There’s really only one reason I adopted a dog earlier this spring. One reason I was determined to rearrange my life for a canine. One reason I had to have an Australian Shepherd. One reason I spent months researching before I made my choice. Her name is Gemmy. If it’s possible to find the perfect dog, my mom and her husband did it nine years ago. A purebred long-haired blue merle Aussie who was raised to be a show dog but had zero interest in it. They brought her home at two years old, and we all fell in love. She was reserved with people until she got to know them, and since I didn’t see her every day, it was a challenge for me. I was determined to win her over, though. I never worked so hard for a dog’s affection in my life. “Gemmers” was my special nickname for her, and I would talk to her and call her and coax her until she was comfortable and until I could see that tuft of hair wiggle. Aussies don’t have tails, but they wiggle their little stumps. On special occasions when they’re really happy, they shake their whole back ends. It gave me so much joy to see her waggle at me or cock her head when I talked in a funny voice or squirm away when I tried to give her a hug. For some reason, she hated hugs; but now and then, she accepted them from me. I never told Mom, but I’m pretty sure she knew I looked forward to seeing Gemmy as much as I looked forward to seeing her on my visits.
Gemmy got bonked on the nose by a cat at the vet’s office when she was younger, so she wasn’t a huge fan. But she and my cat Cookie had a special relationship. Since both wanted to be social and right in the middle of the action, they learned to tolerate each other. At family holidays and get-togethers, they frequently ended up sharing the same 4×4 space with their backs to each other, refusing to concede an inch. When Cookie got sick, Gem put up with her hissing and growling like she understood. She was so well-behaved, Mom could take her to school and she would lay in front of the blackboard during math class. Senior citizens loved Gemmy, and she would sit next to them and keep them company at church functions. Funniest thing about Gem was her giant bellow of a bark…when the doorbell rang, when you opened the door, when you changed your tone of voice or asked her if she wanted to go for a ride. We introduced her to skype just so we could get her to bark when I talked to her through the computer screen. Mom says she would cock her head and stare at the radio when they listened to me on the air. I even called and left Gem mesages on the answering machine because I knew it would have the same effect. Just thinking about it made me laugh.
We lost our precious dog on Sunday. We only found out her kidneys were failing a few weeks ago, but there was nothing the vet could do. We’re heartbroken, but I’m so thankful for the time I got with her this summer. Mom and Gem came to visit for 10 days in June, and then our whole family spent a week at the beach. That’s where Gemmy stole Penny’s brand new stuffed turtle. The dog with three dozen toys who knew them all by name snatched up Turtle and took it for her own. She proudly trotted around our campsite with that yellow turtle in her mouth like she won a prize. That will be one of my favorite memories; that and the sight of her and Penny running in the sand along the ocean.
She’s the reason I had to have a dog. I searched high and low for one just like her, and I came pretty close. But there will never be another Gemmy.