Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Story of Jaycer

Each and every day I love my dog a little more. Each day I don't think it's possible, but then he does something; he cocks his head a new way, he walks me to the door when I leave for work, he dances around the kitchen jumping up to give me a kiss, he gets the most excited look on his face when I grab one of his toys, etc, etc, etc and I feel so honored that he is in my life. At the same time, though, I always think about the dog I had as a child and how I feel I failed her even though I was only 10 years old at the time.

My dad and had just moved to a townhouse off a county road that sat along a creek. It was 2 levels and had a really cool loft that overlooked the living room. The living room itself had sky-high ceilings and a huge fireplace. The townhouse below us was rented out by my sister and her family. There were about 8 of these homes in this development. Behind us where huge hills filled with trees and meant for kids to run and play. There was a rope swing over the creek. There was no traffic. And every house had a dog. Each dog was allowed to run around free and they were all friendly. As a 10 year old girl, this place was like heaven.

I begged my dad for a dog. I'd always wanted one, but we always lived in apartments, so it was never an option. Now we were living in dog paradise, and I assumed, as usual, that we would be living here forever. This time we would stay. I hoped we would stay. It was the happiest I'd been since my mom died.

Then one day, he relented and we drove to the local vet/humane society. We walked up and down the cages. The dogs all barking and crying. Then I saw her. She was laying down in her cage with her nose sticking out of the cage door. She just looked up with her big brown eyes and her tail thumped on the floor. I had found her. I had found my dog.

She was listed as a black lab mix, but about half the size. I think she weighed between 40 and 50 pounds. She was all black except for a white spot on her chest. She was said to be about a year or two old.

Dad took care of the business end and we left. I was so excited. We stopped at the grocery store to get food and supplies. I stayed in the car with her, Jaycee. That is what I named her. I don't remember why. I know I had a reason. But, the German in my dad always added in 'r' to the end and middle of words and she became Jaycer.

As I sat in the car with Jaycer, people would walk by and comment on how cute she was. I felt so proud.

She became my best friend immediately. I introduced her to the neighbors and all of their dogs. She was so friendly. She loved everyone. She let us kids do whatever we wanted with her. Except play fetch. If you picked anything up - a stick, can, rock, etc. - she would start to cower and shrink away. I assume she was beaten by her previous owners. But she never growled or nipped. She didn't like the water, either. I took her up to the local swimming hole, yes swimming hole, and she would not go near the water. As I swam, she ran up and down the shore barking for me to come back.

My dad bought her a really nice dog house, but she would never go in. I would crawl in there and try to get to join me, but she was having none of it. She ended up sleeping inside.

She became especially friendly with the german shepard up the road. His name was Brandy and he was huge. He had to weigh over 150 pounds. He loved her. One day I caught him loving her a little too much. I knew what they were doing to an extent and I didn't like it. I kept trying to get her away from him, but he kept coming back. My dad finally saw them and pulled Jaycer inside. Brandy spent the night attacking our house. This 150 pound dog lunged at our windows and doors, barking all night. The next morning, there were huge claw marks down our front door. He really dug her.

After that, if she was outside, they would run off together for the night. She would come back sometime the next day. I don't know where they went. I like to think they had a little love nest somewhere in the woods.

Well, obviously, she got pregnant. The day she had her puppies, she crawled into her dog house for the first time. I tried to pet her, but she growled and snapped at me. It was the only time she ever did that. But she did let my dad come near her. I still think that was pretty cool. I don't know what she sensed in him that made her think he was okay to be near her during that time. Maybe she just knew he was an adult and more capable of care. He sat outside her dog house the whole time, rubbing her back. When she was done, we had 14 puppies. All but 5 survived.

I was thrilled, unlike my dad. He now had 10 dogs to care for. Of course, I wanted to keep them all, but he convinced me that they would be better off at other homes. I started looking around for potential families.

One of my neighbors, who already owned a doberman named Bubba, took one of the puppies. Bubba was terrified of the puppies. They would all go chasing after him and he would run away, so scared.

One of my sister's gave one to her friend who owned a farm.

Her son had to come to live with us around this time. I loved my nephew. He was a year older than me and a bad influence. He became close to the teenage girl down the road. I thought she was so cool. Cool enough that I let her pierce my ears with a potato, some ice, and and a safety pin. Needless to say, they got infected and I took them out and let the holes close.

We were down to 7 puppies. I can't recall if anymore were given away. I believe we got rid of a couple more, but I'm not sure.

My dad told me we would have to give them all away. We just couldn't afford it. So one day, he packed the puppies and me in the car and he headed out of town. I thought we were going to the humane society, but we were heading out to farm land. He pulled over and told me to let them out. I couldn't believe it. I started to bawl. I screamed, I begged. He relented and we went home, puppies in tow.

A couple of weeks later, my dad gathered up the puppies once again and said he was taking them to the humane society. I made him promise me he was telling me the truth. I said my goodbyes to them and he left. He came home about a half hour later and went about his business. My nephew pulled me aside and said, "you know the humane society is much farther away. He got home way too fast. He just left them on the side of the road." I started to cry. But I didn't say anything to my dad. I couldn't believe he could actually do that.

As an adult now, I understand that my dad grew up on a farm and the dogs he had were not pets. They were used for hunting. Puppies were most likely "taken care of" in whatever way was necessary. He couldn't afford to take care of all of Jaycer's puppies anymore, so he took care of them.

Now the puppies were gone and I think even Jaycer was relieved. She hated being a mother. She would take off running when they tried to feed. She would pick them up and shake them around. She was happy again when they were gone.

The day eventually came. My dad said we had to move. I was devestated. We moved all of the time, but I really liked it there. I knew we'd end up in another tiny apartment in some smelly apartment building. There would be no grass. There would be no creek. There would be no hills. There would be no Jaycer.
Of course our new apartment wouldn't take dogs. I was angry. I begged and begged and begged him to let us stay, but we had to go. To this day, I still don't know why. We didn't move that far. I guess, maybe, the rent was too much at the townhome? That is the only reason I can think of, because my dad seemed really happy there, too.

I asked him what would happen to Jaycer. He said my sister, who lived below us, said she would take her. I became okay with this. Jaycer could stay with her friends and I could visit her and my sister all the time.

We moved away and gave a Jaycer a tearful goodbye and told her I would be back really soon.

But being 10 years old, I didn't have much say in that or reliable transportation.

It was a long time before I got back there to check up on her. My dad had to do some work in town and I asked him to drop me off my sister's so I could visit. He did. After what happens, I don't know why he let me.

I knocked on my sister's front door and no one was home. I heard her little dog inside barking, but no Jaycer. I started calling for her, screaming at the top of my little girl lungs, "Jaycer! Come here! Jaycer!" I screamed and cried for her for almost an hour. Then, out of the woods, I saw her. She came running towards me and jumped on me so hard, she almost knocked me down. She slobbered me with dog kisses and I was so happy. I found her. She remembered me. She remembered her name.

Then my dad pulled up.

He told me it was time to go. I begged him to stay. Then I begged him to let her come with us. But he said no. I told him I was sure my sister had not been watching her. He said she had and not to worry about it. He dragged me in the car and all I could do was look out the back window through eyes streaming with tears and watch her watch me leave with her head tilted.

I never saw her again.

I don't even have a picture of her.

It has been almost 20 years since that day, and I still can't think about it without crying. I can't think about her without crying. I miss her everyday and wonder everyday what happened to her.

I have never asked my sister for the truth. Did she really care for her? They moved not long after that and they didn't bring her with her. I like to believe they tried and she just ran away, maybe with Brandy to their love nest in the woods. That's what I tell the 10 year old girl in me who still can't forgive herself.

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