Sometimes in life you find your perfect match in something or someone else: maybe a house that you feel instantly connected to, a job that inspires you to work your hardest every day, or another person who you want to spend your life with, …two years ago I found that match in Jessie. I have had several dogs in my life, but Jessie was my one true love. She could drag an open bag of flour all over my house, eat the arm of my sofa, break my windows trying to bark at people outside, chew up my new shoes, scratch up my historic front door (all things that she did over our short few years together)… and I would always forgive her and try to help her be better next time. Because above all else, we loved each other. Together we moved into my first real home, together we biked all over the island going full speed and trying not to crash, together we hit up happy hours and play dates and yard parties, and most importantly, together we connected with hundreds of children as Pet Partners at my school.
Jessie was full of so much love that she wanted to share with every person she met in life, so her greatest joy was going to school with me once a week and loving on all of my students. The hardest thing for me to think about right now, is how I’m going to break the news to all of those same students who would call out “Jessie!” excitedly from down the hall as they spotted her, and would ask daily when she was coming back to visit again, who would shower her with hugs and kisses, and let her return the favor. How will I tell them that she won’t be coming back any more? How do I let them know that she is gone forever and way too soon?
Today I came home from a day out at the zoo with my family; I had been gone for about seven hours, nothing more than a usual day. The first thing I saw was trash strewn around the floor. Jessie LOVED to get into the trash can, so I had upgraded to a fancy locking one, but she was too smart and could still break in if she really wanted to. I could smell that she had pooped somewhere too, not unusual lately, since I brought a new foster pup home who liked to mark his territory. I was not happy that she had acted out and when she ran into the room I scolded her, took her by the collar, and put her outside so I could clean up the mess. That’s it. That’s the last interaction we had. After I had let her out, I realized that the water bowl was drained, items were knocked off of the counter, and things looked a little off. As I took the mess outside to throw away, I saw Jessie laying in the grass, in the pouring rain, not moving. I called her name, but knew instantly something was wrong. I ran to her, dropping paper towels all over the yard, and grabbed her, screaming her name. She was gone. Somehow my parents were called, and they arrived to find me hysterically crying and screaming and hugging my big, sweet baby, willing her back to life and apologizing for not knowing she needed me when I first came home. I will forever regret that the last thing I said to her was “bad dog” as I threw her out, resenting that I had to clean up her unnecessary mess. She had somehow managed to stay alive until I got home, and all I did was get angry.
As we carried her body inside and I started surveying the trash she had spilled more closely, I found an empty bag of dark chocolate chips. I remember taking them off of the top of the fridge, after discovering that I have a mouse visitor, and almost putting them in the cabinet. I opened the cabinet, set them in, and changed my mind- tossed them in the trash without a thought. That one action, seemingly innocent, was fatal. I know that I can’t blame myself for living my life and making a mistake, but, still, I will never forgive myself for letting my last interaction with her be angry. She was the best dog in so many ways- smart, loving, unconditionally forgiving- and I hope that above everything else, she knew that I loved her beyond what I thought I was capable of.
The hole in my broken heart will labor my breathing, and ache my bones, and cause me to cry at unexpected times. It will heal slowly, but not without pain. Whatever I feel as I grieve, I will always know that we needed one another during the time we had. It was only two years (in fact, almost exactly two years), but we grew up together in those years, and made each other’s lives better and full of joy. She was my best friend, my soul mate in dog form- a bit of a mess, but a big, sweet baby that just wanted to love and be loved. Well, I love you, Jessie. I love you forever.