Monday, March 15, 2010

Calamity Jane And What Heaven Looks Like

When one of them touched her emaciated scarred body, she raised up her head and with great dignity tried to lick his hand. He still speaks of the light in her eyes, and how profoundly alive she seemed even though her skeletal body showed signs of horrific abuse and the painful insult of having been hit not once but twice by cars on a busy highway. The men, who knew each other from work, agreed to take her to the vet at Animal Services to be treated. And both men conspired to get her a new home. They knew their mark.

It was me. They knew that I am the biggest sucker for animals in the known world so they snapped a heartbreakingly beautiful picture of this noble Labrador Retriever/North Carolina Coon hound mix and immediately sent it to me. She had been dubbed “Lucky” by the pound since she had barely a scratch from being hit by cars, plural. She had been somebody’s dog, since she had already been spayed, and was thought to be between 3 and 6 years old. Wherever she was for those first years, she was a ghost dog now with animal bites old and new barely healing. I could count her bones. I could feel her pain. There are dog fighting rings here and I wondered about her terrible injuries. Could she have been a “bait dog” for this barbaric blood sport? I contemplated the notion that she may have run into traffic on purpose.

There was another name for her.

Calamity Jane came home to a house with two kids, two other older Labrador Retrievers and probably about six cats. She knew she was home, or maybe this was heaven, and carefully went from room to room selecting one item of clothing, preferring T-shirts, socks and underwear, from each of our dirty clothes bins and created an aromatic nest in the absolute center of the house so she could see all the comings and goings.

An acre of land, all she could eat, and unending snuggles, cuddles, ear stroking, and back “skritches “ was what she was going to get. Her ears were butter soft and warm and her fur was short, black and glossy as a seal’s. Taking a photo? Janie was right there ready to “photo bomb” it in her own special way. The postal service named her “Fangs at the Door” because she took it seriously this thing about protecting the territory from invaders. She always got the last tidbit of anything I was eating, and would delicately take it from my fingers with a soft and gentle mouth.

She was not perfect by any stretch. She liked to eat paper, chase raccoons, play the “catch me if you can” game, rush up to and slime guests, and could produce farts like a human being. Once late at night in the dark I heard such an emission and literally thought there was a flatulent intruder in the house. It was just Janie.

After full day and a hearty meal, she would sleep. Often, her legs twitched and she howled pitifully in her sleep, her dream life still captive to the nightmare life she lived before. She would settle when she heard her family’s voices saying,

“It’s ok Janie, you’re ok now. Sleep peacefully dear doggie, we’ll be here when you awake.”

(The following is a letter I sent to our neighbors to apologize for Janie’s rather assertive behavior. She could be intimidating and we got a little visit from the authorities.)

August 29, 2008

Howdy Neighbor!

My name is Calamity Jane, Janie for short, and I wanted to apologize for running willy-nilly into your yard. I have a really stupid way of playing “catch me” with my owners. I used to do it all the time but as I have gotten older, I do it less and less. They keep me on my leash in the front yard just so when I get a wild hair and bolt they can run after me and stomp it to stop me before I run too far. And sometimes I do “escape” when my owners are trying to get into the house with me after a ride in the car because I get so excited. My stupid side sometimes overrides my otherwise pretty good training. Especially when I hear your canine buddies barking in the house or when your cute kids are right there to be completely sniffed and slimed.

I can cop to being an idiot. I admit it.

I heard from my peeps that I annoyed you, probably pooped in your yard or even scared you all when I went on a tear just recently. Holy moly! So much so you felt like someone in authority should deliver the 411. I apologize and just so you know I submitted to my annual rabies shot and a thorough nail clipping as a result. Not fun but I needed and deserved it.

Just so you know, I am a rescue dog, a mix of Labrador Retriever and North Carolina Coon Hound. Most folks think I look like a Rottweiler, which can be alarming. But I don’t have that really bad stuff about me. I love my cat buddies and I regularly play with many other breeds of dog at the Barber Park Dog Park with no bad incidents.

I know, I know, I bark hard and look crazy when your dogs (Max, Topper and Diesel?) are in the yard but that is mostly because I want to play! Not happy with the fence that separates us… Maybe they can visit in my backyard sometime so we can have our own “dog park on the block.” There is fenced space to race around in plus yummy squirrel chasing galore.

Anyway, I have been feeling so bad about it that I wanted to do something to atone for my goof up, so I hope you enjoy the book (perhaps a good read for the boys out loud!), the chew bones and the sweets for the kiddies. Again, I apologize, and want you to know I will be on leash at all times in the front yard no matter what. And because my peeps are only human, if I accidentally lose my marbles, pull away and take a run, please know I would never hurt you, your kids, or your pets. Sniffing and sliming happens, and I might poop on your lawn. But no bad stuff other than that and my owners would be glad to pick up my waste if you like.

So ok. Thanks for listening. I am Calamity Jane and I endorse this message.

(And just a few more photos of sweet Jane...)

You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.       ~Robert Louis Stevenson

To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring - it was peace. ~Milan Kundera
Rest in Peace darling dog.


  1. My heart cries for you. You know how much I love dogs and Janie I'm sure was the best. Sorry I never got to meet her.

    RIP Janie and hugs for you all.

  2. Thanks peedee. I am having a pretty tough time but the writing about her helps...

  3. Oh my god, I am totaly in tears right now. What a sweet post. I love your little girl! Take care and know that she knows how much she was loved.

  4. Awe, you made me cry. So sorry for your loss. Our black lab (mix) Raven died Feb 09 at nine years of age. Like Janie, she was fiercely protective and full of character. We have another dog who we love as well, but no dog can replace another...they become family members. I'll bet Janie and Raven have made fast friends in doggy heaven and are out chasing squirrels!

  5. I am so so sorry for your loss. We always owned labs. Cried like babies as each one aged and passed.. Now I have a hotdog.. oh.. such a waste of dog flesh... labs rock...

    again.. so sorry, but your post brought back wonderful wonderful memories of the labs we had..even when crossed with another breed.. the lab came out..

  6. Oh, what a beautiful dog. And so lucky. That photo of you under the tree with her in the background looks like it's straight out of Cynthia Rylant's "Dog Heaven".

    The best dog I've ever known was a black lab/coon hound mix, she died just two weeks ago. It's the hardest thing to lose a dog. I'm so sorry.

  7. Came over from Greybeard's place and I'll have to thank him for sending me here.

    How lucky Jane was to find forever people like you. Rescues are the greatest dogs ever and we're lucky to have them while we do.



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