She’s tearing at the seams
Falling to her knees
She’ll pray for the care that she needs …
I know it’s hard right now
But you’ll find your way out of this, out of this
You’ll find your way out of this, out of this, somehow
– “What You Deserve,”
by Avian Sunrise
A recent visit to the UC Davis Veterinary Hospital brought some bad news: The cancer has spread to Jazzy’s lungs and lymph nodes. Though she’s still the same happy, eccentric pit bull she ever was (chasing squirrels in the garden, sniffing and peeing on every bush around Stow Lake, going crazy whenever Jim Cramer is on TV), Dr. Kent told us her prognosis wasn’t good, and Jazzy likely had just a few months to live. “If I didn’t think she had a good quality of life, I would tell you,” he said. “And I can tell she is still enjoying her life very much.”
He was right. Jazzy has no idea she has cancer, and she lives her life each day to the fullest. She still loves to greet people at the door with her favorite Ugly Doll or Girducken toy in her mouth, tiptoeing around them in circles as they reach for the “gift” (which Jazzy has no intention of giving to them). On a trip to Baker Beach just days after that fateful appointment at Davis, she ran joyfully through the surf with her best friend, Blue, who, along with her two sisters, was one of my Rocket Dog pit bull foster dogs. We found great homes for all three, especially Blue, who was adopted by my best friend, Steve. We still laugh about the time three summers ago when I invited him over to meet my new foster puppies and have a cocktail in the backyard. Several cocktails later, Steve went home with a puppy. He named her in honor of her big “sister,” Jasmine Blue, and she is a wonderful dog. It’s hard to believe that, at 4 months old, Blue was just hours away from death at the Kern County animal shelter in Bakersfield.
Jazzy adores Blue — and puts up with a lot. Blue swipes toys from her mouth and treats from between her paws. Jazzy is just a laid-back, good-natured dog, and it’s one of the many things I love about her.
Of course, just like humans with other humans, there are some dogs Jazzy doesn’t care for, like the crazy Lab next door, nicknamed “Cujo” for the way he bares his teeth and growls at everyone who walks by his front window. One evening I was getting something out of the trunk of my car, and Cujo cornered me in the driveway. He was wagging his tail, but that doesn’t mean anything with dogs. His hackles were up and he was “acting sketchy,” as my dog-trainer friend Alan says. I remained still until Cujo’s owner came to get him. “Sorry,” he said with a sheepish smile as he dragged Cujo away. I have no doubt, had Jazzy been there, she would have protected me in whatever way she needed to. She’s fiercely loyal, another thing I love about her.
Just when it seemed the cancer would finally get the better of Jazzy, a call from Dr. Kent gave us new hope. The American Cancer Society was sponsoring a clinical trial on boosting the immune system with amino acids to help the body fight sarcoma tumors, and Jazzy was the perfect candidate. In previous trials, the treatment has shown great promise.
Participation entails driving her to Davis every week for the next four weeks and a number of follow-up visits, but that’s a small price to pay to possibly extend Jazzy’s life and leave a legacy that will help other dogs and humans with sarcomas in the future. Besides, for all the love, laughter and loyalty she has brought over the past six years, it is what she deserves.