Jesse died Tuesday night. He gradually lost mobility and started to slip in and out of consciousness by the time the vet arrived to help him pass on.
Jesse was a dog–“just a dog” as some would say. I know. But he was also a constant presence in my life, sometimes peripheral and other times central, but always THERE. Jesse helped me bear the fear and newness of living on my own when I began my PhD program. I had a cat. But I, we, needed a dog. I needed company. At four months old, he seized that role, and he never looked back. And though Todd entered our lives when Jesse was almost one year old, in Jesse’s eyes, he was always MY dog, and I was always HIS human. Todd was a pleasant interloper whom Jesse had affection for.
In essence, Jesse became a part of me, and I became a part of him. When David arrived, since David was of me, he was of Jesse. So Jesse tolerated him. Then suddenly, in between nursings and diaper changes, I looked down at Jesse, and my boy had grown old. He’d become my old man.
And now Jesse’s gone. My thirteen year old constant shadow. My food hound. My cranky old man. I’ve lost a dog, but I also lost a part of myself, my history, our youth spent together. That first year of living alone with him and Noni, and eating cheeseburgers and ice cream cones together, and him laying on my feet when I became too jittery and nervous. The part of myself I lost isn’t a limb or a digit, but more like a vital part of myself like a lobe of my heart where I’ll keep moving on, but it will never beat quite the same way. I’ll survive. I’ll move on. Todd will move on. David will move on. And we’ll do it all over again.
In fact, we began to move on a few weeks before Jesse passed away when we adopted a one year old dog named Abbie from a shelter. Jesse found her mildly amusing and tolerated her admirably. She’s also been a great comfort to David, kissing him and sniffing his face when he’s upset.
I tell myself that at least I was there to help him pass away. He received love and praise the entire time.
So, Jesse’s gone, leaving behind an ache akin to phantom limb syndrome. He was just a dog. But he was my dog. And I was his human.