Tonight my heart is broken again, proof of the profound love I have had for 15 years for a fluffy, funny, gorgeous black and white border collie/Sheltie named Jenny who crossed the rainbow bridge today.
While holding her and whispering into her soft, tufted ears at the vet, I recalled the day I rescued the young, wild pup and several others from the old, deplorable Utah County Animal Control shelter in Provo all those years ago.
In those days most of the animals there never made it out alive, succumbing either to parvovirus or the gas chamber. She would end up with symptoms that looked like distemper. No one would foster her for our rescue organization, so my husband and I took her in: one of dozens we have fostered over the years. And she never left. When she recovered months later, she began to play with another rescue, a white poodle/terrier mix named Henry. He had survived malnutrition, his curly fur filthy and matted several inches thick from lack of grooming, and parvovirus. They became fast friends: he the little sheep; she herding and bossing his every move. He is 18 now and still runs for the sheer joy of it.
Jenny was my shadow for 15 years. Her face was lovely: black and velvety soft with small round eyes like a grizzly bear’s, a slender white stripe on her snout and perfectly folded Sheltie-type ears. Her mane, chest and feet were white. My dad always called her Flower, for the sweet little skunk character in “Bambi.” She had such thick, long fur that took forever to brush and she hated baths.
When she was younger, she loved to chase the magpies that teased her. She never really enjoyed playing fetch, but if anyone nearby was throwing a ball or frisbee, she was right there to squeal and yap orders, micromanaging and refereeing the game.
Before taking her to the vet appointment today, I brushed and massaged her back, she enjoyed a can of tasty food and she lazily chomped on her favorite rawhide twizzlers. Maybe she wasn’t ready, I questioned myself? She was too hot inside, so we laid blankets on the deck and we cuddled and watched winter birds at the feeder and streamers of geese flying overhead. I slowly stroked her tired body, letting my fingers linger as I twirled the long silky hair that covered her neck, blending black and white, admiring her beauty in just being, and trying to memorize her expressions and slow, even breaths and deep sighs of contentment. In those moments, remembering dozens of camping trips, walks and glimmers of the thousands of days she spent in our family, much of my life flashed before me, intertwined with hers. She napped peacefully next to me until a seizure overpowered her and I knew it was time to let her go.
Until we meet again, I promised her.
Cheryl Smith is a Sequim resident. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.