Wednesday, March 23, 2011

If you knew Jessie like I know Jessie

A few days ago, I received a text around 7am. It was a picture message from my Dad- he still can’t remember that I can’t get pictures on my phone. I wondered what it was of- probably he’d done something funny with his hair and felt like sharing it. Sounds like something Dad would do!

But a few minutes later, my Mum called. She sounded like she was crying. “I have some bad news,” she said, and immediately she had my full attention and my mind was running wild at the possibilities.

It turned out, that Jessie, the golden retriever my family got when I was eleven, was going to be put down today. Given that I’m now twenty-six, she lived to be 15 years old, which is pretty good for a golden retriever, so I hear. Her health had been deteriorating for awhile now, and she’d been quite sick that night, so Mum and Dad had decided it was time.

I quickly packed up the kids and made the drive to Perth to say goodbye. I explained to the kids what was going on, and tried to prepare them for what could be an emotional time ahead, for the adults anyway.

I tried to reassure Jack that despite my tears, Jessie going to heaven was a good thing. She was old and tired, and her body wasn’t working properly anymore. She would go to heaven, and she would be perfect and young and happy. “Mummy and Grandma and Poppy are sad because we will miss Jess. But we know that one day we will see her again.”

Jack looked at me with wide eyes. “Yeah, cos Grandma and Poppy will see her again in heaven soon.” Calm down kid, they are only in their fifties!

It was hard to see Jess. One by one, so as not to overwhelm her, I took each child outside to the cool shadey spot where Jessie was laying. They gave her a little pat and sat quietly with her. Jessie was struggling to breathe and tried to lift her head to look at us but it was too hard.

I think after awhile Jack started to pick up on the emotion and tears from my parents, my brother and myself, and it worried him a little, to see the adults crying. He told me, ”I’m a bit sad,” and asked, ”Why does Jessie have to die now?”

I sat him down with me and I told him, “Jessie has finished everything she needed to do while she was alive. She did lots of fun things didn’t she?” And we remembered some of the fun things Jessie had done over the years- like going to the beach, the park, on lots of walks, how my younger sister and I used to walk to the local shop with her and buy three chocolate Billabongs (one for each of us) and the time Mum taught her to swim in the lake at my Nan’s farm, and Dad kept trying to get the perfect picture…and how just as the roll of film finished and started to rewind, Jessie hopped on top of the floating raft and posed beautifully.

And let’s not forget all the jokes from my Dad about Jess being his “favourite blonde” (too bad, sis!) and all the little songs he made up and used to sing to her while feeding her her vegemite toast.

We accompanied my parents to the Vets’. Was it a bad idea with the kids? Maybe, but I really wanted to be there and had no other choice. I just wanted to say a last goodbye and then sit with Jack, Isabel and Sophia in the waiting room while Mum and Dad went with Jess. Maybe as a support for them when they came back.

Dad carried Jess inside. We went into the small room where the table was. Dad prepared to lay her down, but then Jess made a strange noise and her eyes seemed to just stare blankly ahead. “I think she’s gone,” my Mum said quietly.

The Vet soon came in and checked for a heartbeat. She was gone. Our Jess had come this far and held on for every second that she was in my Dad’s arms, and then she had let go. She was a true friend until the very end.

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