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Tuesday, March 07, 2006


In Memoriam: Jenny the Dog, 1990 - 2006

Last week my parents were given the difficult task of putting our family dog to sleep. Jenny, a springer-spaniel mix, came into our lives when I was in eighth grade. She and a few other dogs had been rescued from a medical research lab by the Oregon Humane Society. My mother saw a report on the news and we headed out there the following weekend.

I remember spotting her in a kennel and thinking, "She seems sweet and low key. I won't have to walk her, meaning I'll have more time to devote to 'Sim City.'" Back home we had a cat named Toughie and Jenny's behavior towards felines was to be the litmus test for adoption. The staff trotted her out to the shelter's resident dog-tester, an old grey feline. Jenny gave the cat a few indifferent sniffs and a few hours later she was roaming around our house.

Of course, this sweet, low-key pooch proved to be anything but. Chasing Toughie around the living room became an almost hourly pastime. In those early days she had a habit of not running away, but instead running laps around the house if left in the backyard unattended. She also had an appetite for "human food" that could never be quenched.

Small, devious and amazingly acrobatic, this is a dog that once managed to jump onto a kitchen table, sneak across a counter and snatch two defrosting chickens out of a sink. She was two years old when we brought her home so there's a good chance she may have once studied under the Hamburgler. All we found were two styrofoam containers in the middle of the living room when we returned a few hours later. As Jenny slumbered happily on the couch, my father made a panicky call to a local vet. He advised to feed her an entire loaf of bread to ease the digestion of the bones. But with two whole chickens floating around in her belly, how could this 35-pound canine possibly have room for anything else?

Jenny was up to the task and downed the bread in no time flat. Minutes later she was bouncing around the backyard as if she hadn't just set a possible world record for chicken consumption by a medium-sized dog. Years later she consumed two boxes of chocolate and removed each piece from their plastic wrapping. The vet's advice? Feed Jenny hydrogen peroxide until she regurgitated the potentially fatal dose of candy in the backyard. It took an entire bottle before her unrelenting gut gave up its stolen treasure trove. A theory around the house, still unproven, was that her stomach contained a secret portal to another dimension, thus her remarkable ability to consume her body weight in just about anything.

The only thing her solid-steel gut couldn't handle was red licorice. One time while my parents were out of town, Jenny somehow managed to knock an entire five pound tub of Red Vines off the top of the fridge. When I returned home from my summer job at the mall, I found her asleep on my parent's bed and five piles of bright red doggie puke all over the living room. It took hours to clean up.

If there was food to be found she could and would find it. Nothing edible was safe from her "super sniffer" and, even at the ripe old age of 15 (107 in reputed dog years), she somehow managed to snatch a Starbucks brownie off one of my sister's desk shelves. My parent's cat, Harry, may have been involved in the plot. With her bones aching from arthritis and no longer able to get on the counter, Jenny had evidentally trained him to knock candy out of a dish in the kitchen and onto the floor. This may have gone on for weeks before my mother finally began discovering wrappers in random places around the house.

Jenny was a dog that once managed to climb a trees while in pursuit of a squirrel, bounced back from a debilitating stroke, defended the family homestead from would-be invaders from the postal service and, perhaps as a result of negative peer influences from various housecats over the years, stubbornly insisted on cleaning herself with her tongue.

As ridiculous as these stories sound, none of them are exaggerated. We'd like to think she was a one of a kind mutt and that there will never be another one like her. Despite Jenny's appetites, if there was a pet cloning station at Washington Square ala "The Sixth Day," there would probably be a Jenny 2.0 at my parent's house right now.

R.I.P., you crafty pooch.

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