain, General, Sweet Pea, Sweet, Sweetness, Poo-Poo, Poopsie, Poopster, Delicate Boy, Tough Boy, Alpha Man, Little Man, Mister.
TODAY, I’VE BEEN TRYING TO REMEMBER AS MANY THINGS ABOUT HIM, HOPING NEVER TO FORGET.
When he would lie down next to you, he would always have some part of his body touching yours: a foot, his back, or best of all, his head against your leg or foot.
If you walked up to him, he might roll on his side and stick just one leg out straight with the hope that you might be interested in rubbing his belly. And if you were interested, he would most certainly let you, for as long as you wished.
If you tried to trick him with some kind of slight of hand, he would look at your face instead of trying to figure it out.
When he got nervous, he would yawn, usually while doing a downward-dog, then upward-dog, perfectly, without the aid of a yoga instructor.
When he got separated from the family “pack” he would let out an almost blood-curdling yodel-like cry.
He tended to panic and race around if confused.
Even his annoyances were amusing.
He was needy.
If he got the slightest thorn prick in his leg or foot, he would hold out his leg at 90 degrees like a wounded bird and wait for his “mom” or “dad” to rescue him. Sometimes as I would inspect the affected leg/foot, I would find nothing wrong, and after a brief massage, he would scamper off.
But also one day up on top of our hill, he got into a fence-fight with a neighbor’s dog, and in the attempt of sticking his head underneath the fence, or extracting it back, he flayed wide open his loose skin around his neck from ear to bottom of throat, then calmly trotted down the hill past the house as if nothing had happened.
He loved to chase turkeys and deer out of our property – not to maim them, but for the joy of chasing them.
He had impeccable bathroom habits: always far away, seeking his own version of privacy, followed by a volcanic sound of scratching the ground surface, then running back for your praise, black ears flopping.
He was scared of the dark night – the “big, black world” we called it – running out into it with broad shoulders and a big bark, then doing his business and hurrying back.
When Phyllis and I would take “the boys” for a ride in the car, Jesse would not get in the vehicle until both us humans were accounted for at the car. If only one was at the car, and the other was still in the house, he would bolt back into the house to herd us back into a pack.
He loved to have his pig ear snack after dinner, while Phyllis and I would eat our dinner. But after he finished, he would stand up and give me that pitiful look. So, I would get up from my dinner, come over to his bed and turn over his bed mat – because he didn’t like to lie on a partially wet bed. He was a particular boy. And I was more than accommodating.
His face – it was so expressive. It’s what I fell in love with first. In February 1999, I saw a picture of that face on the Internet. He was just a pup and just what I was looking for.
I loved his feet. They were delicate and white. He would lay in his bed, body and head erect, with his two front, white feet crossed, and he would have his almond-shaped eyes sort of squinting, almost half-closed – not because the sun was out – and he might barely be panting, just enough to have the tip of his pink tongue sticking out. The picture of contentment.
For nearly 11 years, he was in the same room as Phyllis or I – at least one of us – whenever we were in our house. He never liked staying in a room by himself. We wouldn’t have had it any other way.
TIME JUST FINALLY RAN OUT.
He turned gray early. We thought it was likely because he worried about everything (which he did). He was in wonderful shape – well-exercised, not overly fed. Phyllis and I loved to take Jesse and Bucky (his “brother”) out for 3-mile hikes around the reservoir, or to one of the regional parks where they could run free off lead and get into all kinds of trouble, which they did all too often.
But this year he noticeably started to slow down a bit. He was 10 years and a few months for goodness sake. This summer, it was only half way around that he would start to lag a bit, and near the end, you could hear his toenails dragging. He would sleep the rest of the day. He never complained. He was always ready to go the next time.
Two weeks ago, he didn’t want to eat his pig ear snack after dinner. Strange. Upon returning from vacation this past Sunday, I picked him up from his pet care place – he didn’t look like himself. His expressive face had lost most expressiveness. His breath smelled like nothing I could remember – and he never had the best breath.
Then on Tuesday morning he refused to eat breakfast. I took him to our local vet clinic. They said his blood numbers, indicative of kidney failure, were the worst they’d ever seen. Tuesday evening he went on an IV in hopes of flushing his blood system.
Wednesday he was transferred to a 24-hour care clinic in hopes of a more thorough diagnosis. No cancer. Image of his kidneys looked normal – not the shriveled “old-dog” kidneys look.
THE RIGHT THING TO DO.
On Thursday 3 December 2009, after two days of aggressive treatment, his blood numbers didn’t get better, nor stabilize. They had become worse than horrible. The best thing to do was the best thing for our best friend.
When Jesse was a puppy, he would sleep in a crate in our bedroom. He would still be excited, even at 10pm. So, I would talk him down. “It’s time to go to bed. Sleepy. Go to sleep. Sleepy. Sleep.” He would go down almost immediately and fall asleep.
Thursday night, Phyllis and I, with a good friend, a vet named Jen, went to the clinic, freed Jesse from his tubes, and then spent an hour with him. We placed him in one of his first beds – we had brought it with us to make it his last. He was perhaps a bit anxious – he wanted to go home. We both sat with legs crossed, bed between us, edges under our legs. He finally lay down. We stroked his body, massaged his ears, rubbed the neck muscles behind his head until his eyes were barely closed like they looked when he would sit up in bed, front feet crossed, contented.
We leaned over and I whispered over and over, “It’s time to go to bed. Sleepy. Go to sleep. Sleepy. Sleep.”
Jesse quickly fell asleep. We continued to gently rub his body while he continued to sleep peacefully, perhaps for the first time in three days. He slept for a good five minutes. His head rested on the side of Phyllis’ calf. His breathing got deeper and relaxed.
We signaled to Jen.
She did the right thing the right way as Jesse slept peacefully.
And when he stopped breathing, he looked younger somehow.