This past week I experienced a first. It should’ve/could’ve been a scene from a movie or television show, but it was real life.
I got a call from the police department while I was in a movie. After checking my voice mail, I initially thought it was a scam, since I’ve been scammed before. But I soon found out, it wasn’t.
I returned the call and spoke with the officer. He was very cryptic, which made me even more leery. He mentioned a woman’s name. A woman I didn’t know. Yet he had my name and phone number so it was a true puzzle. Then he mentioned two names that I know very well. My dogs’ names. Then I had a connection and began piecing together the puzzle.
After a couple more phone calls, my husband and I went to the police department and waited for the officer we both spoke with over the phone. He took us to a small sitting area where we sat on a sofa while he and his partner sat across from us. I had my eyes peeled for the woman who brought us here. The woman who had my name and number and clearly needed me to help her. I mean, why else would the police call me? Something was wrong. We weren’t that close although she’d been house and dog sitting for us since she gave us the dogs. I was surprised that she didn’t have anyone else…surprised that she called me.
I had asked the officer if she’d been arrested as we talked on the phone and he said, “No,” so I felt a measure of relief. Still I wondered why she would be there and what would be needed of us.
He kept asking questions about her. Questions that didn’t really relate to right now/this minute, but I figured he was trying to make sense of the information he had and trying to build a full picture of the woman in question. After a few minutes, the officer sat forward and very calmly, very softly informed my husband and me that she had passed away. I couldn’t even tell you his exact words. I just remember I had my usual reaction when I’m told that someone has died. I said, “What? No way.” We were told my name and number was the only contact discovered near her. (Realistically, I know people die. I’ve lost my parents and I’ve lost friends. But I’ve discovered that surprise deaths aren’t something I deal with as well as the ‘someone’s sick and you have time to say goodbye’ deaths. I especially have a problem with it when it happens to someone young.)
I realized after the fact that she had something for the dogs and that was probably the only reason my name and number were so obvious.
Still, as many times as I’ve seen such a scene played out on television and on the big screen, I never dreamed that I’d be getting news like that myself. There is so much we owe Jess. Without her we wouldn’t have Zach and Liz who are very much a part of our family for the past three and a half years. I have no way to explain to the dogs that they’ll never see her again. They would go crazy when she showed up at the house. They’d maul her with unconditional love, crazy tongues and wagging tails. She pretty much saved their lives when their owner died and they knew it. They lived four months alone at their house with only Jess stopping in daily to take care of them before the house sold. She and a neighbor made a video and posted it to FaceBook hoping to find the dogs a family and they succeeded. They found us. (Actually, they found a lot of people, but we were thrilled when the dogs actually chose us among the candidates.)
So, though I didn’t know that many personal details about Jess, we connected because of our love for dogs. Anyone who continues to work for months making sure animals she doesn’t own are taken care of, who spends money on food and care, knowing that she won’t see it again, is someone I feel I can trust. I’ll admit she was a little quirky, but no one’s perfect.
Evidence indicates that she’d been living out of her car. I had no idea. I know she was a sweet sole who loved animals as unconditionally as they loved her. She was still young, too young to have died alone.
Please have a moment of silence for this young woman who gave way more than she received.
Rest in peace, Jess.