Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Jesse Garon (1994-2009)

My dog, Jesse Garon, died on Saturday.

Anybody who knows me knows how much I loved that dog, a terrier/cocker/black lab mutt who was with me for fourteen years. I can't express in words how much Jesse meant to me. I can't do him justice. So, before I try, I will quote from a much better writer, Harlan Ellison:

There's nothing more maudlin than reading someone's treacly and bathetic self-pity in the form of a lament for a pet. Nonetheless, the death of my dog, Ahbhu, did me in...For eleven years, Ahbhu was my closest friend. He was responsible for my writing a story about a boy and his dog that many people have read. He was not a pet, he was a person. It was impossible to anthropomorphize him, he wouldn't stand for it. But he was so much his own kind of creature, he had such a strongly formed personality, he was so determined to share his life with only those he chose, that it was also impossible to think of him as simply a dog. Apart from those canine characteristics into which he was locked by his species, he comported himself like one of a kind.

That was Jesse. In spades.

He was born in Missoula, Montana, and was rescued from the animal shelter, hours before he was to be euthanized, by my ex-wife Wendy and her then-boyfriend, Nathan. Jesse Garon (named after Elvis Presley's stillborn twin) came into my life on December 2, 1995, when he arrived at Bradley International Airport on a flight from Montana a couple of weeks after Wendy and I got married. I remember asking her if he shed, and she told me, "Oh no, he doesn't shed."

Of course, he shed like crazy, but it didn't matter. We were pals from the get-go, and I indulged him with drive-thru cheeseburgers and "snappy dogs," steamed, natural casing frankfurters from the roadside hot dog stand in Whately, Mass., the name of which now escapes me. We would go on "pal-time rides" and he would stick his face out of the window to get a nosefull of fresh, Western Massachusetts air (except when we passed the Oxford pickle factory in South Deerfied, with its acrid, vinegary aroma of dill pickle brine).

When Wendy and I split up, she graciously let me keep him. "I wouldn't want to break up you and your 'little buddy,'" she said, and I've always been grateful to her for that.

About ten years ago, he got hit by a car and was sent flying. Miraculously, he survived, with only a gash on his knee and no broken bones. Thank you, God.

When I remarried, and my wife Tonja and I were blessed with our beautiful kids, Jesse moved down the depth chart of my affections, but by then we had developed a sort of telepathic understanding. He was surprisingly good with the children, even if he did steal the food out of their little hands. At least he never bit them.

His cataracts made him mostly, if not completely, blind, and he was largely deaf as well. He was also pretty smelly, funkier than a five dollar whore at quitting time. But it didn't make me love him any less, and he was even more attached to me than ever.

He had been going downhill for a while. He slept more and more, and so hard that Tonja had to check him to make sure he was alive. Earlier this year, he had a mini-stroke, but bounced back with medication. He also developed an egg-sized tumor on his leg, in all likelihood malignant, which no doubt hastened his demise.

But I'll always remember him as he was in his prime, feisty and full of life, my little buddy, my pal time friend.


Don Shetterly - Relaxing Piano Music said...

I know how you feel. I just lost my cat of 18 years, Snuggles. It has only been a couple of weeks but it is a struggle at the moment. My heart goes out to you and I know how much those friends of ours means.

JM Dobies said...

Thanks, Don.

And thanks to my pal David Karlin for the photo of Jesse in the car -- that is classic J.