The day after my fourteenth birthday, my dad and I drove up to Sacramento to take a look at a dog advertised as a "purebred" beagle.
The former owner opened up the garage, and I squatted down close to the ground as a snuggly, warm, soft little dog with a Beagle's black face mask and velvety soft ears came running out, streaming warm pee all along the way.
She ran with her head down and came right to me, tucking her entire body underneath my legs, something she would do for the rest of her life (minus the pee, luckily). I tried to separate myself, though I was already fully in love with this dog. I knew that my dad wouldn't like the nervous peeing habit.
I pet the dog. She licked my face. I looked into her one brown eye and her one blue eye. She was tiny, but the owner told us she was about five months old. Have I mentioned that I was already in love with this puppy?
The owner gave us a few moments to discuss it. My dad said she was too expensive. I cried and offered to pay a tiny part of the $100 asking price, $10. What can I say, I was fourteen and making $2 a week in allowance...$10 was a lot for me - five weeks salary!
My dad, seeing my tear streamed face and the dog's helpless eyes, agreed.
We drove home with the new dog asleep on my lap. I stroked her head and rubbed my fingers along her velvety ears.
We introduced her to my mom, who discovered that the poor dog was completely flea-ridden. My dad washed her about ten times that night, until she was finally clean and dressed in a hooded doggy sweatshirt (the first and only time she would wear it).
Then we named her. We took turns looking at her and holding her all through the evening until we decided on a name.
We settled on Jessica Jody, and for short, JJ.
For ever after, she would be known as JJ, though she would always respond when I called to her in a sing song voice, "Jessica Jody, Jessica Jody."
She was never the most beautiful of dogs, though her eyes always astonished people. She had a line running across her head, dividing up the color on the front of her face and the rest of her body. As her weight climbed above forty pounds, and she adopted the solid gait of a pit bull, we realized we had no pure-pred Beagle on our hands.
She was always so happy to see me. Her tail -- her long, heavy, thick tail -- would pound with joy, she would lift up her head, and I would bend down to let her kiss my face. She made happy little shouts of joy whenever anyone went outside to see her. When she got to walk -- on her purple leash - always purple -- she would shriek in a high pitched tone and then yank us out the gate.
JJ loved to go down slides, played fetch for hours on end and had no teeth.
She came to us with some nervous habits, one of which was chewing. She chewed through street hockey balls, chewed on wooden decks, made wreck out of her doghouse. And so, those teeth were worn down doing something she loved.
The one time she was allowed to sleep by the side of my bed, the next morning we found her sound asleep in the wreckage of Abu the monkey.
She loved the water. The first time we took her to the beach, she couldn't handle the sand. She took a step, sunk down and wanted to go back to the parking lot, but she trusted us. She trusted me, most of all (even to her last week, she would take her daily pills only from my hand...anyone else had to shove the pills down her throat). She let us walk her down the steep, sandy hill, and once she discovered the ocean, it was all worth it. She ran and snapped at the waves, trying to catch them in her teeth. JJ would swim out as far as possible, until we realized that, unless she was in our favorite, quiet cove, we would have to keep a close watch on her, so she didn't get carried away by the rip-tide. She was full of joy everyday, but I think she was at her happiest on the beach.
As my mom said, she was the perfect dog, she came into our lives and was just what we needed in a dog.
On the day after my fourteenth birthday, I was still a scared, shy girl, and she was a scared, shy puppy. We were kindred spirits who needed to find each other.
Over the past few months, our fourteen year-old dog, the dog who has given us all she has to give for half of my life, faced a rapidly failing body. Still, everytime she saw me, she greeted me with a wagging tail and an upturned face, eager for her kisses. She tried her best for us, and last night, we finally did something for her.
We let her go.
I cried, knowing that I'll miss her velvety ears and her soft, warm kisses. I'll miss her stopping on each and every walk to sniff and grunt like a truffle pig. I'll miss her crazy blue eye. I'll miss the happy, loving spirit of a dog named JJ.
But I'm not sad. JJ had an incredible full, long and happy life. And she shared all of that happiness with us.
When the vet came in to ask if we were ready, my mom, my dad, WG and I were laughing, remembering funny things about JJ.
My mom went out to the lobby, and WG went to wait with her.
The vet finally opened the door with the medicine, poor JJ made such a variety of noises she sounded like a train engine. The vet said, "Is that her making those noises?" We laughed and comforted JJ, petting her ears, kissing the top of her head, telling her she would be with her Bailey soon.
She went quickly. She rested her head on her paws, with her tongue sticking out of her mouth.
Ths time, we giggled, and my dad struggled to get it back in. Never graceful, but always loving, our JJ. We closed her eyes, pet her, told her we loved her, hugged her and said goodbye.
The four of us left the vet wiping away tears but laughing all the way.