With every breath I take
The more you slip away
Learning how to let it fade is so hard
Distant as a star, out there in the dark
A million miles from where you are is
I already miss you
I can’t feel any other way
And I wish you could whisper to me now
Because silence is the sound of something
— “Beautiful Ending,” by Secrets in Stereo
When we opened the door to our motel room in Davis, everything was as we left it that morning. Jazzy’s favorite Ugly Doll was propped up against the pillow next to mine; her favorite treats were on the nightstand; her blanket and her water bowl were in their places. I crawled on the bed still clutching her “Mommy’s Little Girl” collar — the one she’d been wearing when she passed away at the veterinary hospital just hours ago. As I buried my head in the pillow, I felt Steve’s dog, Blue, hop up beside me. The movement caused Jazzy’s Ugly Doll to fall in front of her, and she sniffed it from head to toe before lying down and clutching it between her paws. I reached out and stroked Blue’s ear. “I know you miss her, too,” I said. She took a deep sigh and rested her head on Jazzy’s Ugly Doll, her golden eyes staring off in the distance and filled with a sadness I’d never seen in them before.
“You should call Kickie,” Steve said.
It was a call I dreaded making; Kickie loved Jazzy so much. But it didn’t start out that way.
* * *
When I adopted a then seven-month-old Jasmine Blue in September 2006, Kickie was quick to condemn my decision. “I’m not coming up there for Thanksgiving if you have that pit bull,” she said.
“Well, I have her, so I guess I won’t see you and Dad for the holidays,” I responded, taken aback by her flagrant disdain.
Kickie went on to explain that she had been chased by a pit bull when she was a child growing up in the Kentucky hills. It would stand to reason, because in those days nearly every family dog was an American terrier of some sort. This one, Kickie admitted, was not really a pet, but a chained guard dog never allowed in the house and never given attention. “Any dog treated that way would be mean,” I told her. “If a dog isn’t socialized, he won’t know how to act when he gets
My argument didn’t persuade her, but by the time November rolled around, we managed to compromise: I would rent a room at the Marriott in San Jose — one with a kitchen — and we would have Thanksgiving dinner there. That way if she felt uncomfortable my dad could take her home. She agreed.
The day before Thanksgiving I piled the groceries in the trunk and Jazzy’s bed in the backseat of my Mini Cooper. As I was going back and forth between the house and the garage, she followed me nervously until I put her collar on, and she knew I wasn’t leaving without her. “Happy now?” I asked as she wagged her butt and grinned from ear to ear.
I went back inside to grab a toy for her — a jolly stuffed Santa who said, “Ho-ho-ho!” when you squeezed him; it had been an early Christmas present. When I got back to the car Jazzy was in the backseat on her bed, and she had already selected the toy she wanted to bring — her Halloween present, a red stuffed devil with dark, beady eyes that let out a deep, evil “Bwah-ha-ha!” when squeezed. “No Jazzy,” I said, taking the devil from her mouth. “I think Santa is better for meeting Kickie. She’s already afraid of you. Let’s not bring the devil.” I handed her Santa, went back inside to put the devil in her toy box, then headed upstairs to do one last check of the house.
Jazzy slept the hour or so drive, and when we got to the Marriott I put the groceries in our room and then let her out of the backseat. As she jumped down I noticed something red in her mouth. “What is that?” I asked. She trotted down the hall and waited for me at the door of our room. “Did you go back and get the devil? You little stinker!” I told her. She chomped down on him, and he let out that menacing “Bwah-ha-ha!” I let Jazzy in the room and went back to lock up the car, where I discovered Santa on the floor in a crumpled heap.
When my dad and Kickie arrived Thanksgiving Day, Jazzy and the devil were right there to greet them. “Come in,” I said, reaching up to kiss my dad on the cheek. “The turkey smells good,” he said, handing me his coat and settling in to a floral print recliner by the window. Kickie kept her coat on and tentatively sat down on the very edge of the bed. Jazzy calmly hopped on the bed beside her, looking up adoringly while still holding the devil. My dad and I both laughed. Finally Kickie allowed her gaze to meet Jazzy’s. “She does have beautiful blue eyes,” she said. Jazzy dropped the devil in her lap. “It was a Halloween gift,” I explained.
By the end of the evening Kickie was feeding Jazzy turkey under the table.
* * *
The phone rang four times before Kickie answered. “I’m out of breath,” she said. “I was in the back doing a little work. We’re supposed to have a storm this week. Oh, guess what? Jazzy’s morning glory got its first bloom today! It’s so beautiful — big and blue, just like her eyes.”
For Mother’s Day, “Jazzy” had given “Grandma” some morning glory seeds, which we planted together against the back fence in Kickie’s garden. For months we watched the broad green leaves unfurl as it began climbing up the white trellis.
“Jazzy’s gone,” I blurted. “She passed away this morning.”
Kickie gasped. “Oh no! Not my sweet Jazzy!”
“Can I come stay with you for a while?” I asked. “I can’t go home right now.”
“Of course you can come stay,” Kickie said, and we both cried for a while longer.