Juju was the first "real" dog - she wasn't my first ME dog (that's Mina), but she was the first dog to be with me through junior high and high school and most of college. She let me cry in her fur, she tolerated regular trips to the dreaded dog park, she even put up with obnoxious foster kittens and puppies, and she expected nothing more than food, butt skritches and a warm bed. Physically, she shared one of Mina's best features - a pretty brown patch over one eye (her only eye, to boot). Other than that, she was a fluffy eskie mix with a curly tail and the generous ability to tolerate the moodiness of a clinically depressed teenager.
Don't tell Mina, but one of the biggest reason I adopted her was because she received the Juju seal of approval. Juju didn't like too many dogs, though she tolerated them with a grace befitting a queen. She wasn't thrilled by Mina, but both Mina and Juju respected each other. One night, I woke up to find both dogs curled up side by side, something Juju would NEVER allow another dog to do. I knew then that Mina was The One. It would be only a few weeks later that Juju's fragile heart would give out, leaving only a cold little body to cry on.
For weeks after Juju died, every time I visited my parents' home, I thought I could hear her. Sometimes, the bed would shake a little, reminscent of Juju doing her three circles before plopping down for a snooze. I would catch glimpses of her lying in the corner, a flash of her white fur, and then poof! gone. My mom did too. I don't know if it was just the grief talking, but I like to think that Juju's energy spent a bit of time with us before moving on to other things.
Her heart was never her best friend; she had a serious heart murmur from the day we adopted her (she was six). A few months before her death, the vet told us the bad news - she had congestive heart failure and we should limit her exercise. A lover of running free, we couldn't deny Juju the chance to play in the field, romp in the grass...you know, be a dog. We hastened her death so that she could be happy. The weekend before her death (she died on a Monday), she enjoyed the most glorious romp through her favorite park. She lived it up, got a bit lost (couldn't hear us calling for her), and ran through the fields like a puppy. It was her last big hurrah, and I wouldn't change a thing. She wouldn't, either, I'm sure.
Thinking about Juju, though, gets me thinking about Mina. She's ten. Not young, not really middle age, but not quite old. I haven't talked about it much, but I'm in the process of saving up money for a whole host of procedures that she needs to have. She needs radiographs for a shoulder problem the vets can't figure out; a removal of a *hopefully* benign cyst, and a canine tooth extraction. She has a thyroid problem, possible stone problems and borderline kidney problems. And all those things make me panicky and afraid of her eventual death, which I have told her is definitely at least another 10 years away (she agrees). Thinking about it makes me hyperventilate.
Anyway, I miss Juju, seven years later. She was not a troublemaker like Mina. She wasn't afraid of dogs like Celeste. She minded better than both my current dogs. She had one ginormous eye that saw the world for what it was - a place for sniffing, pissing, meeting friends, ignoring enemies, and having a grand old time running through weeds and flowers. Juju was the quintessential Good Dog. And I still miss her.