I can see Jinx lying on the patio. She hasn’t moved in minutes. No flicking of her ears, no stretching to get a bit more sunshine. She has her back to the doorway, lying still. I can hear the other dogs wrestling on the lawn.
Please, not today.
Jinx is fourteen, pretty spry really, eager to play the games we’ve played for years. Her appetite remains healthy although she can’t handle some snacks easily; she’s learned to drop a hard biscuit to the floor and nibble up the pieces.She’s a border collie, beautiful; she is mostly black, with a white collar and blaze and a luxurious spray of thick white fur on her chest. Her forelegs are speckled, paws mostly white. Her coat is still shiny and full; her eyes clear, although she doesn’t see very well these days. Her adolescent grandson bounces unpredictably, startling her if he comes from the left or the right. He tries to give her the space she needs, but forgets, bounces too close, and earns a sharp barking rebuke.
She has a single dot at the corner of her mouth. Marilyn Monroe.
We took her to a sheep ranch when she was young, just to see what instincts might kick in. The other dogs were happy to bump, nip, and prod, going all out to get the sheep into compliance. Jinx placed a thin stick in her mouth and rounded up a pair of stubborn sheep, keeping the stick in place to prevent herself from nipping. From that moment on, every game has started with Jinx finding a stick before the action begins. Sometimes she’s out of luck and resorts to taking a long stalk or a leaf as a substitute, but she’ll shake it away when she finds the real thing.
As a pup and as a young dog, Jinx was, well, needy. She came by it honestly; her mother was a relentless love hound. Whereas our lumpy blue merle simply lays his wide head on my knee and looks up imploringly, Jinx is a nudger. She’ll butt my hand until I relent, no matter what I happen to be doing or carrying.
She does that a little less these days, though she does love to have her snout rubbed gently.
She sleeps hard. At night she’s up on the bed, although she needs help in getting on board; it’s hard on her when she has to get down in the middle of the night and can’t pull herself back up. During the day, she finds a patch of sun, often on the porch outside the den. The door to the kitchen is around the corner, and the other dogs find their way there quickly when called. Jinx doesn’t hear us, or she’s too deeply asleep. She rouses when we step outside, yell around the corner, and clap loudly.
I’m happier when I can see Jinx. On the few occasions when she has wandered off into the pasture or the orchard without the rest of the gang, I’ve had to go looking when the yelling and clapping has failed. I don’t realize I’ve been holding my breath until I find her lying near the pear trees.
“If it be not now, yet it will come – the readiness is all.”
I’m not ready; it all comes down to that. I still grieve the dogs we’ve lost, each one with a particular pain. Some of them slowed, weakened, lingered, and gave out. One died in my daughter’s arm; one died in mine. Two died too soon.
I know that my thread is as likely to fray as Jinx’s, and we each have whatever days we have. I find as many ways as I can to honor her each day and try to slow myself down as I rub the velvet fur above her eyebrows. She closes her eyes and takes a long slow breath. So do I. I say goodnight and stroke her head slowly as I leave her.
Please, not tonight.