July 1994 to April 2010
In late August 1994 my then partner Guinevere and I saw an advert for Border Collie pups in the newspaper while visiting my Mum at my family home near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. I had grown up with a lovely Border Collie called Smudge, who had died a few years before while I was away at University and I had always wanted another one. We drove up to a farm in the countryside just north of Bradford. I still remember it like it was yesterday. The barn seemed to be full of Border Collie pups although in reality there were only five or six. We had made our minds up that we wanted the smallest female but the farmer and his wife wanted to keep that one. There was only one other female and so that made our choice easy.
Both of her parents were sheep dog trial winners. The farmer offered us her papers to show her parentage but we didn’t take them. A decision that I sort of regretted later but I’m not really quite sure why. Instead we gave them £70.00 and that’s how Jessie came into our lives.
We put her into a small cardboard box and, because we had an old Triumph Spitfire at the time, she sat in her box on Guinevere’s lap as we drove the two hours back to the little village just north of Derby where we were living at the time. I do seem to remember there were several little vomits along the way but that wasn’t unusual for anyone in that car let alone a seven week old puppy.
That night she slept on the floor beside me. I listened to her rolling on the floor while her stomach gurgled loudly. The next day we gave her puppy worming tablets and the cause of all the gurgling became all too apparent. Quite probably the grossest of the thousands of times I would eventually pick up after her.
We lived in beautiful Derbyshire countryside and I remember her first long walk through the woods near our house. Probably too long as I ended up carrying her home. Pretty much as I was to do fifteen years later.
During her first six months we had some great times tramping through the woods and fields near our house and it was at the time that Jessie developed her life long love affair with Frisbees (actually Aerobies), footballs and tennis balls.
Just three months later I was offered a job as a lecturer at Deakin University in Geelong, Australia. Little did Jess know that her carbon footprint was about to go through the roof.
In early May 1995 Guinevere and I moved to Australia and we left Jess with my Mum until we could bring her out. My Mum had a very sweet but also incredibly dumb dog called Ben. He would constantly run away and would only come back for cheese. I suspect it was at this time that Jess learnt to have great patience with other dogs.
In September 1995 Jess made the long and traumatic journey to Australia. She had to stay for a month in quarantine in Newport. I still remember her absolute delight when we first visited her there. We were allowed to exercise her (and boy did she need exercising).
In 1996 she was joined by Jack, a short haired Border Collie who we got from the dog pound in Geelong. He turned out to be a lovely dog. He wasn’t over endowed in the brains department but he was very affectionate, very fast and loved Frisbee as much as Jess. He would often take the most spectacular catches at full leap in mid air. Jessie in the meantime would watch the flight of the Frisbee judge its curve and speed and, more often than not position herself perfectly for the catch.
In the early 2000’s, having lived through relationship breakdowns and the formation of new ones Jessie was still living with me in Geelong and enjoying the cafe lifestyle of Pakington Street and the occasional visit to promenade along Ackland Street in St Kilda. She always insisted on carrying her own Frisbee. She wouldn’t let anyone else carry it. A practice that made everyone she passed smile or comment.
Jess had many happy days in Geelong running by our side as we cycled along the Barwon valley, swimming in the river when she got too hot and chasing rabbits at Fyansford (she never caught any).
Another big move was on the horizon though and Jess and I moved with new partner Christine to beautiful Tasmania.
We had many happy days exploring the Tasmanian wilderness in some of the most remote places in the world. When not doing that we would walk together from our house in Trevallyn to the Old Seaport for coffee and muffins. As always Jessie attracted attention. I remember one rather attractive woman saying to Jessie “Hello gorgeous” to which I of course replied “Hello gorgeous yourself”. I don’t think her boyfriend was all that impressed. But people would talk to Jessie. Complete strangers would smile and say hello. It really was very endearing.
Eventually we had to return to the mainland or the North Island as Tasmanians like to call it. Jess still enjoyed life to the full in the parks and cafes of Melbourne as well trips to the country and her beloved Fairhaven beach on the Surf Coast of Victoria. People would always talk when Jessie was there.
During the last few years Jess’s body began to betray her as she developed bad arthritis in her front paws. Despite that, she continued to love to play and always wanted to be out enjoying herself.
Even on her last day she managed to trot after a couple of short throws despite being quite frail and weak.
So what can I say about Jess other than that she was the best dog anyone could wish for. She was a loyal and faithful companion over fifteen years filled with ups and downs and periods of great happiness and great trauma. She was certainly the most intelligent, beautiful and gentle dog I have ever known. She made more people smile in her fifteen years than I could hope to should I live to be one hundred. I know that everyone whose life she touched will love her and remember her forever.
I sometimes thought that she should have had a life herding sheep on the moors of Yorkshire but when I look back on the life she’s had I know that it was a fabulous one for any dog. She has seen more of the world than many people, been loved by all and been a most loving, gentle and intelligent companion.
I was touched by the support of all the people that sent me Tweets and DMs over the last day. The vast majority of these messages came from people I hardly know but many commented that they would miss my Tweets about Jess. It just goes to show that she could make people smile who she had never even met.
I will miss the way she trotted with great purpose towards her next Frisbee throwing opportunity, the way she slept with her tongue sticking out and twitched during her doggie dreams and how she sat patiently while I read the paper over a coffee. Goodbye Jessie – you were a fabulous dog.
P.S. These photos and many more of Jess including great ones of her at the Bay of Fires taken by my brother can be seen on Flickr here.