Jimmy used to sleep in the shower and give our guests a fright when they went to the toilet. He also used to get up and pointedly leave the room if you coughed. For some reason he couldn’t stand coughing. And he’d often use the couch as a facecloth. He’d walk along the couch and rub his hairy face on it. He was a real character and he’s left a huge hole where he used to be.
Jimmy James Bartholomew Douglas Monster was our little cross bearded-collie. We’re not sure what he was crossed with but it was something very intelligent and beautiful. And quirky. Like a unicorn. He was a unique dog with so many fabulous idiosyncrasies, and more than one of our friends have referred to him as a ‘legend’. He was a legend.
We met Jimmy 13 years ago at the Animal Anti-cruelty League. We’d decided we needed to adopt a puppy but, what we weren’t prepared for was the way he’d become so entrenched in our lives and play such a central role in shaping our lifestyle.
We’d spend many hours just watching Jimmy playing when he was a puppy. He’d find the most banal objects ridiculously entertaining and, even right into old age, he’d spend many happy hours playing with an old plastic ice-cream container. In fact that became his pre-dinner ritual. He’d push it around in front of him along the ground, grab it in his teeth and toss it high into the air before catching it in his mouth again. Like a very talented seal. Only less smelly.
And feeding time came to play a central role in all our lives for a long time. When Jimmy was seven, he was diagnosed, after a being very very sick, with diabetes. This diagnosis rocked our worlds and completely changed our lives. It meant that Jimmy had to be fed at regular intervals in order to keep his blood sugar levels stable as we couldn’t test them regularly like a person with diabetes would. And he had to get insulin injections twice a day.
This meant that if we wanted to go away over night we’d have to find a babysitter who’d be willing to take on the responsibility of administering twice-daily injections. Fortunately we have family who loved him as much as we did and were willing to help out.
When we moved into the first house we owned, we bought off plan. This meant that, when we first moved in, we didn’t have a front gate at the bottom of our driveway in the complex and there was nothing to stop Jimmy from running out. We erected a little makeshift fence using wooden flower bed edging. Which was hilarious because it was only about 30cm high. But it was enough to keep Jimmy in. He stood smartly behind it, peering out through the crosses, but never trying to get out.
Jimmy got sick suddenly with an aggressive growth in his abdomen and his health deteriorated so quickly. Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye. It was the only fair thing to do. It wasn’t an easy decision, it never is, but we knew that he was counting on us protect him, as we had throughout his life, and make sure he didn’t suffer at all.
We loved Jimmy like he was a child, and for a very long time he was our child. And it broke up hearts to let him go. But I know that wherever he is, he isn’t alone. The other day, while talking to my editor about him, the word ‘Jimbo’ popped into my head, completely out of the blue. The only person who used to call Jimmy, Jimbo was my father in law, who passed away two years ago. So I know that wherever our boy is now, he’s in good, caring hands. If you’ve let a furry friend go, and your heart is still tender, please share your experiences with me.