Saturday, November 11, 2017

Rest Easy

It is with a heavy heart I sit here this afternoon to finish a story that was started almost 12 years ago with a litter of puppies with a single survivor.  The bag was fished out of the lake, or so the rescue group's story went, by a man out fishing.  One puppy was still alive.  She was brought to the local rescue group and nursed back to health, eventually spayed and put up for adoption.

She was up for adoption for a long time.  No one wanted her because she wasn't bouncy and licky like the other puppies, she was shy.  They called her Cheyenne.

We went in 'JUST to look' with a 5, 7 and 9-year-old.  We looked alright.  We looked at every dog they had.  Cheyenne was off my radar first thing because as a 7-month-old puppy, she had HUGE feet.  She was going to be a monster.

After walking every dog they had, Matt said we might as well take her out too.  We clipped on the leash and walked down to the little grassy area by the adoption event's space and she was about to pop!  She peed and peed.  After that, she was much happier to be looked over and played with.  At one point I was consulting with Jake and looked over at her and Matt and she looked back, over her shoulder.  It was the exact same way my childhood dog used to look at me.  I teared up.  I loved that dog fiercely and always felt safe with her.  It was as if she had sent me a message saying, "I will take care of you" all over again.

We left with Cheyenne and renamed her Jessie Bear.  She never again gave me that look but she did take care of us.

For the next 11 and a half years, she barked, drooled, shed, dug holes, and filled our lives with laughter, thousands of pounds of fur, and became a time-telling wonder.  And she was a monster.  110 pounds of big ass dog who sat like a dainty princess, crossing her front paws just so.

We've spent the day retelling our favorite Jessie stories.  How she loved to swim, how she loved to run.  Once I let her off the leash to run at Whigg Meadow and she was so excited by the wide open space that as we watched, she peed and then pooped while in full gallop, the evidence trailing behind her as she went.  She loved digging in mud, loved to flip logs and rocks and eat grub, loved to have her belly rubbed, loved being brushed.  But more than anything, even more than us, she loved Kuma.

We named Kuma after Jessie, Kuma is Japanese for bear.  He was her dog, she loved him from the minute we went to the same adoption event 9 months later and got him at 6 months of age.  They locked jaws and ran around wagging tails and going 'arr arr'.  For nearly 11 years, they have never been apart.

Her appetite, always huge, started to wane Thursday.  She left food in her bowl, something I have never seen happen before.  I watched her all day, but other than moving more carefully, she didn't seem off.  She and Kuma both are stiff-legged these days.  By Friday, she was moving from place to place, unable to get comfortable.  I broke out the old blankets I was saving for when it got colder and made her a nest.  She snoozed all day and did not want dinner, but she did eat some plain chicken.

About 1 Saturday morning Jake woke us up, saying she had collapsed in the yard.  We got her back to her nest with a fresh bowl of water nearby to save her the journey again.  It happened again around dawn, this time she barely reacted as we arranged her back on the porch.  Her body was so cold from laying on the damp ground even though Jake stayed up all night checking on her and it could not have been more than a few minutes that she was out there.

We wrapped her in a blanket and rubbed her all over to get her warmed up and dry and she popped her head up and watched us talking.  We were telling her it was okay for her to go.  We would take care of Kuma and that her puppies were all grown up now, she'd done a good job.  She's a good, good girl, the best dog.  All of the things you say to make yourself feel better.  Her eyes said she knew, and she was ready.

We came in for a little while to get dried off and cleaned up ourselves and when we checked on her next, she was gone.  I hate that no one was with her other than Kuma but that's selfish.  She had her life's companion there, the two of them were their own kind of family and I think at the end, that is what I would want as well.  To know I was loved and beloved by all, but to have just Matt to see me over.   I think she picked her time as best she could.

The hole was hard to dig.  We picked a spot large enough to put Kuma next to her when his time comes.  Jake helped even after being up all night.  It was huge, she's a huge dog.  We wrapped her in a blanket and carried her down, arranged her and covered her up with the blanket she liked best.  Chandler scattered dog cookies around her, I took her collar.  She knows she's ours.

We filled in the hole, making each other laugh and cry with all the memories of her, so many.  Hikes and swims and walks in the woods, the time she slipped over the cliff at Caney Falls and her harness got snagged and we had to climb up and rescue her while she dangled, barking.  The time she went crashing into a creek that was flowing out of a cave and Kuma went after her and panicked and ended up running 30 feet on his hind legs to get out of that cold mess!  Diving off the docks at Jim and Loretta's and at Grundy Lake and at the marina.  How she loved to go in boats, how her tongue flopped out of the side of her mouth, how her eyes could crinkle like she was smiling extra big to see you.

Times we took her camping, long drives when we'd have to spend $5 to vacuum the hair out of the van after, that picnic when she ate all the cookies and tried to drink soda and sneezed.  Tying her harness to an inner tube and her hauling the kids up the creek at North River over and over.  The times she would silent but deadly gas us half to death, oblivious as we gasped and accused her of attempted murder.

We are so lucky.  So lucky to have found her, to have had her for so long, to have so many memories, that so many of them make us smile, even while we wipe the tears that have not stopped all day. 

Oh, Jessie Bear.  You were a good girl.  Run play!  Zephyr and Kaiju are there, and your cat friends, Kat and Cleo and Muta.  There's Klover, the dog you reminded me of, and Dusty who was Daddy's dog long before you.  I hope you won't be too lonely for Kuma and we will take care of him and try to keep him from being too lonely for you.

In the spring, we will cover her grave in the wildflower seeds we got at Uncle Jim's memorial service.  We hadn't known what to do with them before, but this feels right.  He once had to drive his Gator around looking for her and Kuma when they tried to take down a deer and got lost in the wilds of Kentucky.  So many memories.  We are so lucky.

Jessie Bear
December 8, 2005-
November 11-2017