25 June 2006

Nessie tails

Last week I invited Wren-friends to share a recipe.

Patrick of I Speak Dog shared one for his personal version of three-bean soup. It looked so good (and I love soup – it’s a passion of mine, even if it IS now 85 degrees and rising in the kitchen) that I decided right then and there I’d make it this weekend.

I had, in the back of the pantry, several Mason jars of dried beans from a long-ago garden. Two of them were mixed beans – the nice, tasty brown ones that come from green beans you leave too long on the vine, some wee white ones that look like Navy beans, and black beans. There was also a big jar of just black beans.

Well, feeling all domestic and cookish and such, and since it was a day off and all, I decided to soak both jars of mixed beans and the jar of black beans. It was sorta fun, rinsing them off in the screen colander in the sink because, of all things, along with the beans I found a few old Nessie hairs.

Stopped me right in my tracks, it did. She’s been gone three years this summer, but Nessie was the best ol’ girl dog in the world, even if her hair did get into just about everything.

I met her when Mr. Wren and I got back together after a 13-year hiatus. Ness was already about five years old, a very large Doberman-looking dog with a large mouth of long, white teeth. I love dogs – always have – but she gave me pause the first time I saw her. It’s that Doberman-thing. But there was nothing to worry about with Nessie. She was, Mr. Wren, told me, a Doberman-Labrador mix, though he wasn’t positive. He’d rescued her from the pound when she was about 10 months old, a big, playful, reckless puppy with nothing in the way of manners but with a personality that just shone.

Nessie was nothing but sweetness and light, through and through. The moment you rubbed Nessie’s ears, she was your friend for life.

This wonderful dog went hiking into the wilderness with us, went fishing – including riding in the canoe, which made it a very wobbly experience, though we never did end up in the water – and was an all-around, 24-hour-a-day companion to both of us. When she was about seven years old, she cornered a cat from the neighborhood who’d wandered into her territory (she was just fine with the cat that lived with us) and was scratched on her left eyeball. Unfortunately, she lost the sight in that eye, but it barely slowed her down. We just had to be careful to stay on her sighted side, or she’d whack us in the legs with her big head.

When Ness was 10, Mr. Wren took her with him to the Desolation Wilderness for a three-day backpacking trip, one of many she’d taken with him over the years. She had her own backpack, that dog, and carried her own food. She absolutely loved going with him. This trip, he decided to climb Horsetail Falls, an incredibly steep, nearly hand-over-hand climb that he could never talk me into, but which he and Nessie had done before together. She’d just leaped up ahead of him, all the way, turning back now and then as if to say, "what's taking you so long?!"

But dear ol’ Ness was slowing down. This time, though her heart was in it, she wore out about three-quarters of the way up and just couldn’t go any further. So Mr. Wren climbed to the top, took off his own backpack, climbed back down to Ness and carried her all the way up. She weighed 86 pounds. A couple of days later, they walked out the long way instead of making that treacherous descent.

When she was 13, she grew a terrible tumor in her belly. For a time, she managed, but finally, she could no longer walk and it was obvious that trying gave her pain. As the vet (a sweetheart of a woman who came to our house for this sad duty) gave her the injection that would end her pain and give her a gentle hand to her place among the stars, I got to be with her.

Finding that Nessie hair in the beans brought back lots of happy memories of a very dear friend.

I tried to upload a photo of Ness, but Blogger is being persnickety. Anyone else out there having trouble with photos? And, there’s another story about those beans, but that’s another post.

1 comment:

Kevin Wolf said...

So many dog posts lately on the blogs I read. Recently it was gardens, now dogs.

I guess I get to vicariously have a bunch of dogs by reading these blogs!

Thanks for sharing your memories.