Grounded by a daily dose of Zoloft, I am rarely brought to tears. Sad stories elicit empathy, not pathos. Except for some reason when a dog is involved.
(Yes, Betty, this is not child Mary.)
I did not grow up with dogs in the family. In the 1950s, dogs roamed the neighborhood or were tied to chains in unfenced yards. As I roamed the wandering streets, I flinched when a dog charged me barking. My best friend Betty had a dog, Penny, a cocker spaniel, I believe. As much as I would have liked to cuddle her, she was devoted to Betty’s mother. I don’t recall us ever playing with her.
Although we occasionally entreated our parents for a dog, our father had grown up on a farm in Iowa and asserted that dogs should be free. He had no interest in an animal in the house. As an adult, I had to agree. I hate seeing animals confined and alone.
Skip to adulthood, much later, when a friend introduced us to the beagles which she bred. They were darling puppies. Our young son standing wistfully at her side, Helga frequently implored us to adopt one of the pups. We were realistic: Mike, too, had never had a dog. Neither of us wanted the responsibility.
Skip ahead once more, when that young son, now a young man, living on his own, introduces us to his new puppy: an American bull, other wise called a pit bull, named Jigga. A pit bull? C-boy assured us that he had done his homework: easily trained, good with kids, little shedding. Okay. Jigga was an adorable pup. And C-boy had done his homework, training Jigga well before deciding to seek his future in Chicago, leaving the dog in foster care with ED. Foster care became permanent. We enjoyed watching Jigga grow in ED’s home with her two young boys, and got well-acquainted with this congenial canine when we visited them or she visited us. So when we moved into this house together, Mike and I with ED and the two boys, Jigga adapted easily and quickly took control of our safety.
I have heard of unconditional love of a grandparent, but my grandparents were gone before my age of awareness, so never received that reward. But Jigga showed unconditional love. She waited restlessly at the door until everyone was home. After extended absences, Jigga’s 50 pounds of muscle pounced into my arms. Yipping and yapping, Jigga paced atop my bed regaling me on all that had taken place while I was gone. If I used a short-tempered command to her, she did not respond with days of cold shoulder, as would a child. Her mood was loving as soon as I calmed down. And she calmed me down. No matter my mood, she was loving.
Thus when we had to send her to doggie Heaven, even Mike shed tears. To this day, even Zoloft cannot squelch tears when I think of Jigga. So this past Sunday, Martha Teichner’s segment on CBS Sunday Morning about a dog chapel brought me to tears. As did her book, When Harry Met Minnie, when I read it several months ago.
We now have Luna. Luna was adopted from rescue via a Mexican dog rescue, Barb’s. I have visited Barb’s a couple of times and would have adopted several of the animals except Mike was with me and, thankfully, stood guard. Thank you, Mike. (Please send donations to Barb if you are so inclined. It is a well-maintained, loving establishment providing care for 400 dogs.)
Luna is not Jigga. I’ve decided that they are like children coming through very different routes to a loving home. Luna learned to survive in a kennel, thus she is happy with whomever is playing with her and enjoys going to doggie day care. Jigga was raised from her weaning in, essentially, a single home. She bonded closely to each member of the family. She would have been extremely hurt if we had put her in doggie care, thus we always hired a sitter when we were gone for extended absences. Luna knows to use the doggie door; Jigga waited for us to open our door. Because she took such good care of us, I didn’t mind.
Three and a half years after her death, we still mourn her. Her ashes reside in a beautiful box in our buffet. I suppose we will spread or bury them when we leave this house. Jigga taught me that every dog is as unique as every person is unique, which tells me as much about people as about dogs. And so I write this with tears in my eyes. Love you forever, Jigga.