Emmett’s ashes came back today. I was doing well this week, but this kind of brought me back to all the sadness and feelings of loss I haven’t finished working my way through yet.
Did you know I almost didn’t adopt Emmett? That would have been the worst mistake I never knew I made.
In 2002, I had just lost my dog Nuke, the sweet and slightly touched redbone coonhound who had spent his life at the vet hospital getting x-rayed by vet students. My home was his retirement, where he spent 3 happy years making up for lost time.
I found myself in much the same place I am now, terribly missing the love and companionship of a canine. I had debated between a pug and a Golden (talk about 2 different scenarios!) and ended up on a retriever rescue website, where I saw Seamus. Seamus was about a year old, a stray found nosing about in garbage cans in Riverside. I sent in my application, and found myself happily at the top of the list for Seamus (I knew my degree would be good for something).
We passed the inspection, and my husband and I made the drive up to Temecula to visit Seamus. He was in a run with several other rescue dogs, jumping around, looking for treats.
I looked at him, slightly disappointed. “He’s awfully red,” I said. “Is he a full Golden?”
The rescue guy sighed patiently and explained that there was a distinct line of Goldens that tended to the russet coloring. Unconvinced, I looked in Seamus’ mouth while he was giving me kisses. Black spots on his tongue. “Are you sure he’s not part chow?”
The rescue guy looked at me like I was slightly daft. “He’s not part chow.” He paused. “Look, if you’re not sure, you don’t have to take him….17 families expressed interest in him.”
I looked at Seamus. He looked at me. I looked at my husband. He shrugged.
10 minutes later, we were heading down the freeway, Seamus in the backseat. We had already decided to change his name, reassured by the rescue guy telling us the dogs themselves had never actually been referred to by name.
“How about Oscar?” I said. That was shot down. We went through a few more, each worse than the one before.
I looked at Seamus. He looked at me.
“How about Emmett?” I said. “Like Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas.” Which is, by the by, one of my favorite Christmas specials in the whole world. That one felt right.
My husband agreed, and that was that. People always assume I named him for Emmit Smith, which is patently false and a quick way to really cause me offense. I like my references to be more obscure and eclectic than pro athletes’ names.
True to his namesake, Emmett proved himself a loyal and sweet companion who would do anything for his Ma. We chose well.
Permit me a moment of overly sentimental sappiness here- John Denver wrote one of the songs for the Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas, which Emmet and his mother sing after talking about the death of his father. It’s sweet and melancholic and strangely moving for a Jim Henson special; who’d have expected to hear Muppets singing about death? I’ve always found it touching, but now its significance is even more personal. Yes, I was just moved to tears by two puppets singing a John Denver song. I can’t help it.
I didn’t think about it 7 years ago when choosing Emmett’s name, but I’m now guaranteed a tearfest every Christmas from here on out.