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World Loses Its Best Dog Ever

Wednesday we lost our great friend and incredible dog, Jolly. He was pushing 16 (by some calculations, 105 in human years) and in the last few weeks, after his longtime girlfriend Shadow died, all of his systems seemed to fall apart.

Even though it’s been a long time since he was able to hear us and run to the door—or just awkwardly block the door by napping in front of it—our home and life is unimaginably empty and quiet without him. But that’s the price you pay for having a sweet, devoted, goofy, clever, complicated dog like Jolly.

Jolly came to me 13 years ago as a foster dog after spending a couple years in a shelter, Mighty Mutts. He was a huge scaredy cat, but eventually he came to believe me when I told him, as I always did, that he was the best dog in the world. He was the king of the dog run and East Village and knew that he was handsome, smart and well-loved. After spending years in isolation, he especially loved friends. “Friend” was just one of the many words he knew. He loved his mommy, daddy and longtime girlfriend Shadow most of all. Shadow was at first the only dog he would play with; she remained the only dog he would roughhouse with, kiss or let enjoy his treats, toys or Jollymobile. But he loved being part of an extended family and community, his aunts, friends of the dog run, street and neighborhood. Everyone loved Jolly and Jolly loved everyone—except puppies, skateboarders, drunks, squirrels. Etc.

David and I hope we gave him a good life. He taught David to be a dog person and was so happy to have a dad. He travelled by plane, train, car, ferry and Jollymobile to 20 states and 4 Canadian provinces. He went nose-to-nose with horses, cows, elk and innumerable squirrels (and one chipmunk that he actually caught, then released when it bit him on the nose). He swam at lots of beaches, dug many holes and dens, stalked animals, stole and scammed treats, acquired girlfriends and charmed people with his smile everywhere.

But mainly he was a loving friend, snuggling, sticking close, throwing toys at us when we were down and getting us to get out to enjoy him and the world. If he were here now, young and healthy, he’d be nudging my hand away from the mouse to get me to play.

Here are just some of the pictures from all our adventures.

And a tribute from Jolly’s dad, David

Wednesday we said goodbye to our beloved dog Jolly. He was 15 1/2. Like so many big dogs, his back half gave out. His heart never failed, which was fitting for such a big-hearted, sweet-natured, smart, funny, charming, life-changing dog. He certainly changed my life. He changed Carol’s life, and he of course played a major role in fusing Carol and I together.

I’m not sure I can really capture what was so special about Jolly in words, at least not from this close remove. I will share the story of the first time I met Jolly because I think it gets to what made him so special. I was picking Carol up for our first real date, and I had been in the office earlier that day. Because I lived in Queens, I traveled with a gym bag filled with magazines or books to get through my long subway rides. What I didn’t know was that Jolly had a sideline career as a bag inspector, and he expected–no, demanded–that any bag that came into his house include a treat or toy for him. He would rifle through your bag like a customs officer in a third-world country looking for that treat.

So I committed a significant faux pas the first time Jolly and I met. I walked into what’s now my home too with a bag but empty-handed. Jolly let me know that was unacceptable. I’m sure he was thinking, “How does this guy not travel with beef jerky or liver treats? Everyone else I meet does.” Somehow, thankfully, Jolly gave me another chance. I was not terribly comfortable around dogs at that time, but Jolly was still welcoming and let me pet him. He was smiling and wagging his tail as Carol and I got acquainted. Finally, he couldn’t stand it anymore and he flopped over on his back to show me his belly. Again, clueless Dave had no idea what this meant and said as much to Carol. “What do I do now?” Carol let me know that this was a sign that he liked me and wanted me to scratch his belly. She showed me how to do it, and forever after, I never took for granted when Jolly needed a belly scratch. Even after my big screw-up, he gave me another chance and I did okay. It wasn’t the last lesson Jolly would teach me about dogs, and in particular, him.

I’m going to miss Jolly so much, as is Carol. We know we’ve been somewhat cloistered with him the last few years, and 2009 in particular, as we’ve tried to make every day special for this bright light in our life. We hope you understand and we’ll certainly attempt to make amends with y’all in the near future.

If you want one last look at what a special dog Jolly Vinzant was, check out ta couple of his YouTube videos that I cherish.

Bold Squirrel Inside Jolly’s Office

Jolly and David Play with a Pighead Toy

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2 comments to World Loses Its Best Dog Ever

  • Mary

    I am a friend of your neighbor, Alice, and I just wanted to send my condolences on the loss of Jolly. He seemed like a sweetheart and was also such a trooper in his troubles. It was wonderful to see the loving care you gave him. I’m sure you felt enriched having him in your life and you enriched his life with your love.

  • "Muffyjo"

    Thank you for sharing your touching story.

    I just posted this comment tweet on Twitter a few minutes ago, (http://twitter.com/LiveinbothWorlds) which I think perhaps helps to sum our love of our animals in a few words, if that is possible:

    “I believe: Pets are our Teachers. We do not Own them although we may Think we do. They share their Essence with Us of which we should be Grateful.”

    God Bless You for taking in this wonderful friend and showing him the Love he Deserves. Animals never die. They are friends as well in the Spirit World!

    Cheryl aka “Muffyjo”