Friday, May 11, 2012

Lois Alter Mark & Jessie

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Lois Alter Mark, co-founder of StyleSubstanceSoul, Flicks for Kids editor at NickJr. and blogger on The Huffington Post. Jessie is my sweet old – very old – Newfoundland. She will turn 12 in June.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every day that Jessie is still here is an occasion for celebration. She’s so old – the vet says she’s around 100 – that she’s pretty much just living on love at this point.

What's brewing?

For me, a trenta-sized black iced tea, unsweetened with no water and extra ice from Starbucks. With two Sweet ‘n Lows. For Jessie, a nice, cold bowl of water.

Any treats for you or Jessie on this occasion?

Yes! It’s hard to get her to eat these days but she has to have a specific amount of food at specific times of the day because she has diabetes and needs insulin shots after both meals. So, today, I brought home a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit from McDonald’s, which we shared. Her nose still goes right up in the air when I walk in the house with that bag, and she gobbled up every piece I gave her. She needs the calories way more than I do!

How did Jessie get her name? Any aliases?

We had just moved to California from New York two years earlier and our beloved chow chow, Sophie, had passed away on the trip cross-country at age 11. We wanted to give our new dog a Wild West kind of name and couldn’t help thinking about Jesse James. We named her Jessie and looked for a middle name beginning with the letter “S” to honor Sophie. We chose Sage because it felt West Coast-y.

As far as aliases, there are many! We often refer to her in third person as “the Jess,” and say “hi, Puppy” to her when we walk into the house. My son calls her “the Newfoundlander;” my husband, who has studied Buddhism, calls her “the rinpoche,” which means “precious one;” and my daughter calls her “Gibson.” They’re all nuts.

How were you and Jessie united?

It took two years for us to feel ready to get a new dog after Sophie passed away. We were at the Del Mar Fair and they had a “meet the breed” event with Newfoundlands. We immediately fell in love. We became great friends with Sharon Gilbert, the wonderful woman behind the table, and she eventually led us to the breeder where we got Jessie. She was one of the two smallest puppies of the litter of six, and, all these years later, she’s the only one still alive.

Does Jessie have any non-canine pet-pals?

Only her fuzzy green frog squeaky toy. She loves him.

What is Jessie's best quality?

Jessie has a heart that’s as big as her body – and that’s saying a lot. She is pure love, and she brings the most incredible sense of peace to the whole house just by being there. Sometimes we swear she smells like a fresh baked good.

If Jessie could change one thing about you, what would it be?

She would want me to spend all my time petting her. When I sit on the floor with her, she puts her paw on my knee, then throws her head back so I can rub her neck. When I stop, she gets mad and barks. She would like to change the fact that I stop.

For a dog her age, Jessie must have many proud moments. Care to share about a couple of those?

Well, she graduated puppy school with honors and won special recognition for her ability to “stay” longer than any other dog when there was a treat in front of her. She was also awarded a ribbon for “Miss Congeniality” because she was always friendly and welcoming to everyone.

She is probably very proud of the fact that, when she was confined to the family room after knee surgery, she somehow managed to end up in the kitchen – a feat we have never been able to figure out.

I am proud of her amazing spirit. Even though she has been almost completely blind since developing diabetes three years ago, she still manages to get around without a complaint and is as loving as ever. She used to make a crying sound when she couldn’t get up, and I would go help her. One time, she must have leaned all her weight on my arm, and I ended up with a torn tendon. Since that day, she has never again “asked” for help. She manages to get herself up, and I am awestruck and touched by her sensitivity and compassion.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dog could speak, which actor should do her voice?

My husband talks for Jessie all the time, and he would have to be the one to do her voice in a movie.

If Jessie could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?

How in the world did you ever get out of the family room that day?

Visit StyleSubstanceSoul, and read Lois Alter Mark's blog posts on The Huffington Post.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. another wonderful story! Jessie is amazing!

  2. Beautiful! Is it no wonder we love our dogs with all our hearts?


  3. I dont speak for Jessie. She speaks through me.
    Love you both.
    - Michael

  4. Jesse sounds positively wonderful. I hope you have many more happy days together!

  5. Jessie and I thank you all so much!