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Goodbye Jesse, you will always be my special girl

January 28, 2008 - Amy Jo Hanna-Eckenrode
Friday afternoon (1/25) brought an unexpected turn of events. When I went home at lunch to let the girls out, Jess, who had been having trouble with her back legs for some time now, could barely stand. She’d pull herself up, then her back end would collapse under her body weight. Her age, deteriorating muscles and time had finally caught up. Still eager to go out I had to hoist and guide her body down the four back steps. She couldn’t even squat to do her business without falling. My heart sank. I had been preparing myself for this day for months, but you’re never fully prepared.

I adopted Jess some four years ago when she was 8 ½. She came to me via the Central PA Golden Retriever Rescue in Centre Hall, PA. Kim Bierly is the angel who runs this rescue. Jess was displaced from a home she had known all her life from what we were told. She lived with another Golden who had recently passed and now the family – for whatever reason – couldn’t keep Jess. It made no sense to me. It never does. But, this older girl now was looking for a home.
When I pulled up in front of her foster family’s home and opened the car door, one extremely large Golden mass made a b-line for the back seat. I could tell she was a bit overwhelmed by the gaggle of barking dogs and small children galloping about the yard. My open car door must have looked like quite the reprieve.  Nikita my other Golden at the time was already in the back seat. I brought her along to see if the two would get along. There was no time for that. Jess flew into the car, sat next to Nikita with a look of ‘get me outta here’. Nikita looked at me almost surprised, we all looked at each other and I thought, “well, so much for getting acquainted”. No growls, we’re good to go.

Compared to meek, mild Keetie, Jess was quite the bundle of energy. It took both of us a bit of time to become accustomed to the trials and tribulations of counter-surfing, slobbering, fetching and playing (Nikita was just learning to play with toys – she was also a rescue). Oh, and barking. Nikita wasn’t a barker. Jess was. Oh, was she. She taught Keetie every bad habit she could. She was such a character that we kept adding nicknames until we’d spout, “Sarah Jesse Louise Donatella Parker, Ray Parker Jr.!”

Yet, still to this day, five Goldens, four rescues later, I have never had such a kind, loyal, devoted dog as I did in Jess. Jess was the epitome of all that a Golden is said to be. She was never far from my side, quietly guarding, protecting and always eager for love. She was my girl.

I knew when I watched her struggle to stand on her back legs it was time. Jess was very proud. Although she was a large, masculine girl she was still a very private lady who was easily embarrassed. If preserving her pride was the one final thing I could do, I was determined.

We made the hour-long trip to see Dr. Griffiths at Metzger’s Animal Hospital in State College. I knew our fate. I just needed him to confirm and tell me at least a dozen times that I was doing the right thing.

Jess and I got to spend a lot of quality time together waiting for Dr. Griffiths. Jess seemed content to lay with her head in my lap and endure my unending “I just love you, Jess”, “You’re my girl”, “I don’t want you to hurt”…

One look and Dr. Griffiths said, “I thought I might know why you were coming over, but I can see you are making the right decision, Amy. It’s time.”  I had him confirm that Jess was in pain. That is the only thing that would give me the strength to proceed. “OMG, Amy, yes, she’s in pain! She has no muscle mass left in her back legs, she can’t stand and she’s in pain when she tries.”  That was all I needed.

I held Jess close, kissing her nose and telling her how wonderful she was and how lucky I was to have her come into my life. She was peacefully gone before I could finish my indirect forgiveness speech. She was so peaceful and relaxed that I knew she, too, had been ready. She was at rest. Out of pain. At peace and happy.

It is me that will continue to deal with the deep, stabbing, aching pain, hurt, sadness, loneliness – all greedy emotions I might add - but none-the-less mine. I deplete my body of tears and amazingly fill back up for another bout of mourning.

I’ve made it my lot in life to adopt hard-to-place, senior dogs from Golden Rescue Groups, so I know I also must be prepared to lose them sooner. However, it never makes it easier. Each is so extremely special and unique and I am beyond blessed to have them come into my life. My heart breaks every time when I lose them but I will continue to duct-tape myself back up and prepare for the next assignment.

Everyone asks me why I would want to adopt senior dogs knowing I’m taking on more possible problems, challenges and a shorter life span. I smile and say I’m the official retirement home for Goldens, we get along great because we all have the same energy level (very little) and we’re all set in our ways so it’s quite an amusing arrangement. I also feel that, knowing so many of these sweet babies come from bad or abusive backgrounds, if I can give these girls the very best last days of their lives, then I am happy, I have done everything in my power to ensure they were the happiest they could possibly be. For the little bit of love and spoiling I can provide, my girls give back that much more love tenfold.

Sarah Jesse Louise Donatella Parker, Ray Parker Jr., YOU will always be my girl.



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