I had a moment with a dog yesterday. I know that sounds weird but it’s true.
I was driving my kids to school when I saw a black dog with his head out the window of a car. Because I’m an animal lover, it is my nature to look and -sometimes- even wave at animals in people’s cars.
I realize that is not the most normal of behaviors, but that’s just me.
When I looked at this particular dog my heart stopped. Right there, sitting in the car next to me at a red light, with his head out the window was my old dog Jim.
And I don’t mean the dog resembled or “looked just like” my old dog. I mean this dog and I locked eyes and I could have SWORN in that moment that Jim (or Jimmy as I called him) was staring right at me.
I’m not a dramatic person nor do I seek out emotional experiences like this just for the effect, but if I ever believed Jimmy was reincarnated, it was in that moment.
I’m telling you….it was the exact. same. dog. Same gray hair around the eyes, same tan markings on the same long, square black head. Licked his lips, perked his ears and tipped his head to the side EXACTLY like my Jim.
The dog looked at me with the same recognition. He knew it was me.
The only thing is, I Jim died 2 and half years ago.
Jim was a huge part of my life.
I picked him out of a litter of mutt-puppies in a small town Iowa backyard while I was still in college. I lied to my parents and said that he belonged to a friend…that I was just taking care of him for a bit (they knew me better than to believe me!).
He lived with me in Wyoming while I went to college and traveled to every single polo game with me in my 20s. He was my faithful companion over tens of thousands of miles of road, through several boyfriends and was in my wedding when I married the love of my life.
He was my truck stop dog, drinking from dixie cups at pit stops and eating his own cheeseburgers from fast food drive-thrus.
People referred to us as “Jenny and Jimmy” as if our names were one.
He was getting older by the time the kids came along. He went from my “only child” to “the dog” and for that I will always feel guilty. But he was a good dog…a GREAT dog…and loved the kids just the same.
Then one day – years into his role as “family dog”- he started limping.
What I thought was an injury turned out to be an aggressive tumor in his foot.
2 weeks later, my husband and I knew it was time to put him down. We drove him around the back country roads one last time, stopped and got him a breakfast sandwich from the gas station (a staple for us both in our younger days) and then sat with him as the vet came and helped ease him to sleep.
It was awful and it wrecked me. Nobody would ever know me like Jim knew me. Nobody.
But as I sat at that stoplight yesterday, staring into not-Jim’s eyes, I got a warm feeling. A feeling like being home. A feeling that my past is still here and I’m still the person I was all those years ago when it was just me and Jim.
And when the light turned green and both our cars rolled on, I couldn’t help but feel happy (though I had tears coming down my face). It looked like not-Jim had himself the same, happy, single-dog life that original-Jim had. The way it should be.
If you have ever lost a pet, you probably know all the emotions and feelings I’m talking about.
And I hope you get the chance to see your loved pet again…even if it’s just for a glimpse…like I did today. In a moment when my mind was filled with to-do lists, frustration at running late and chattering kids in the back seat, leave it to my good old dog to come back to me for a split second and remind me where I came from.
Miss you Jim.