Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Saying Goodbye

My Chocolate Lab was more than a faithful friend, loyal protector and traveling companion: he was my writing buddy. Every morning for nearly fifteen years, Jefferson found his favorite spot on the rug underneath my desk where he endured everything with equal aplomb – my mutterings when a character didn’t behave, my tears over career disappointments, my giddiness over finding just the right phrase, just the right word. He’d let me know with wet, sloppy licks to my hands and bare feet that I was not only his beloved human mama and favorite person in the whole Universe, but I was also a genius.

Though I provided his food and shelter, bought his toys and treats, and trained him in doggie manners, I never “owned” Jefferson. We simply took care of each other.

In winter when the temperatures in Mississippi dropped below freezing and my house felt cold no matter what the thermostat read, he’d let me slip off my shoes and warm my cold feet against his warm fur. In spring when daffodils and forsythia, azaleas and Bradford pear blossoms festooned my yard, he’d grab his Frisbee in his big mouth, press it into my hands and insist I leave the computer to go outside for a romp in the sunshine.

In the summer of 2007 when I was searching for a way to transform an ordinary mystery plot into something extraordinary, he gave me the perfect answer. Make Elvis a dog.

In the deep winter of 1997 as I drove the fifteen hundred miles home from New Hampshire where I’d attended the birth of my second granddaughter, gentle-natured Jefferson showed just how fierce a hundred-pound dog can be. When I was frightened by a trucker in a small Pennsylvania town whose name I no longer remember, when I took a ten-minute nap on the grass in a welcome center in the Shenandoah Valley, when we got caught in the middle of a thunderstorm in Knoxville and somebody tried to get into our less-than-desirable motel room, Jefferson became “Killer,” all hackles and fearsome growls and warning barks.

Jefferson and I pranced our way from the rocky seacoasts of Maine to the white sandy beaches of Florida. We frolicked through the summers of his youth and my prime. We grew gray together.

Then it came time to say goodbye. A stroke stole his ability to walk, but it couldn’t steal his courage and his great heart. And I wouldn’t let it steal his dignity.

I called my very compassionate vet, who came to the house to assist my big guy. With his head in my lap, the feel of sunshine on his back and the sound of birdsong all around, Jefferson slipped quietly into deep sleep.
A simple rock marks his resting place. It’s engraved with one word: courage. Yellow roses bloom where he lies. This summer I’ll add more roses. This fall I’ll plant daffodils and tulips, day lilies and iris.

When I sit in Jefferson’s garden, I’ll understand that indomitable spirits can’t be broken, that kindness is more important than wealth, that true friends are precious beyond measure.
And I will always remember.

Peggy Webb is the award-winning author of 60 plus romance novels, 200 magazine humor columns and two screenplays. Her comedic Southern Cousins Mystery Series, launched in 2008 with Elvis and the Dearly Departed, features amateur sleuths Callie Jones, her cousin Lovie (who’s had more lovers than Elvis has fleas), and her Basset Hound who thinks he’s the reincarnated King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Peggy is former adjunct instructor at MS State University. Her website is http://www.peggywebb.com/


Anonymous said...

Oh, Peggy, what a beautiful post. I'll miss Jefferson just from hearing you talk about him all these years.

Peggy said...

Thank you. Though he is gone physically, he's still with me. I'll be talking about him...and writing about him for years to come.

Debra Webb said...

Sorry, Peggy! That anonymous was me.

Peggy said...

Your comments are always welcome, Deb, Anonymous or not!

Vicki Lewis Thompson said...

Oh, Peggy. I read the post with tears in my eyes, which is how you probably wrote it, too. I never got to meet Jefferson, but I felt as if I knew him from all your comments about him. He deserves his own garden with beautiful flowers. You were lucky to have each other. Relationships like that don't come along every day.

Rhonda Nelson said...

Peggy, so sorry to hear you lost your faithful friend. :/ You were very lucky to have each other. Hugs in this difficult time.

whimseycreations said...

Oh I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. Jefferson sounds like he was a wonderful blessing and I'm sure you were to him also. Hugs! Jill

Jennifer said...

Peggy, sending you a huge hug! That is so hard but Jefferson's garden sounds beautiful and very befitting.

Peggy said...

Thank you, Vicki and Rhonda. He taught me so much about loyalty and friendship.

Peggy said...

Jill and Jennifer, my big guy loved lounging in one of my gardens with his head held proud and his ear blowing in the breeze. The garden is a fitting tribute to him.

Jo Reed said...

I, too, enjoyed Jefferson.
He was friendly, fun-loving ,
playful and exploring.

During tomato growing season,
I stopped for a short visit
one day and we were outside.
Jefferson made several visits
to Peggy's vegetable garden
to gather him some tomatoes.
Each time he picked a tomato,
he brought it to show us what
he had done. He was so proud
of his skill for gathering

When it was too cold to be
outside and I stopped by to
visit, Jefferson was always
so kind to share one of his
toys with me. I never visited
Peggy that Jefferson didn't
do something to make sure that
I noticed him. He was really
a smart dog.

He will be missed.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peggy. I just got the chance to sit and read your tribute to Jefferson. You know, of course, that I couldn't hold back the tears long enough to finish reading it aloud to David and Trey. We will all miss the big guy. You could not have asked for a sweeter, more loyal companion. Since his birth he was a much loved part of our family and will always be remembered as one of our best brown furry friends.
Much love to you, Anita

Peggy said...

Anita and Jo Ann, it's a comfort to know that my Jefferson was well-loved by all his extended family. Much love to both of you.

Tamara Tillman said...

Peggy, that was such a sweet tribute to Jefferson. I can't stop crying (and I'm at work)! Being the "mom" of two dogs and a cat, I know how attached we get. When I was around Jefferson, he was a very loving dog. Wish we could keep them forever.

Deborah Sharp said...

Hi, Peggy ... what a lovely memorial to your great dog. You're a wonderful person (as all dog-lovers are!) and a beautiful writer. It's an honor to be able to read your beautiful words.