Fuelled by emotions the revelations in Vanessa’s haunting blog post today entitled “Imagine that there is a war” evoked in me today, I think it’s time I publicly talk about Jenah. For those of you not in the know, Jenah was a beautiful German Shepherd / Huntaway cross Noel and I adopted from the Canterbury SPCA in November 1996. Actually, I think we adopted her 16 years ago almost to the day.
Jenah passed away on 5 March 2012, nearly 16 years old. She was mostly deaf and one of her eyes had somehow slightly split and would deflate every other day (before re-inflating), and the final straw came when her other eye did the same thing. It was heartbreaking to have to put her to sleep. We made the right decision but it was still heartbreaking nonetheless.
I cannot put into words the absolute heart-wrenching grief I still feel about her death to this day. Her death has impacted me very deeply, and her absence in our lives has left a gaping hole in what feels like my dry husk of a body.
The words, “you gave her a good life” and “she was loved” and “she’s no longer in pain” and “she lived longer than most dogs like her did”, are very much appreciated but ring hollow in my head. Because she’s not here, and never will be again.
But there were happier times. And her memory lives on. I can think of 101 stories to tell you about her. The time we found her stealing toast off a plate on the coffee table. Or when we came home to find she’d dug up anything she could find in the back yard, only to arrange it in a circle around her with that stupid satisfied grin on her face. And then there’s the morning Noel and I looked outside to see her running around in circles on top of the pool cover.
I guess the best way I ever described her was in our entry for the Hill’s Special Diet “Second Chance for Love” competition back in 2009. It ended up I arranged the words in the right way to win first prize. The Web site sadly no longer exists, and I can’t seem to find the original computer file (I think I lost it in the February quake, sadly), but there was a shortened version of my story in Pet magazine.
Luckily, Way Back Machine has a copy of the winning entry cached for all time. I wish I could put more words to the screen and describe her perfectly to you, but her loss is still too raw for me to handle.
So, instead, I give you the winning entry: “Jenah”.
Noel and I wanted to adopt a dog a few months after I arrived in New Zealand. He’d never had a dog as a pet before, and I convinced him the SPCA would be a good start to find one. I didn’t have a lot of friends, and it would be great to have a fur friend at least.
We saw a handful of big dogs and small dogs, long-haired and short-haired dogs, when our eyes fell on a small walnut-coloured dog. Noel asked a friendly SPCA worker if we could walk that dog, and she said yes. “But what about this dog?” She led us over to a kennel where we hadn’t seen a dog before. There, peeking around the corner, her beautiful brown (but sorrow-filled) eyes staring back at us, was meek and mild Jenah.
After taking both dogs for a walk, we chose Jenah for her very demure and loving nature. The SPCA representatives said we had a two-week trial, just in case, but I knew in my heart she was the dog for us. Noel and I went out right afterwards and picked out dog toys, beds, everything a lovely dog would need to be happy.
That afternoon, Noel and I sat on the back steps of our house while Jenah checked out her new back yard. Noel still wasn’t sure about a dog, and no sooner had the words left his mouth, Jenah trotted up, wrapped her paws around his neck and kissed him a few times before cuddling him. He looked at me, tears in his eyes, because she’d said thank you.
We’ve had Jenah now for a little over 12 years. She’s been our protector, our loyal friend, our cheeky girl, our duck-loving fur baby, and everything in between. There’s an intelligent sparkle in her eyes, and she still picks up new words every day. We love her as much as we’d love a child, and we often forget she’s a dog!
We were led to believe she’d been beaten as a puppy (we got her at 6 months old), and it took us a long while to convince her all people were not bad. Noel took a long while to show her belts don’t hurt dogs, newspapers don’t roll themselves up and hit dogs, and hands are for petting, not for hurting. It took years, but it worked. No dog, pet, child or human deserves to be treated like that.
When we cry, she consoles us. When we laugh, she smiles. When we’re sick, she cuddles with us. When we have good times, she’s by our sides.
She welcomes everyone who comes to our house, whether she knows them or not, a big smile on her face, her tail wagging eagerly, and a bit of a cuddle after they sit down. (Well, either that or her toy duck gets planted in their lap!)
We’ve given her the nickname of “Toast Monster” for her almost-obscene love of toast.
When she joined our family, she was near the time where she might have been put down, so in a way, we saved her. But in many other ways, she saved us too.
We couldn’t ask for a better companion in our lives than Jenah. She’s added a dimension of richness, wonderful stories, and love to our lives. And for that, we will always be grateful to her and the SPCA.
This was so sad and so beautiful. You have honoured Jenah in this piece.
Thank you for your kind words. She was an amazing soul. I’m glad I could somehow capture that, and my love for her, in words. (And thank you for the inspiration with your blog! I’m still thinking about it today…)