My good pal and walking buddy, Jimmy Gimme Sheltie, Meatloaf King of Memphis, Doofus Nephew of Lassie, passed away last week. That's right, my dog died.
While writing about the boring minutiae of life is a blog perk, it's not completely
off-topic here, as Jimmy was a dog who was place-based. He knew Tom Lee Park and the Overton Park Greensward, walked up and down Main Street and the Bluff Walk, and all over Shelby Forest.
He was a dog of accidental adventures. When we lived briefly in northern New York, Jimmy loved barking at the waves crashing on the shore of the St. Lawrence River. So
enthusiastically that one late March afternoon he lost his footing on the icy bank and fell in the river. Then my wife fell in trying to fish him out. The St. Lawrence is a great river like the Mississippi, but not as punishing -- except for hypothermia. Fortunately she was able to grab Jimmy and get both of them out quickly before disaster struck. I was so mad that she had risked her life for Jimmy that I angrily told her she should have let him float away. A Quebecois family could have fished him out with an ice hook when he floated past Montreal.
Another time, on a off-leash walk in Overton Park, he lost sight of us and decided we went home without him. He took off in that direction, not hearing our yells behind him. While home was very close, it was also across Poplar (a crossing equal to any of Lassie's). He ran and we ran, but he ran faster and we lost sight of him quickly. As we got near the Poplar entrance, out of breath, we saw a dogcatcher leaning against his animal shelter truck, enjoying a smoke break by the side of the road. Figuring a professional would have noticed a stray dog walking by, we asked him if he had seem Jimmy. "Does he look like this?" the dogcatcher asked and popped open his cage on wheels. And there was caged Jimmy, smiling, saved in the nick of time from a Poplar crossing by a kindly smoking dogcatcher.
He lived a goofy and charmed life and sometimes the charm worked for us as well.
Driving home with Jimmy after a Bluff Walk walk, I got a flat turning off of Beale. By the time I pulled to a stop a dude was running behind us yelling "it's okay, it's okay!" Okay because he was going to fix my flat, whether I wanted him to or not. I did not -- I could change it myself. But he persisted, insisted, very helpful and friendly -- until I offered him the only money I had in my wallet, $2 dollars. "It's okay" changed immediately to "that's not gonna be enough" and "I want more", with vague threats and pressure to go an ATM to give him a bigger gratuity. I wasn't going to do it, no way in hell I was going to do that, secure in the presence of Jimmy riding shotgun in the front seat, door open. Jimmy (probably) wouldn't have done anything but the guy didn't know that and I believe he was put off by the dog. It would have been a much scarier encounter if Jimmy hadn't been there.
Once and only once I walked Jimmy down Beale Street. While I was worrying that Jimmy would drop a load in front of Wet Willie's, ruining the experience for everyone, a drunken frat pack approached us. "Hey mister", their blurry-eyed leader said, pointing at Jimmy, "how much to **** your dog?" He and his buddies laughed big and dumb at their indecent proposal but Jimmy and I just kept on walking.
We kept walking until early this summer when he began losing a lot of weight. He had lymphoma. In short order, Jimmy lost the ability to climb stairs, stand up on his own, walk and finally keep his balance.
A week ago Sunday, I made a pallet in my son's Radio Flyer wagon, and I pulled Jimmy on a final long walk through Central Gardens. Although he was skin and bones underneath, he still had his beautiful coat and several people we passed thought he was a puppy.
The next day he died.
Jimmy, keep walking toward the meat palace in the sky.
Labels: Beale Street, Jimmy Gimme Sheltie, Memphis, St. Lawrence River