A Dog Named Jessie
Jessie came into our lives at the age of six months. By that time he had already experienced the hard knocks of life. Found abandoned on the side of the road, he was rescued by a kind stranger who brought him to our shelter, where we adopted him and took him home.
From the beginning, it was obvious that Jessie was traumatized. He was afraid of everything: the car, the doors, the stairs, peanut butter, shoes and feet, and just about everything else. We could not foresee where Jessie’s fear would take us.
Jessie was with us for about six months, when we became foster parents of a dachshund mixed-breed pup. Jessie did not like her, at all. We all lived in a nervous co-existence, until dinnertime. Within moments a food fight erupted between Jessie and this foster child.
It all happened so fast, and I was in the middle. My husband managed to get in between the two dogs, grabbing Jessie by his collar. Jessie screamed all the way down the hall and into the bedroom. I, quickly put the foster into her crate, grabbed my Happy Dog in my arms, and hurried down the hall. The crashing I heard in the bedroom, scared me to death. But nothing prepared me for the scene I witnessed as I opened the bedroom door.
There was my husband, on top of a terrified, snarling Jessie, holding back his head. Blood dripped from my husband’s arm and onto the rug. Lots of blood. From all we could figure out, when my husband grabbed his collar, Jessie thought he was going to be killed. Whatever his past, nothing had prepared us for a dog who was this kind of loose cannon. This was a dog whom every animal expert insisted “should be put down.”
To tell you the truth, as I was sitting beside my husband in the emergency room, I just didn’t know what to do with Jessie. I was so angry at that dog. My husband had carried him up and down the stairs, coaxed him into a love affair with peanut butter, and sweet talked him out of his corner and down the hall. He slept by his side. Yet one step towards control, and Jessie mangled the hand that fed him.
I was angry with Jessie. I couldn’t imagine what was going through his head. Would he attack others? Would he attack Happy Dog? Would he even attack me? I didn’t trust him, and I wanted him gone! But my husband insisted, No.
So Jessie stayed. Against all the expert advice, my husband blamed himself. I was not having any of it. Past, or no past, Jessie had crossed the line. You do not bite the hand, and Jessie had pretty much chewed up most of my husband’s arm.
For ten days, by law, Jessie was quarantined. Then my husband began immediate training. He bought a training collar. I, the hater of all things electronic, had to learn to use it, and I had to learn the commands. Since Jessie’s trial by fire began with a dog fight and shouting, my husband began to train Jessie with soft commands and hand signals.
Day after day. Week after week, my husband faithfully trained a dog that others would have put down. As his arm healed over the next months, something rare and beautiful began to take place. Jessie, under my husband’s gentle persuasion, began to understand and obey. And Jessie adored him. I could see, that no matter the tempest that ruled Jessie’s former life, affirmation and love had calmed the storm.
The resentment within me also began to heal, and I learned to forgive. I didn’t know that was happening until one night as I was writing, I felt someone watching me. I turned around, and there was Jessie, standing in the hall looking at me. I saw a pleading expression in his eyes, and I seemed to hear his voice. “Mommy, please love me.”
At that moment, my heart broke for the little pup who had been abandoned in a cardboard box, by the side of the road. Then, love burst into my heart, as he came over to me, hesitantly, expecting rejection.
“Jessie, I love you,” I whispered into his neck, as my arms slipped around him. Tears dropped from my eyes, as I realized Jessie’s need for my love.
Twelve years later, I am so thankful that we gave Jessie a new life and another chance. I’m older much older, and so is Jessie. Our relationship has grown, as my health has declined. In the house, I’m very much the one in charge, and Jessie, still timid in many ways, knows who is boss. When we go outside, however, Jessie is in charge. Like the noble watch dog he was born to be, he guards and protects me and our passel of little dogs. His vigilance is unmistakable. He sniffs the air for danger, and he keeps us safe.
Jessie has taught me many things about life, love, and forgiveness. He never was a bad dog. He was just afraid. I’m thankful for my husband’s wisdom. Jessie’s life was worth saving, and I cannot imagine life without him.
I don’t know how much longer God will allow us to have Jessie before He calls him home. All I know is, that I love him. He is healthy, happy, and just a little bit goofy. He has taught me that things are not necessarily what they seem to be. Some things just have to be tested and felt in the heart. I also know one very important thing: that if you allow a lesson to really change you, it usually will.
All Rights Reserved
<jayelewis at centurylink.net>