Still far away
From where I belong
But it’s always darkest
Before the dawn …
I’m coming home,
I’m coming home
Tell the world I’m coming home
Let the rain wash away
All the pain of yesterday …
— Coming Home, Part II, by Skylar Grey
My dear friends Bill and Elizabeth decided we should make a memory box — Elizabeth is a photographer and an artist; Bill is creative, too, and good at building things. “We’ll construct a wooden box for Jazzy,” Elizabeth said. “We’ll decorate the outside with photos and art, and inside we’ll put all of the things that remind you of her and of your time together.” I loved the idea.
“Will you adopt another dog?” Elizabeth asked. Without hesitation I told her I would. “It doesn’t bring Jazzy back or honor her memory to let another pit bull die in a shelter,” I said.
The next day I slowly began gathering things for the memory box and storing them in the spare closet: There was Mr. Froggy, the toy Jazzy came with from the foster home — she used to suck his blond wispy hair when she was nervous; and her beloved “girducken,” a strange-looking stuffed duck with giraffe spots. When I got to her “Mommy’s Little Girl” collar and leash, I couldn’t hold back the tears. I sat on my bedroom floor, clutched them to my heart, and sobbed. Moments later the phone rang.
“I’m so sorry about Jazzy …” It was Rebecca Katz, director of San Francisco Animal Care and Control. We spent a long time talking about how wonderful Jazzy was and the special bond we shared.
“I can’t imagine my life without Jazzy, but now that she’s gone, I also can’t imagine my life without a dog at all,” I told Rebecca.
“I know what you mean,” she said, and she actually got me to laugh with stories of her two adorable but sometimes unruly mutts.
“Just like with Jazzy, I’ll know when the right dog comes along,” I said. “I’m sure at some point you will have the perfect pit bull at ACC.”
“Well, actually…” Rebecca said, her voice lilting up a notch. “A kid surrendered this sweet, shy little blue nose puppy; we called her Baby Girl. Do you want me to send you a picture?”
I was quiet, and Rebecca quickly added, “No pressure.”
“Sure,” I said, “I’ll look at a picture.”
Seconds after we hung up, Rebecca sent a photo of Baby Girl being surrendered at the front desk. She was grey and white and so small, about two months old, with a perfect patch over one eye just like Jazzy. I called Rebecca back.
“She’s adorable,” I said. “I’m just so lost without Jazzy. I feel like crawling under the covers with a bottle of vodka, a bag of Doritos, and a Real Housewives of New Jersey marathon, and staying there for a month.”
“That’s not healthy,”
Rebecca said without missing a beat. “I’ll go to her kennel and take a few more pictures.”
The next three photos were even cuter than the first one. There was just something about her sweet little face; something about the way her big green eyes looked right into the camera as if to say, “I need you, and you know you need me, too.”
I called Rebecca back.
“Do you want me to hold her?” she asked as soon as she picked up the phone.
“Yes,” I said, “please hold her.”
“Done,” Rebecca said. “I know she’s not Jazzy. No one can ever be.”
“Those are big paws to fill,” I said, and I started to cry.
“You’ll learn to love Baby Girl for who she is,” Rebecca said.
I knew she was right. I would learn to love Baby Girl for who she is, not for who she isn’t.