Jessie the golden after Hurricane Wilma, 2005, wondering what had happened to the mailbox.
When our daughter was in third grade, her class was given an assignment connected to Thanksgiving. The kids were supposed to create a sculpture from clay that expressed their gratitude for something in their lives. Parents were invited to the class presentation the day before the Thanksgiving holidays began.
The day of the show and tell, Megan stood in front of her class and presented her little sculpture. “I’m grateful for the golden retriever I’m going to get,” she announced. “And this is the dog.”
Her sculpture certainly looked like a golden – right down to the ears, the tail, the body stance, the shape of its head. Rob and I looked at each other: Huh? We had three cats and no intention of getting a golden retriever or any dog.
“We’re getting a dog?” we asked her later.
“I think so,” she replied.
A couple of weeks later, a friend of Megan’s asked if we would like a dog. The friend’s father was a school cop who trained dogs to sniff out drugs in lockers and one of their dogs, a golden retriever, had washed out of the program. No dog, nope, nope, we said.
And then we saw her, a beautiful reddish gold retriever about two years old, who had been given up by her original family when the son developed asthma. Now she had washed out of the drug-sniffing program, and was going to end up at the pound unless someone adopted her.
“We’ll try her for a few days,” we said. “See how she and the cats get along.”
Well, Jessie came into the house, the three cats came over, sniffing, checking her out, and Jessie’s tail wagged and wagged, and then she plopped down in front of Rob’s desk and then in Megan’s doorway, and that was that. She stayed for eleven wonderful years.
When Trish’s mother went into an Alzheimer’s unit, Jessie accompanied us each night for a visit – Rob, Trish, Megan, and Trish’s dad, whom we called Buddy. The residents all knew her – by name – even though they didn’t have a clue who we were. There were three women who were always on their way into Manhattan for dinner and a play, two of them dressed to kill, the third in her pajamas and big Barney the Dinosaur slippers, who Jessie always accompanied to the locked front door, where they believed their taxi awaited them, the magical Cinderella coach that would take them into NY.
“Where’s the cab, Jess?” Lillian would ask.
Jessie’s tail wagged, she barked, the women waited at the locked door, in the locked ward. For Jessie, all humans were worthy of love and affection.
When Megan and her friends played music and sang for the residents of the unit, Jessie waited patiently, listening, her paws seeming to tap to the music, her tail swishing rhythmically, to and fro.
When we moved to the house where we live now, we had to put the cats at the vet for a night. The day we brought all three into the new house, Jessie was at the door, greeting each of them, nose to nose, her tail wagging, and we realized these cats were as much her family as we were. When our dusky conure joined the menagerie, she used to ride on Jessie’s back and engage in this complicated ritual with doggie treats. Rob would pluck out a treat, hand it to Kali, and the bird would drop it directly into Jessie’s mouth, a mouth that could just as easily have eaten the bird.
We took Jessie everywhere – to the gym, the grocery store, vacations. She captured the hearts of everyone with whom she came into contact. Her love was always unconditional. She taught us about love. Family. Community. Every afternoon, Rob took her down to the park in our neighborhood to play Frisbee. Kids would gather around, get into the Frisbee groove, and pretty soon, we’d have teams. Jessie had her own fan club. Everyone in the neighborhood knew her – and she knew them.
At the end of Megan’s freshman year at college, Jessie made the trip across the state with us, but she wasn’t feeling well. It was hideously hot that day, mid-90s, no breeze, and she was suffering. One of us remained in the car with her, air conditioning blasting, while Megan’s stuff was loaded into the car. On the way back across the state, we stopped to let Jessie out and she could barely stand. That night, one of our cats stood vigil next to her, and we knew the end was near.
We took her to the vet the next morning, early, fast, and discovered she had some sort of throat problem – she couldn’t swallow, the prognosis sucked. Surgery that might not work, drugs that would cripple her. We opted for euthanasia. At the moment the vet injected her, her eyes flicked to each of us. She was aware, cognizant, she knew. She had gone the extra mile to wait until Megan was home again before she left. She had arrived when Megan was 8. She departed when Megan was 19.
Eleven years. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not that long. But her impact on our lives was profound.
That third grade sculpture presentation is a great example of precognition, an aspect of synchronicity. Megan not only knew we were going to get a dog, she got the breed right!