Jessie was the kind of dog that, at 5 am, would ask to get up on our bed. And if I responded yes—how could I say no to sweet Jessie?—she'd launch herself up to the bottom of the bed, twirl around about seven times, and then tuck herself into a tight ball, seemingly wanting to disturb as little as possible. No licks, no wet nose, no stomping on my stomach, just happiness to be near my toes. And then, within about 20 seconds, her rumbling, rhythmic snore filled the air. I will take silence over almost any noise, but her rumble was my favorite noise. It was the noise of contentment. I'd press snooze more often than not just to soak it in.
She came to live with our family about six years ago, when Sarah, my younger sister, formerly a marketing manager at the Humane Society, realized her tiny carriage house was a little too full of four-leggeds and fur. Sarah had adopted Ms. Jessica Simpson, named for her fab blonde hairdo and the way she sang when she saw her leash and knew a walk was imminent, shortly after Jessie came into the special needs section of the Humane Society. She'd been hit by a car, and the damage was pretty comprehensive: her head was split (thus the rad faux-hawk you can see in the picture above); her back was scabbed; her back leg was totally out of whack.
Sarah brought Jessie to us the night of Thanksgiving in 2007. That night, after some whimpering when Sarah left and some aimless wandering looking for her, I heard her bulldozing beneath our dining room table. That peaceful noise made me realize she'd be as happy with us as she was with Sarah, and I was flooded with relief.
I know all dogs give unconditional love, but I also know, from plenty of experience, not all dogs are low-maintenance. Jessie was, by a mile, the most mellow, least demanding member of this house. Sure, she used to get into Ben's diapers back in the day when I'd forget to shut his door. Sure, she started asking for her dinner around 1:17 p.m., when I didn't feed her and her sister/brother until at least 3:30. And sure, her blonde fur stuck to every.single.thing in this house. (If I shipped you an AMR shirt and there was a blonde hair in there, apologies. I promise she never came into contact with them; her fur seemed to have legs of its own.)
While it's disgusting to deal with dirty diapers a second time around, those are minor details compared to her quiet gratefulness she oozed into our lives. A sense that she was just glad to have a safe place to lie her head, that her itinerant lifestyle was over. She was, as I imagine most beings who have been significantly damaged are, just happy to feel pure love and live a simple life with a routine she could count on: breakfast, outside, walk, sleep, dinner, outside, sleep.
And while she enjoyed her uncomplicated existence, I was the one who truly reaped her blessings. In the middle of the day, I'd often take a break to talk to Jessie Girl about anything that was on my mind: work, news, kids, life, anything stressful. She'd moan and groan as I petted her, as if to tell me, at that very moment, she needed her left armpit scratched exactly in that place, exactly the way I was doing it. With each stroke, I grew calmer and calmer.
She was equally as vocal about her visits to the spa—our backyard, where I brushed her over and over to try to get her to a temporarily shedless place (impossible, btw)—that I'd turn a 5-minute chore into a 20-minute luxury treatment because her appreciation was so abundant.
Due to cataracts, her eyesight diminished over time, and her eyes became marbles. She gently grazed walls, capably finding her way to her necessities: water, the door outside, her bed. (I'd always put her food bowl right in front of her.) She could walk surprisingly fast for a dog with little vision, and it was only the past year or so when she stopped taking the stairs by herself. Grant or I would pick her up like a forklift—one arm under each set of her limbs—and carry her up and down the stairs, where we'd deposit her on her bed. Although I'm sure she wouldn't have complained to sleep downstairs, I was too addicted to hearing her snore.
About a week ago, Jessie, who, not surprisingly, had never been sick over the previous six years, had a really tough weekend. Eating, barfing, not eating, barfing, drinking water, barfing, eating grass, barfing, not drinking water, barfing. Sad, tired, skinny, drooling, banging around for a spot to find some relief. Again and again, I sat next to her to pet her, to try to get her to that relaxed place where she could snore. It wasn't happening.
Grant and I talked about what we thought might be options, but then we realized, our 13-year-old Jessie Pie was done. She'd been through enough in this life. The next morning, the vet agreed with our decision, and Jessie moved one last time. Once she landed in the land of forever healthy, bounding hounds, she found her snore again. I'm sure of it.