I'd known for about a week that today was the day, but it wasn't something I much wanted to talk about. As weird as it was to have so much advance notice, it gave me time to come to terms with it. I really struggled with knowing that we were going to put Jessie down today. I wasn't sure it was really her time. She was alert, and happy, and eating well, but physically her poor old body was failing. I wanted some sign, some look, some assurance that it was really "time." I felt that from her yesterday, and I feel at peace with the decision now.
I knew Jessie for half my life, which seems just totally wild. We got her as a puppy when I was a sophomore in high school, and a year later we got her little sister Nellie, who died almost exactly a year ago. Jessie was a good dog. I don't mean for that to sound understated, it's really the best compliment I can think to give her. When you think of "good dog" think of Jessie. She was a dog with many aspects to her personality. Loyal. A little aloof, affectionate but not overly cuddly, smart, focused, happy, sneaky...
She was my brother's hunting dog when she was younger, a job she excelled at with no real training. Somewhat later in life, she was my hunting buddy, though we were after rodents and there was no retrieving involved! If there was an award for the world's best rat hunter, Jessie would get it. That dog loved to hunt, but she was as gentle and trustworthy as could be with my birds.
She used to run away every chance she would get, and that's probably the thing about her that annoyed me the most. I swear that dog could hear a gate open from miles away, and if she could sneak through it she would. You'd see her stop and look back over her shoulder to see if anyone was watching. She feigned deafness long before she really did become deaf, trotting off across the neighbor's property pretending not to hear me calling her back.
In the last year, after Nellie died, I felt like I really got to know Jessie on an entirely new level, and I'm grateful for that opportunity. She tended to be overshadowed by Nellie's personality, so getting to know the old Jessie for her own self was wonderful. She was never house-trained, and was always a "ranch dog" but I started sneaking her in the house sometimes when I was here alone, and gradually she spent more and more time inside. I enjoyed having her around, and she seemed to like to hang out when I was working in the studio. Unfortunately in the last while she became very accident prone as she lost some control of her functions, and she had to spend her time outside again. I missed having her around in here!
In the end, though her spirits were high, those old legs and hips were failing fast, and it wasn't fair for her to be alone outdoors in the cold winter. I would say she died while she still had her dignity.
We had a fine day today, she and I. It was gray and drizzly outside, not exactly right for frolicking in the yard. So I put a blanket on the floor next to my engraving bench, and she spent the day snoozing in the studio, toasty and warm. She ate the pepperoni off the pizza I had for lunch. My break times were spent flopped on the floor next to her, thanking her for being a good dog.
I am going to miss that dog so much. It already seems weird that she isn't there, and that she won't ever be there again. I hate this part of owning pets. I hate loving and losing, but all the years of joy they bring to our lives overshadow that in the end. I believe she's back with Nellie now, maybe they're out hunting somewhere in the cosmos, young bodied and healthy again.
Rest in peace Jessie, there's a bunch of people missing you.
A few flashbacks: