Ode to Bobbie Jo


Bobbie Jo died today. Goddammit. Bobbie Jo died and I’m not feeling so snappy myself.  I’ll probably live.
Bobbie Jo (“Baba” I called her, an Eastern term of reverence for a spiritual elder) died at her favorite place in the world today, close by her favorite human. Jen had taken her up to the cabin in the hill and Bobbie Jo, after running on the shag carpet (the only place left on Earth she could still run), listening to some music while she snarfeled down some tasty human morsels and retired to her mini dog teepee to quietly and gracefully make her way into the next form of her existence. God, I hope I go with so much dignity.

Bobbie Jo is that pug you saw me sleeping in the bed with on my recent trip to Salt Lake City. I’d wake each morning with her wearing my beard like a nightcap; her first stinky snorts of the day made me feel oddly hopeful.
My cousin Jen takes in elderly dogs that no one wants, gives them a beautiful home where they’ll be loved and taken care of until they die. That’s a very different story from what all of them were facing.  Jen is an emergency room pediatrician, single mom of a teenager, founded and heads Utah Naloxone—a program that is actively saving lives everyday, is on the faculty at the University of Utah, and recently ran for office. She’s inordinately busy and seems to get antsy if she’s seated and not doing something for more than thirty seconds. She has no time to spare.

Most people usually aren’t looking to adopt an old dog when they get ready to adopt. When you think about it, that math doesn’t really always work out that well for dogs. Sometimes people die and their older dog is stuck without a human or a home; what happens to those dogs? So since she didn’t really have much else going on, she decided to open this bizarre old folks home for dogs there at their place in Emigration Canyon, the peopled mountain stream wilderness right next to Salt Lake City.

I visit at least three times a year now. While I’m there, I pitch in with dog duty like the rest of the family. I’ve probably had five or six Salt Lake visits since Baba came into the family. From early on, both Jen and I sort of thought Bobbie Jo as Max’s dog (Max is Jen’s son and the closest thing to a son as I’ll have in this lifetime) but it became clear somewhere along the way that Bobbie Jo came as a spirit guide for Jen. Max is getting older. Sixteen. Max is becoming a man. I remember what this part looked like for me and my mother and Max and Jen are Jeff and Judy redeux.

I knew that my mother loved her mother very much as did I, Mama Vee was an incredible woman. But I wasn’t prepared for how she’d pine for her years later when her sons were leaving the nest.
Jen loves Max so much and Baba was kind of our Wise Elder in Residence. I’m pissed she’s gone. I don’t want my Jen to be sad. In all things, resilience. We’ll get through it.
The Law of Conservation of Energy says that energy can’t be created or destroyed, it simply changes form. That means that the energy that innervates my brain and moves my fingers to type and operates your eyes and your brain to process this information is the same energy of The Big Bang. This, and every moment is ultimate moment of creation. When the heat left little Baba’s body today, it wasn’t dissipated or destroyed; it’s already doing its new and good work. Baba lives on.
The night before I took Sydney to be euthanized, he and I took a little wagon ride to the Mississippi River like we’d done a hundred times before. Many of you were along for that ride. We met a beautiful veterinarian who was walking hand and hand with her boyfriend down the river walk. Seeing Sydney, my 15 year-old Labrador being pulled in the wagon, she had to stop and say hello. When I told her that the time had come for him to finally be free of a broken body I prepared myself for the regular platitudes. You could list them now if I asked you to. People always talk about the brevity of pets’ lives in comparison to ours. I prepared myself for one more version of “they’re just so good they get all their soul work done early” and in truth probably prepared myself to say it myself if she didn’t. Instead, this beautiful young woman who has dedicated her life to healing and helping animals said, “I see it as a gift. They get to live their full lives and we get to know several teachers during our lifetime.” Say what you want about the Millennials, sometimes they come out with the wisdom of the generations.
Thank you, Bobbie Jo, for consenting to be our teacher for a time and, to whatever benevolent powers there may be, please look over Jen’s heart. This was a hard break.

If you’re the praying sort, chunk one up for her or if more in the more secular and/or agnostic vein, look at picture of Neil deGrasse Tyson, chant you’re favorite logarithm, and picture Jen relaxed and laughing. God (and Neil) know she deserves it. Max too.

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