What has happened to the dog blog, and more importantly, Sampson? Readers can rest assured Sampson is just fine. He was going through a bit of an awkward stage recently--you know the middle school class pictures of which your mom has piles of wallet and 3x5s leftovers, because let's face it, you and your braces and your smattering of zits and your nose growing faster than the rest of your face and your greasy comb-over were not exactly the images that she wanted to send out to the far-flung family? That was Sampson the last few weeks. Not that we don't love him in all of his gangly, jacked-up back end, swirly-new-dog-hair-meets-puppy-fluff and long pointy snout magic, but we know HE didn't want himself represented this way to the world at large. When he's a big studly Mufasa, these awkward shots might embarass him. Nevertheless, I'll throw in one or two...
I could also bemoan the busy-ness of birthday week and sending the three littles off to school, which sometimes seems miles more challenging than homeschooling. J remarked the other day that it doesn't feel like less effort--pointing out the amount of time it takes to get everyone out the door for a day (or half-day) at school, and then in the evening again getting them ready to go back with homework done and clean uniforms and gluten-free food and library books and gym shoes and dance/sports outfits and teeth brushed and recitations memorized.
But this is also not the reason why the blog has been flagging. The truth is, the real writing, the second novel, is in deconstruction beat sheet stage all over the house, and I am so excited to share it with readers that it takes priority when I have kid-free time.
Still, I fell in love with Jessie when I first saw her on Lois' Facebook page, and have been anxious to share her in her golden years glory ever since. This week we celebrate the return of the dog blog with an elderstateswoman, Jessie, a quintessential representative of the Newfoundland breed.
From Goofy Newfy to Grand Old Dame
by Lois Alter Mark, co-founder of StyleSubstanceSoul.com
When Jessie, my Newfy, was a puppy (notice I didn’t say “little” – she was never really little!), you could tell the minute she noticed kids approaching, even from far away. She would freeze in her tracks, her eyes would light up, and we’d have a split second to try to hold her back before she would take off, bounding exuberantly to greet them, usually knocking them down in her enthusiasm.
At two years old, Jessie had knee surgery and was confined to the family room for a couple of weeks to heal. Because there’s no door between that room and the kitchen, we blocked the doorway with a wide coffee table that she couldn’t fit under or jump over. One day, while we were out, our son called and in the middle of the conversation, suddenly burst out, “Jessie is standing next to me in the kitchen!” We still have no idea how she managed that, but as our vet often reminds me, laughing, “Jessie is not typical.”
Newfoundlands are known for their superior water rescue skills, but Jessie hates the pool, and used to bark at us when we went swimming as if to warn us, “You’re on your own. I’m not coming in to save you.” When she had a toy she loved, she would walk around the house with it in her mouth, crying with the stress of protecting it and finding a safe place to leave it.
During the California wildfires, we had to evacuate our house and were lucky enough to get a room at the dog-friendly Loews Coronado. Because Jessie will only walk on carpet or concrete (yes, she’s a bit of a diva but, really, she’s deathly afraid of slipping on any other surface), she parked herself at the hotel entrance, refusing to walk across the marble lobby until the kind-hearted concierge -- to whom we will always be grateful -- set out a path of towels for her, which she proudly sashayed across, creating a light moment during a crisis for the other guests.
Because Jessie has never understood her size or strength, she has gotten stuck under a table, knocked down a tree at the vet’s office and run around the house with a cactus stuck to her tail. She has taken my place in bed, stretched out to her full length next to my husband before I had a chance to get in, leaving me to sleep on the couch. She has followed a horse on TV as it ran off the screen, running right out of the room and looking back in confusion, not understanding where it went. She has made us smile, giggle and guffaw more times than I can count.
Now, at almost eleven and a half, Jessie can no longer get up the stairs to our bedroom or run through the house. She has diabetes and can barely see, but she is still the gentle giant she has always been. She kisses the vet after giving her a hard time about taking blood, she wags her tail and barks in delight when she hears her beloved FedEx deliverywoman at the door, and she turns over for a belly rub anytime someone approaches her, pawing them to continue when they stop. She is love, plain and simple.
Because Jessie is so attuned to our emotions, she goes over to squeak her furry green frog every single day, which I’m convinced is her way of reassuring us that she’s okay and we should stop worrying or feeling sorry for her. Since the day I tore a tendon in my arm while helping her get up, she has never again whimpered for me to assist her. She has figured out how to do it herself, and it is an amazing and inspiring sight – especially because of her obvious intention.
As I write, Jessie is lying here with her head on the floor and her feet on her orthopedic bed. She is comfortable in her golden years, content to simply love and be loved. I can only hope to age with as much spirit and acceptance as she has.
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