My future in-laws had a dog named Heidi in the 1970s. From what I’ve heard, Heidi was a great dog. She was a beautiful German Shepherd. Smart, loyal, and well-behaved. She had diabetes, and required insulin injections every day. My in-laws took care of her faithfully, and she took care of them.
Heidi had a litter of puppies in 1977. All of the puppies were quickly claimed, and went on to have productive professional careers. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, philanthropists. So the story goes.
Every puppy was taken except Jester. My in-laws kept her. The Augustines loved her, and Jester loved them. Like her mother, Jester was fiercely loyal.
I first met Jester in May 1985, when I started dating Theresa. I immediately learned that “fiercely loyal” meant 9 parts fierce, 1 part loyal.
On my first date, when I picked up Theresa, I learned that Jester knew how to fly. She could jump from the free-throw line, and reach the basket. I also learned that the basket was me.
There was a little part of Jester’s brain, next to the hypothalamus, called the “kill Hal” section. Jester didn’t even know that she had that section of her brain, until we first met. I was prepared to say “I am delighted to meet you, Jester!”.
I have to stop for a minute, and go back in time. Have any of you ever seen the movie “Jaws”? Do you remember the great white shark, and the razor-sharp teeth in the mouth of the shark? Remember the terror that that movie caused?
Now imagine those teeth in an 80 pound German Shepherd. Imagine those teeth, airborne. Imagine a dog flying through the air, with those teeth, aimed at me.
We now resume our regularly scheduled programming.
So I was prepared to say “I am delighted to meet you, Jester”, but Great White Shark Teeth Dog had other ideas.
The body is a wonderful thing. It allows for all kinds of physical reactions in times of stress. One of them is known as “fight or flight”. This is the immediate reaction caused by the release of adrenaline.
I have another name for that reaction. I call it “Code Brown”. Code Brown refers to the physical reaction that I have when a dog lunges at me. Brown is the color of my underwear afterward.
Theresa and her parents had a funny reaction when Jester lunged. It was a mild scolding…a wagging of a finger, with a “now Jester- please don’t lunge and scare the nice boy….” What they should have said was “Jester, please don’t kill him!!”.
I’m not exactly sure why, but my first date with Theresa resulted in a second date. You have to ask Theresa why she allowed that to happen. Go to her blog site at “MyHusbandIsAMoron.com” to find out.
But there was a second date, and the plan was that we were going to watch a movie together, at her house.
I suppose that they had drugged Jester in order to allow me in the house, because she was relatively calm when I arrived. “Relatively calm” meaning that she was an 8 on the Insane German Shepherd Meter, not a 10.
But Jester eventually settled down on the floor by our feet, while we started a movie.
Let me set the scene. It is 1985, and I am 24 years old. I am watching a movie with a very (very) attractive young lady. If you could scan my frontal cortex, you would have seen “Ulterior Motives” light up on the scan.
Now picture Jester, at our feet. Sedate, serene, peaceful and calm.
With one eye open.
Now let’s fast-forward to the awkward moment, when I decide that it might be a good idea, to slowly, ever-so-gradually, try to put my arm around Theresa’s shoulder. Eeeeever so gradually, so slowly, until….
Until just enough brain cells woke up in the “Kill Hal” part of Jester’s brain.
CODE BROWN IN THE LIVING ROOM!!! CODE BROWN IN THE LIVING ROOM!!!
And that was the end of the movie.
I am not sure how it happened, but Jester and I came to an uneasy agreement. As I came to know Theresa and her family, Jester and I agreed that maybe, just maybe, I should be allowed to live. In fact, Jester even allowed me in their home sometimes.
By 1988, Jester was about 10 years old. I had been dating Theresa for 3 years, and I was preparing to take my pharmacy license exams. I had a week off, and I blocked about 80 hours (no kidding) of intense cramming for the exams.
Theresa’s parents were out of town, and I agreed to help babysit the home.
Alone with Jester every day.
Jester was starting to slow down. She was greying, and mellowing. A bit of a sweetheart, I thought.
Something happened that week. Around the middle of the day the first day, I was sitting in a rocking chair, studying…..and Jester came over and curled up next to me.
Just me and Jester.
And that was it. I was family. Jester and I sat together all week, me in the rocking chair, and Jester next to me. Every once in a while, I’d reach over, and give Jester a little stroke on the back of the neck. She liked that.
Somewhere in between all of the Code Browns, and my last days with Jester, we became friends. Jester was a good dog. She was a great dog. We had a lot in common. We both cared a lot about her family.
In 1992, Jester began to fade away. It happens to all people, and it happens to all dogs, too. No one gets out of here alive. When it was time to put Jester to sleep, Theresa and I went to the veterinary hospital to say good-bye.
When it was time to put Jester to sleep, I promised her that I would do my best to keep taking care of her family.
I’m still trying.