Jaunty Jimmy

We had to say goodbye to our little border collie mix, Jimmy, yesterday afternoon. He was getting on to about 15 years and had compound terminal issues. Jimmy was perfectly ordinary and wonderfully unique, just like countless rescued dogs. He was a stray who was never claimed and came to live with Silva and me. And as I like to say, rescued pets are like rigged slot machines – you get a dollar’s worth of payback for every dime’s worth of attention you give to them. There are Jimmys at every shelter in the country waiting to be someone’s new best friend.

My first encounter with Jimmy was memorable. Of course you remember how you met each of the animals who come to share you home, but Jimmy’s entrance was particularly memorable.

There was a blue grass festival in Kanab on July 17, 1999, and Silva was helping to man a Best Friends booth at the event. I stopped by to offer my support and to check out the music. July is monsoon season here in Southern Utah, with warm, moist air from the south producing frequent afternoon and evening thunderstorms and the occasional gully-washing flashflood. Storms out here can be pretty spectacular, with sharp cracks of thunder echoing off the cliffs and through the canyons. Crystal blue skies turn leaden gray, and the lightening branches dance on the ridges like a Hollywood special effect. These isolated storm cells tend to move on in under an hour to be followed by a return of blue skies and sunshine.

On this particular day, a spectacular and very loud storm moved in during the early afternoon and temporarily shut down the festival. I left and headed back to Best Friends – about a five-mile drive up Highway 89. About two miles up the road, I got stuck in a line of cars moving at under 10 miles per hour. This is normally the result of some huge piece of mining equipment being hauled up the winding two-lane highway at a snail’s pace with wide-load signs and flashing lights. There was nothing of the sort in this case, just a line of about 15 to 20 cars crawling along. Did the lead car have an engine problem? Was I at the end of a funeral procession? Maybe it was a carload of tourists taking in the red rocks?

As the line snaked around a curve, my irritation turned to concern when I caught a glimpse of a small dog in the center of the lane leading the procession! I started passing cars as fast as I could until I passed the frantic black-and-white dog, pulled over, jumped out of my car and called to him as he passed. Jimmy ran to me and jumped into my car … it would be the last time he would ever voluntarily get into a car. His paw pads were entirely worn bloody from his flight. He was just terrified of thunder – something that only failing hearing in his later years cured.

He quickly fit into our household and appointed himself to a position similar to that of the sergeant at arms of the Little Rascals clubhouse, deciding who could enter our office and who couldn’t.

Jimmy was a wonderful friend who had many friends, both human and animal, and apart from his unfortunate habit of wanting to nip guests from behind on their way out the door, he was the most charming of little rascals.

We buried him this morning, and as Silva tossed the last shovel of dirt onto his grave, I heard unusual birdcalls. Looking up, it was a rare flyover of Canada geese in an uneven chevron formation – one wing of the V was missing a goose. It was the famed missing man formation. Truth.

Goodbye, Jimmy. You will be missed.

Francis Battista