Friday, January 29, 2010

Our own Marleys

Excuse me if I sniff all over this post.  We just finished watching "Marley and Me," a movie bound to make every dog-lover, dog-owner in the world a little teary at the end.  OK, more than a little.  Between us, I'm pretty sure there were full-blown sobs going on in our family room.  But that's because Marley was a lab.  A big, ol', incorrigible lab like our Jackson.  Jackson, who we called a dumb jock for most of his early years because he didn't seem to know his name, thought his tail was a toy whenever he happened to catch sight of it, plowed through flowerbeds, deck railings and fences, ate dozens of chocolate chip cookies, a pound of Belgian chocolate, a thousand pieces of bread and even managed to unscrew a Costco-sized jar of chocolate-covered raisins and down the whole thing.  We're about half convinced that nothing'll kill this dog.
Jackson's the lighter lab in the back, sitting at attention. Likely, facing a hand holding a piece of cheese.  Back when this photo was taken, cheese was just about the only thing that would make Jackson sit on command.

 Jemima, our other yellow lab, sits in the foreground.
Here's another photo of her...looking very relaxed!:

  When I took them both for walks (or they took me!), people would ask if they were litter mates, but these dogs weren't related. And for a long time, Jackson thought Jemima was his mother.  If Jemima was lying somewhere, he'd curl up right next to her, make sure his butt was touching hers.  And my sweet Beanie (which is what I called her most of the time--for Jemima Bean) let him pretty much do whatever he wanted.  Jemima was the opposite of Marley, and of Jackson.  She couldn't bear to misbehave, seemed to understand just about everything I ever said to her, would walk beside me without a leash, and always came to my voice.  Sure she barked when someone came to our door, but thirty seconds later, she was nudging that person to pet her.

But the way Beanie reminds me of Marley is that she got sick one week, lost 20 pounds and by the end of that week, it was discovered she had pancreatic cancer.  Beve, SK, J and I sat with her for over an hour before the vet came in to give her the shot that would stop her breath.  And we cried.  Hard.  When her head had dropped like a stone and her eyes closed for good, we brought Jackson in from the car to see her.  He stopped by her body, sniffed her once, then turned away.  We mourned Jemima a long time.  Still do, in some ways.  I walked back into that dark room after the family had left.  You see, the whole last hour of her life, I spent petting her.  Just as I had so many other times.  And Beanie shed hair, just like always.  I put it in a pile beside me as I stroked her.  Then couldn't leave it there.  I brought her coarse reddish gold fur home and put it in an envelope just like my other babies' hair.

And you know, at first we couldn't really tell that Jackson was grieving. But then I noticed that whenever he rode in the car and saw a pair of dogs in another car, Jackson whined.  Now, normally he barks at other dogs.  But not then.  I was convinced he was telling me that it just wasn't right that he was alone, that he knew he was supposed to have a buddy, that he was meant to be part of a pack--and not just of humans! So, six months later, Jamaica came home to be Jackson's buddy. This is Jamaica soon after we brought her home.  She was so scared of that big dog that she'd sit at the end of the hallway, very quietly, until someone came by to walk beside her.  But after a while, they became buddies.  And Jackson stopped whining at other dogs.  His pack was back!

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