Thursday, 8 March 2012

A requiem for my dog Jesse, 28/02/2001 - 06/03/2012.


As I enter the porch a long, black but graying nose pokes out from the catflap. An eager whimper comes out, and she sticks her head through. I type in the door code and open it; Jess is there, practising a few small springs on her hind legs. The baggy skin over her eyes is pushed back to show the whites of her eyes and her chops wobble. She whimpers some more. Will she spring up to hug me around the pelvis, or will she roll on her back with her chest out? She's not bothered with leaping today and she rolls over. Her favourite stroke is on her chest and that's what she gets until I've taken off my shoes. Down my left is her leads, her bowl, her basket, her box, and a note reminding us to give her some eyedrops as she cannot produce tears anymore due to eyelid surgery. She went deaf at one point although she had long before decided that responding to us calling her name wasn't to her advantage anyway, but now it means she has no idea of the noise she makes. When she sees me she whimpers and gulps intensely and when we're eating she whimpers and gulps intensely. She's not going to get any of that gluten though lest she's temporarily blinded again and starts running into doors.

Dogs become so wretched in their old age and Jess started to lose it last summer. I started running mid-May last year and around a week later I took Jess on a fell run: our first and last. It was a little full-on to her and I appreciate that with age a lot of carrot is needed. Maybe I took her torch on as her health plummted. At the end of July an umpteenth childminded kid's parent left our gate open and Jess shot out. She was in the vets that night with pancreatitis.

A dog psychiatrist diagnosed her with OCD not too long ago, the point being that theoretically, faced with an infinite pile of bin waste, Jess would eat it all until she'd die of overeating. Food was there to be inside her, and if there wasn't food in sight it would be her imperative to find food. Food was one of the two things that properly motivated Jess. It was food and faith in her family that ran her. Mum was her own mother and best friend, but she would wait at the foot of the stairs for any of us. The smell of the air going down the lane to grandma's made her whine, and the smell of the Lake District air made her whine. As a dog, faith ran her. Rounding us up on walks and staying at our heels. Bounding into the lounge at 9pm as we sat down for tea and weaving around your legs as you toiled in the kitchen. Diving down for the bit of food you dropped and devouring it. Spitting it out again as she realises it's a bit of carrot or pepper or something else that would actually do her body some good.

A Saturday lunchtime spent feeding her emetics so she expelled all the rat poison she'd found in the porch. Sitting in the car back to the priory in Devon from East Prawle after she'd rolled on the bloated corpse of a beached porpoise. Watching her eat a dead, sand-covered fish when stood powerless in another rockpool. Scraping chewing gum from the Huddersfield pavement as a puppy. Practically all my chocolates accumulated from Christmas 2003, devoured. New Year's spent worrying over her liver afterwards. Her brief foray with hen crap.

Seeing her bound up and down the tussocks on her second-wind, curlews spurting out from the heather. Uprooting you downhill as she shoots through your legs. Letting her determine the path and letting her stop to sniff other dogs' marks of territory. Nearly giving me squits in fear as she leapt around at 20mph as I tried to scale Sharp Edge on Blencathra. Not stopping at the summit to admire anything at all, but instead darting after a sheep as that's her way of playing games. Quick drinks from muddy puddles and quick dips in troughs and the irrigation. If a run's enjoyability is determined by how muddy you are when you finish, then this applies a hundred times over to Jess, who remains unphased when lead into the stream to clean down.

In many ways a very healthy dog, it was her attitude to food that pulled her down. Arriving home as a box-shape, throwing up and going on a long run the next day was a perfect weekend to Jess, although most of her life was spent sniffing around the main room, retiring to a settee or her basket. I wonder if it bored her.

This Saturday, Jess escaped and found a bin. She came back and threw up. She threw up on her walk the next day. She threw up on her walk the day after that. She was taken to the vet, where she was diagnosed with pancreatitis again. This Tuesday the vet looked inside her and found a ball-like tumour in her pancreas that had begun to metastasise, and upon seeing that it was confirmed that she wouldn't be in any less pain than she'd already be if she woke up again. Thus, Jesse White died on the 6th March 2012 in her sleep: a post-binge nap she never woke up from, and a very sad house that she'll never know she ever left.



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