The trees above release pale yellow leaves that float down upon Noah and me as we set out for an early morning trail run. I can’t help but see the raining leaves as a metaphor for the tears I have shed over the loss of my beloved canine companion, Jesse. This week Jesse finally succumbed to the debilitating infirmities of old age.
For so many years Jesse was my lodestar and I his, each providing the other with direction, balance and centering; we brought out the best in each other. As with so many folks and the special animals in their lives, we shared a bond, a connection that transcended spoken language.
With Jesse’s passing I feel as though I have lost a part of myself; I miss him terribly. But alongside my grief I am also choosing to celebrate the exceptional dog Jesse was, the remarkable life he lived.
Jesse reached the venerable age of 16 which, given his early history, might not have been expected. As a puppy he was left abandoned in West Virginia, tied to a stake, with injuries to hip and leg. The situation was looking pretty dire for Jesse when some caring folks from a northern rescue organization chanced upon him and transported him north to their facility for much-needed surgery and medical attention.
Months later, in my ongoing search for that special dog to adopt, I met with Jesse and his foster mom. It didn’t take Jesse long to relax and lie down at my feet, having decided that he had found his forever person. The meeting turned out to be a fortuitous one for both of us.
Jesse was a black and tan coonhound mix, and I often referred to him as the epitome of a Southern gentleman – mannerly, mellow and good-natured. His devotion and loyalty were without boundaries; he would follow me anywhere and, as long as I was by his side, was willing to try anything. He was confident and stout-hearted, the ideal fellow adventurer and traveling companion, joining me on ventures that took us from Maine to Florida and even to the Bahamas, traveling and exploring together by car, plane, boat, golf cart, horse-drawn cart and kayak. Staying at hotels, bed and breakfasts, and a variety of houses, Jesse was always the consummate guest.
Jesse loved being outdoors – running, hiking, swimming, or just lazing on the deck. He was incredibly athletic and agile, and he so loved our daily rambles. He was my muse, inspiring me to write of our exploits in nature. Although he is no longer by my side, in spirit Jesse is in every nook and cranny of the natural world around me; in the blazing glory of autumn trees, the serene stillness of a morning lake, the glistening waters of a rippling creek, the plumes of goldenrod gilded by the sun.
I look down at puppy Noah running next to me and think he could not have had a better mentor and teacher than Jesse. I feel so very blessed to have had Jesse and to now have Noah in my life, and I have a feeling deep in my heart that Noah will perpetuate Jesse’s legacy. Elizabeth Taylor, well known not only for her multiple marriages, but also for her profound love of dogs expressed it well, “Some of my best leading men have been dogs.”
Cindy Woodall resides in Upper Black Eddy.