Everything changes, sure, but when those changes sweep away someone we love it takes a while to absorb the loss. In our MPN village we may have lost more than our share of friends and family.. but that never makes it easier to bear. Even so, when Jenny went down that cancer rabbit hole of weight loss, depression, pain and all the rest I was surprised at how badly prepared I was to lose her. I offer this brief requiem in solidarity with all of us who have lost companions we have relied on in this mysterious life.
So, finally, I have begun to let myself feel the absence of Jenny. Her goneness.
It’s Monday night and Jenny died Saturday morning.
In all this little time – these first 58 hours — she wasn’t quite gone. I would look over my shoulder when sliding back my office chair to make sure she wasn’t in the way. I walk in the dark on a 3 AM piss call so the light won’t wake her up. I stuff dog treats in my pocket when I leave the house.
It was the porch that brought it all home.
Downloading photos from my mobile, I would stop at her face and zoom in and stare. There she was again.
She totally loved me. I loved her unreservedly. In stores, on trails just hanging out or walking downtown we were in constant touch and agreement. She didn’t care what I wore or what I looked like or what shitty thing I just did or ugly thought nurture, she was happy to be with me and unhappy when I left.
In all her 12 years and 5 months of life she never did a nasty thing or harbor an ugly thought. Sweet, playful, curious, agreeable and spectacularly beautful in in her soft white freckled coat and cinnamon ears , fringes on her leg and a blooming great white tail streaming behind her. But mostly you’d notice her deeply mascared eyes, dark and soft, large eyes and matching lipstick.
With her I felt complete, neither coupled nor lonely nor even alone. She guarded my sleep with vigilance behind unlocked doors. She was a West Asheville dog, at first the Blue Mountain Schoolhouse puppy who would poop under the conference room table and howl when I left her alone.
She was the days on the river and the trails above this mountain town, she was a snow ghost in the winter blizzard. Much as I knew all that then, it was still much more than I knew.
She patrolled along the perimeter of our house on Allen Street, pacing the edges of her territory, a familiar sight for drivers along State and Pennsylvania and the short cutters from Haywood and the loud rappers from Pisgah Heights all pouring by and seeing this white setter, serene in a bamboo ringed yard. Or looking down from her perch on the porch.
She occupied the front porch, resting on the easy chair or more usually prone on the edge of the stairs, looking down, occasionally rising to challenge a passing dog or little kid, and even more rarely going down to the lawn to restablish pissing rights over the corner patch of weed.
The porch was our summer place, mostly, After dinner with a drink, cigar or joint, the four of us – Jenny, Bozo, Kat and me would head for the porch, sheltered by a thick bamboo grove, the street emerging only in patches,
like openings of a clearing in the deep forest. At no other time would the four of us come together like that. Bozo would jabber and fret, and Katrina would exit as soon as the bug spray came out but Jenny was serene and unmoving in holding the space together, a peaceful retreat after beating back the rigors of the day.
Downloading the iphone photos from last week I came on a rare selfie, Subject: A man well-stricken in years. The photo permits no denial. An old man grieving this night for an old dog dead of pancreatic cancer and a cocktail of narcotic death, someone lost and adrift without direction or crew.
Not exactly true. There is a surviving crew. There’s Katrina Kat and Bozo, a mutinous loud mouthed parrot not above wheedling and sobbing for bit of cheese. For 25 years we’ve been on this merry-go-round together, squabbling and squawking, hanging out together in our privacies and desolations. A few laughs and showers, many moves to new places and a few close calls.
And he (or she) knew Jenny from the very beginning as a round fat white puppy with a rat tail, big eyes, and a length of clothelines around her neck for a leash.
Tonight I feel Jenny is not with me and her ghost and photos and treasured pop-up memories don’t replace her warm breath brushing through my fingers, her muzzle in my hand.
Suddenly, really, she is gone.