We never really worked out what breed Jess was. She resembled a small Alsatian, but seemed to have characteristics of collie and whippet in her too. She found a place with my mother not long after my father left in 2002. We think that she was about three years old, and her previous owners no longer wanted her because they were relocating to Spain. My mother, upon seeing her sad face when they left, knew that she had taken the made the right decision in offering her a forever home, and within weeks Jess had transformed from a rather nervous little thing into a ball of boundless energy, with a cheeky personality and a seemingly big smile. She adored my mother and her other dog, a bumbling retriever named Ollie, and the two complemented each other perfectly.
Jess was a constant in my mother’s life from that moment. She followed her around, making sure that she knew where she was, and was fiercely defensive of anyone who came near her, or indeed the house. She only seemed to truly relax when she knew that Mum was asleep, inevitably taking the opportunity to curl up next to her. She was a happy, contented softie, always enjoying a cuddle. For the last twelve years she’s been a friend, a protector and a member of our small, rather dysfunctional family. She helped Mum though a nasty divorce, several house moves and a number of jobs, and I always felt a little comforted by the fact that she was there to keep Mum safe when my sisters and I moved into our own houses.
As she aged, her little personality grew into that of a stubborn old woman. Armed with bowels that could be used for chemical warfare, she knew what she wanted, and made sure everyone else knew it too. It was a regular occurrence to be woken up in the early hours of the morning with a slobbery chew toy being placed on my pillow, and despite my protestations she would quite happily chase it as often as I was willing to throw it. She would sell her soul for a crisp, barked at other dogs on the tv, took great delight in shredding any post that came through the door and made a point of threatening the postman in the process. She had her own box of toys, and a preferred place on the couch. At Christmas, her presents would be placed lovingly under the tree with all the other gifts.
When Ollie passed away, she gradually accepted another two dogs into the family, but always managed to maintain her position as top dog. She was the boss. She knew it. They knew it. We all knew it.
Mum took her to the vets today after seeing a quite a sudden deterioration in her health. After receiving X-rays, she was brought back home this evening. Jess jumped on the couch with the other dogs, curled up, and quietly passed away. She knew. She waited to come back home, to be with her family, and said her goodbyes before she left.
I’ll miss her very much. I’ll miss the cuddles and the constant affection, I’ll even miss the slobbery toys. Most of all, I’ll miss the unconditional love that she brought to my mother’s home and to our lives.
Goodbye, my feisty little friend. I’m sure that wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing, you’re showing them who’s boss.