Some things are meant to go together, like Cookies and milk. Salt and pepper. Peaches and cream.
Lady and Jen....
Most of you reading this will be like 'Wait, what...who?'
Others, who have been in our lives and been around the Ranch since we were but a small concern will know that this pair of names has been a constant ever since the Ranch began.
You see, Lady was one of our very first Ranch clients.
This brash little mature terrier mix, all bits and bobs of different breeds....ears like a Papillon, fur like a Havanese, Jack Russell attitude, swagger like Mick Jagger....marched into our fledgling boarding facility around 14-years ago dragging her mother behind her and said 'Excuse me, I want to speak to the manager!'
I looked at Jen, who was like a mum on her kid's first day at school, nervous about her small dog being in the company of all my large working dogs, then swung my attention to sweet little 'old' Lady, who had just told my big boy Freddie to 'go forth and multiply' for the hideous crime of air-sniffing her back end from three feet away, and I knew then and there that there was but one boss in that household.
And it wasn't Jen.
'Umm, yes M'Lady, what can I do for you?' I'm British, I know how to speak to royalty when its in front of me.
'Ok, my good woman, I like my breakfast at 7, I take tea at three and dinner needs to be at 6 on the dot. I like my steak cooked medium-rare and my favorite cut is filet but I will JUST ABOUT tolerate rib-eye if the fat is cut off. I am not averse to the odd steak burger with cheddar cheese on the top but don't try and palm me off with anything other than steak, you hear me? Now, lets inspect the sleeping quarters, shall we?'
And off she trotted, full of her own self-importance, like Dame Judi Dench playing Lady Bracknell in 'The Importance of Being Earnest'.
And so our lives began to intertwine...
Jen, myself and Pete (it was just us Millers back then) became good friends, sharing in each other's ups and downs, going out for queso rich meals (Jen is obsessed with Mexican food) to gossip and bitch about this or that, while Lady took great joy in finding that she was, in fact, a dog and that dogs get to do cool stuff at the Ranch.
She learned to dig, she learned to chase rabbits and she even teamed up with our big foster boy Colin the pointer to try and escape from our field and see what was happenin' down the street. I caught the little monkey trying to dig her way under the fence while Colin played lookout.
It is because of Lady Wilt that we construct all our fences dug one foot down below the ground.
I remember the day my then six month old puppy, Steve, and Lady were racing each other to get to the bottom gate at our Flowery Branch property, each determined to be first to get to the river beyond. As Lady reached the bottom, Steve growled at her and air snapped, as if to say 'Oh No you don't, I'm first!'
Well....Lady may have been 8 years old then, but she wasn't having any nonsense from my young whippersnapper; she launched into him and gave him a dressing down that he did not see coming. "Mum", he cried, "This old lady is beating me up!"
No harm done, but oh boy, did it rein in our little Steve who kind of thought he was somewhat of a big deal....until Lady forced him to learn some manners!
Lady and Jen stayed part of our lives through two house and business moves, from Flowery Branch to Braselton, and then, five years later, from Braselton onto the amazing, huge property in Winder we enjoy now.
Lady had spent so much time with her 'second' English family with their odd habit of sharing their cup of afternoon tea with the dogs, she had even become somewhat of a tea aficionado and would beg to be brought up on Uncle Pete's lap every day so she could share his cup. It was precious, this from a dog who never sought closeness, would stick you with a dagger if you tried to cuddle her and whose idea of sheer hell was being kissed. We never took it to heart, Lady was somewhat of an island with both dogs and humans...if it wasn't her idea, if she didn't initiate it, then none of that awful schmaltzy stuff was gonna fly with her.....it's just how she was.
But we adored her anyway.
Jen and I would sit watching the dogs play in the meadow and chat about my future plans to open a senior dog sanctuary, she knew rescue was in my heart and when the day came to announce that we were finally going to break ground to build that senior dog forever home, Frankie and Andy's Place, Jen was one of the first ones to call me and say "count us in!'
As the senior rescue dogs arrived at their new luxury log cabin home, fresh from the hell of the local kill shelters, Jen would often be there to greet them.
And who would be by her side, volunteering right alongside her Mum?
The by-now 16 year-old Lady........no stranger to a few aches and pains herself and with sight issues hampering her ability to escape with any of her canine accomplices these days, she had forged a new role for herself and decreed herself the go-to dog for setting the tone of things, laying out her expectations for the newcomers so that everyone had boundaries, everyone knew what went where....and everyone knew how important she was.
Twice a week and often more, this little powerhouse of a senior came to the cabin and waddled around the perimeter fence, checking for holes (just in case she could make a run for it!), checking the fridge contents, checking the beds and occasionally, just occasionally befriending one of the other dogs. Meh, okay...VERY occasionally!
When Jen moved to Atlanta to pursue her career in real estate, Lady decided that she would like to dabble in real estate too, and made mum buy her a stroller so she, and her friend Gilda Radner, whom mum was now fostering for Frankie and Andy's Place, could be part of the city action. There soon followed a whirlwind couple of years with visits to bars, discos, restaurants, pole dancing clubs....okay I lied about two of those but I'll let you work out which.....and the two girls became the open house sensations of Atlanta real estate. 'Lady and Gilly sell Atlanta' became such a common theme that the two girls hired their own lawyer to get mum Jen to give them a share of the commissions. They asked for three percent, but finally settled on weekly al fresco dinners in their double stroller with the pick of the menu at Grindhouse burgers. Negotiations were brutal, for sure, but, as they so rightly said, they WERE doing all the work......!
Over the last couple of years, it became hard for Lady to be at the cabin; the play of sunlight through the trees in the back woods, while beautiful, struck her with a seizure-like affliction that would paralyze her in the moment, and so she would stay home while Mum came to volunteer, or she'd come down to the more shaded grounds of Desperate Dogs.
People would often stop and stare as our team members would walk around the park with Lady in our arms, her head covered in a blanket, while we found a suitable shady glade to remove it so she could explore. Team member Jeannie would take it upon herself to get Lady out for her stroller rides every day in the lower afternoon sun, and Kristen would cook her fresh beef for every meal and massage her neck at bedtime.
Jen and I would discuss Lady's quality of life at regular intervals and with her having reached a whopping 20 years of age, her dear friend Gilly having passed a couple of years before, we knew it wouldn't last forever.
Last weekend, six weeks before her 21st birthday, with Lady's health failing so miserably and her discomfort so very obvious, Jen made the painful decision to say goodbye to the one true love of her life.
By her side through college, graduation, dating, marriage, beach vacations, mountain getaways, divorce, new friendships, house moves, wine tasting, pizza munching, queso cheese guzzling (I have seen it, Jen literally guzzles gallons of that $hit) park strolls, work, home decorating, new car buying....everything in her life, Lady was a part of it.
Always there, right by her side.
And now our dear friend Jen is bereft, like a house without a fireplace....she was Jen's focal point, the one thing that made anywhere feel like home.
So my friends, while this was a long eulogy, I hope you understand that this was a loss on many different fronts.
Frankie and Andys Place lost its celebrated only canine volunteer.
Desperate Dogs lost one of its' founding clients.
And Jen, well, she lost the love of her life.
Please join me in praying for Jen, that she will, while wallowing in her grief, embrace the glory, the strength, the pantomime antics, the love, the haughtiness and sheer kick-ass mentality of the one woman show that was Lady Wilt...AKA the Ninja Granny.
Nighty night sweet girl and Rest In Peace.
Your work is done, you can rest now, we can take it from here.......