Archive for March 3rd, 2011

My Girl

This is my best girl, Jemma Jones, who passed away yesterday.   She was perhaps the sweetest creature to ever grace our lives and Cheri and I will miss her greatly.

Jemma came into our lives a little over five years ago. At that time,  I began looking for another pet to replace our poor little beagle, Mae Belle Brown, who had passed away two years prior and whose story is also a compelling one that I may tell here at another time.  I came across a photo online of this little red Corgi at a shelter about 70 miles away and it was love at first sight.

Jemma, it turns out, was rescued from a puppy mill in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania that was ran by the Amish.  The breeding of puppies to supply pet stores has become a huge cash crop for the Amish and in areas where there are concentrations of the Amish there are generally large numbers of puppy mills.  It was estimated that Jemma was about 7-9 years old at that time and had been bred many times.  She had no name that they knew of, which is not uncommon in these circumstances where the dog is treated as livestock,  so the rescuer gave her the moniker Jemma.  We added the Jones just for balance. 

 When they found her, she was wandering free in a large barn with a couple of hundred dogs in cages.  She was eating kernels of whole corn off the floor ( a practice she continued with us).  The representative of the rescue organization said that she may have been a favorite of the breeder because they had agreed to give her up because of lumps on her breasts rather than simply have her destroyed, which is often the case.  They had no intention of paying vet bills for a sick piece of livestock but were willing to at least let her have a chance else where.  For that, we are grateful. 

Over the next two years Jemma underwent surgeries to remove three of her breasts.  She endured the process with a real peaceful dignity and had great recuperative powers, often back to her happy demeanor within just a day or two after the major surgery.  She also was discovered to have a heart arrythmia and arthritis in her shoulders but despite these physical ailments, including the spectre of recurring cancer which had led the oncologists at Cornell to give her 6 months to two years to live, she lived her remaining years with great joy.  She was fast to excitement and her joy in the things that gave her pleasure was immense.  I have no greater joy in my life than the memory of her on a walk suddenly stopping and flopping on her back to wriggle in grinning ecstasy.  She loved to do this in the snow and even on the night when she went into respiratory distress she wanted to wriggle in the snow when I took her outside into the cold air so that she might breath easier.  But she couldn’t and at that point I knew she was in deep trouble.  She survived in an oxygen chamber at Cornell for five days but none of the many attempts made could relieve her symptoms and the team of doctors there was stumped in finding a cause besides the obvious conclusion that her cancer had metastasized in her lungs.

She was unhappy living in the confines of the oxygen chamber and we knew that it was time to let her go.  We spent quite a long time with her yesterday, just petting her and feeding her treats.  Despite her obvious discomfort in breathing, she was happy.  That was one of her great qualities, this ability to live in the very present, to find instant joy and not carry the past with her.  She went peacefully and quickly.  She has moved on and Cheri and I remain here with broken hearts and loving memories.

I would never insult parents by saying that Jemma was like a child to us.  There are definitely differences in the two, besides the obvious.  Children, when properly raised, become more and more independent until they go out on their own.  Pets become more and more dependent on their owners for their care and comfort as they age and grow sure of the love they receive.  The relationship is not like a parent but  more like that of a caretaker who offers love and protection and is rewarded with unconditional love.  It has been our great pleasure to see Jemma and Mae Belle flourish in the last years of their lives.  Both were exceedingly happy in the last years of their lives despite their physical problems.  And that happiness fills ones soul.

Thanks for coming into our lives, Jemma.  You have  filled my soul.

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