Wednesday, 10 December 2008
My Own Personal Marley
His name was Jesse. Jesse James. When we gave the moniker to that ten week old, wiggly Golden retriever with a couple dozen bald spots, we had no idea how he'd live up to his name.
My friend Mariella gave me a tip that her veterinarian was giving away a purebred Golden retriever. Gratis! His owners apparently gave him up because of his recurrent skin infection. They left the pup with the vet on the condition that anyone who adopted him should neuter him to prevent passing on whatever gene had caused his mysterious skin condition.
I, the stupid one with two preschoolers, jumped at the chance to take this unsocialized, un-housetrained ball of half-shaved fluff into my home in the dead of winter.
The vet gave Jesse his shots free of charge but I'd have to pay for the neutering when the time came. He also provided the first round of antibiotics Jesse would require to keep his skin from erupting into countless little volcanoes of ickiness. I'd have to pay for any subsequent prescriptions.
No matter. He was sooooo cute! Sure, he had bald patches all over his body, but he had real potential. His big brown eyes followed me everywhere. He crawled all over the kids with adoring glee. He pissed on the floor with reckless abandon. (There were also a few other emissions due to an allergic reaction to his inoculations, but we took care of that with some Pepto Bismol.)
He grew quickly. He was American bred, with a rangy physique and a dark red coat, unlike the boxy and blond Canadian Goldens. By spring he was already 90 pounds and well on the way to being an Alpha male. When I took him to the vet, I needed my hands free to root around in my purse so I hooked his leash around my ankle. He took the opportunity to vault after a cat and I flipped in the air and landed on my ass. I could almost hear the cartoony thweep and thunk.
He became adept at depositing humans on their butts. One day I allowed my brother to fetch Jesse from his dog run in the back yard. Buddy opened the gate and I glanced away for a moment. When I looked back, Jesse had my brother pinned to the ground and was in the process of giving him sloppy kisses.
Jesse didn't eat us out of house and home - he ate the house and home. He ate the wooden kitchen cupboard handles, the linoleum flooring, the wallpaper and a good chunk of paneling on the back porch. I got pretty good at using wood filler and matching paint. He even ate a tent that had been left pitched in the back yard. Well, not the whole tent. He shredded it into unrecognizable bits.
He knocked over the kids and then he happily gummed them, reducing them to giggles. His skin medication was more expensive than groceries. The only bright spots were his impeccable manners while on the leash during walks. He sat down at every intersection, came when he was called, and didn't pull.
Still, I finally cried "Uncle" and put notices up in the local pet stores. A nice older couple with teenage sons and a fenced yard came over and took Jesse for a spin around the block. I asked a hundred dollars as reimbursement for his neutering costs, and they complied. Jesse cheerfully accompanied them home.
He was just across town. I often felt the urge to visit him, but stopped myself. No, he had a new family now. Sometimes I heard a familiar bark and thought it was Jesse.
My brother has a new dog. He looks exactly like Jesse and he's just as goofy. His name is Homer. Go figure.
Image: My painting of the day Jesse left to meet his new owners. He was looking out the front window as if he knew his future.