|The Bone, 16" x 20", acrylic|
I ended the old year and started the new year 1996 with a bad cold. I was so sick that I slept most of the time. However, whenever I was awake, I felt very alone and homesick. I lived in new house in a new country far away from my family, and friends. I did not know anyone in the neighbourhood as everyone seemed to hibernate during the cold winter. I felt shy about speaking English, and was not allowed to work as I was still waiting to become a landed immigrant. Ingo looked after me as much as he could but he worked downtown during the week, so I spent a lot of time by myself.
On the first Friday in January, Ingo and I went out to the outskirts of Montreal to “just look” at some Golden Retriever puppies. I don't remember when we started to think about getting a puppy. It must have been quite a sudden decision as I have not found any mentioning in my diary. I do remember, however, that we talked to the Humane Society to find out what dog would be the best for us as I suffered from severe animal phobia. This anxiety was so bad that I did not want to leave our house because there were many dogs in the neighbourhood. I was so afraid of dogs that the smallest dog would be enough to cause a panic attack. We were advised to get a puppy so that I could get used to a slowly growing dog.
However, before we left, I had already bought a light blue blanket, a small green collar, and a leash. It was a very cold night. We went before supper because Ingo thought we would only need less than 2 hours to get to the breeder. As it turned out we had quite some problems to find the place. We were driving in circles in the darkness. At one point, Ingo went to a gas station and bought some chocolate bars for us. I will never forget how solidly frozen they were.
At the breeder's, the puppies were in a big playpen. Suddenly the puppies parents came in the room: two beautiful Goldens. I was too scared to take a good look at them. However, the small puppies were so cute. The breeder who knew about my fear of dogs, just placed the little one named Penny in my arm. Do I even have to mention that we took her with us the same evening? She was so warm and soft. I held her in my arms in the huge blue blanket the whole way home. I still remember how excited I was to have my first puppy.
We renamed her Jessie because we did not like the name Penny. She was very good the first night at our house. She probably was in shock – away from her mother and siblings with those two strange people in a big house.
The big surprise came the next morning when we went to the kitchen. There were little puddles everywhere – not that this was a surprise, but what we had not expected were frozen pipes. No water and a puppy who was peeing and pooping everywhere were not a good start into the day.
The next night was a different story: Jessie cried the whole night like a baby. We had decided that we would stay firm, and not let her into our bedroom. However, it was too heart wrenching to listen to. Therefore, we spend a good part of the night rocking her in our arms on the sofa. We were exhausted when we got up, and called the breeder because we were not sure what to do. The purchase of a cage and lots of patience lessened the problem.
Jessie did help me to get over my fear. However, it did not happen overnight. The first couple of weeks, I was totally overwhelmed. It did not help that I had a relapse and felt awful. For the first week, Jessie woke us up every couple of hours, barked almost non-stop when she was not able to see me, and followed me everywhere when possible. I had absolutely no idea how to deal with her. I was still scared despite all the cuteness.
Luckily, she was a very clever girl and loved to please. After less than a week, she was able to follow the command “sit” and got slowly used to her crate. Ingo and I spent a lot of time training her, and she developed into a fantastic dog. The most admired trick was for her to take her own bag of poop to the garbage bins and drop it inside.
|Jessie - Forever in my Heart, 11" x 14", acrylic|
When Jessie died due to cancer on October 30, 2005, the day after her 10th birthday, I was heartbroken. I still do not remember how I made it through the first two months. She was basically my first child. I hardly spent a day without her except when I went to see my friends and family in Germany. She was my constant companion while I tried to get settled in a new country far away from my family and friends. She opened my world to so much pleasure and the unconditional love dogs give. She was at my side during many life crises.
Even though we adopted another Golden Retriever, our beautiful Candy, and our energetic Alex, who I also love dearly, she will always be special and never forgotten. It is no wonder that we have many painting of her. To this day, she is my most painted subject.
Despite our new companion, I still had to try to cope with the frigid and long Canadian winter. Please follow me next week, to see what I did and how I succeeded to adjust.