Jessie was the best worst dog to ever live. She wasn't warm, or friendly. She didn't lick you. She only occasionally wagged her tail. When she did want you to pet her, she would sit just out of your reach and whine. When you moved closer to her, she would move farther away. She bit Nicole's elderly Aunt Helen on the butt so many times that they both came to expect it. She bit all of us, actually. As a rule, she only pooped in the part of the yard where the children like to play.
Nicole originally adopted Jessie before we were married. She had been returned to the shelter by a previous adopter. For biting. Originally, she was the companion of the king of personality, Bogey, a Jack Russell terrier who was clever enough to pull the drain plug from the bathtub, so that he could drop a ball into the resulting water funnel. For seven years, Jessie and Bogey were a companionable pair. Jessie was standoffish and aggressive, and Bogey was a madcap entertainer. When Bogey died prematurely of a cancer that had developed on his adrenal gland, we learned something about how dogs really feel about each other in the packs we create in our home. We had always assumed that Bogey and Jessie were attached to one another, maybe not a love connection, but at least brother and sister. However, as soon as Bogey died, it became clear that Bogey was more of a colleague than a friend to Jessie. Within days, she had calmed down. Later, in her own way, she started to bond a bit to our other dogs.
As the years went on, Jessie's real alter ego emerged. Deep down, she was not the standoffish accessory to Bogie's zany adventures. She was the standoffish dog who basically just wanted to be left alone. Jessie was happy to be our loyal companion as long as it was on her terms. I started to imagine that she had been a world weary file clerk in a past life. The sort that hates all of their coworkers, and is content to spend each evening with a little glass of pink wine and her collection of glass figurines…the lady in the neighborhood who called the police on kids for playing baseball in the street. We even considered changing her name from Jessie to Joan to reflect her true personality.
Once we all started to understand each other, Jessie started to like everybody a lot more. By the time our second daughter was born, our once bite happy dog, had turned into an uncommonly patient animal with children. She wore hats, and stickers, and costumes, and perfumed lotion without complaint. She kept us company when we were working late, and never tired of getting up to feed new babies. For all her sullenness, she had moments of real joy. She was happy at meal times, she was incredibly trustworthy off a leash, and she turned into a reliable presence in our home. Yesterday, after 13 years, with her kidneys failing, Jessie had to be put down. Her death was the end of an era. She was with us when we bought our home, when we had our kids. We learned to accommodate her, and she learned to accommodate us, and for all of her quirks, she was our friend. She was a strange old soul with a bad attitude, but we loved her. God speed, Jessie. Try not to bite Aunt Helen on the ass when you get to heaven.