Black clouds are behind me
I now can see ahead
Often I wonder why I try
Hoping for an end
Sorrow weighs my shoulders down
And trouble haunts my mind
But I know the present will not last
And tomorrow will be kinder
— “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” by The Secret Sisters
Unfortunately for Skylar Grey, I am a more paranoid pit bull parent than ever after what I went through with Jazzy. When I noticed Skylar was limping, I knew it wasn’t normal at such a young age. We took her for X-rays, and both the vet and the radiologist said they saw nothing — but I knew something was wrong.
The next stop was the Sams Clinic in Mill Valley. Dr. Andrew Sams, the go-to orthopedic surgeon in the Bay Area, had done TPLO surgeries on both of Jazzy’s legs. I was hoping for better news this time, but it was only slightly better. “Skylar has hereditary elbow dysplasia,” Dr. Sams explained to Steve and me, while Blue, there for emotional support, lounged on the floor of the exam room and Sky, her usual scaredy-dog self, hid beneath a bench where she barely fit. “It’s not as bad as Jazzy’s TPLO,” he explained. “The surgery is arthroscopic, so it’s much less invasive, but there is a six-week recovery period.” As I felt my heart drop, Dr. Sams saw the concern on my face. The last time I was at the Sams Clinic was after the dental specialist referred Jazzy for a CT-scan because of her swollen gum and small nose bump. “At least it’s not cancer,” Dr. Sams said, as if reading my mind.
That night I had a hard time falling asleep. All I could think about was how something as innocuous as a little bump on Jazzy’s nose grew into a deadly fibrosarcoma tumor that ultimately took her from me at the tender age of five. I was still grieving Jazzy, but also growing to love Sky more deeply every day. When I finally drifted off, I dreamed Steve, Blue, Jazzy, and I were in a forest shrouded with fog. In past dreams, Jazzy never had the tumor, but in this one she did. Like in real life, it didn’t slow her down — she romped with Blue among the tall redwood trees as Steve and I watched in the distance. As it started getting dark, we called them but only Blue returned. This wasn’t unusual — Jazzy had an independent streak as wide as her barrel chest — but this time she kept going, deeper and deeper into the forest, looking back at me as I screamed her name. Suddenly, we saw a pit bull coming toward us through the fog, too small to be Jazzy. It was Skylar, and she was running toward Steve, Blue and me with a huge pittie grin and that eighth-wonder-of-the-world tongue flapping in the wind. As she got closer, I realized that she had Jazzy’s tumor on her nose.
I woke with a start, reaching down to feel Skylar at my side. I sat up and turned the light on. As Sky raised her sleepy face upward, I grabbed her smooth nose in both hands and kissed it; then I lowered my face so I could look at her nose from eye level. Sky was amazingly patient, her tail wagging and those big green bug eyes staring back at me with nothing but the purest love and trust. I put my palm in front of her nose to make sure I could feel good, strong airflow coming out of both nostrils. At that point Sky began kissing my face, and then my ear, which tickled. The more I laughed the more she licked so I pulled her in close. As she rested her chin on my chest, I rested my chin on that perfect little blockhead and cradled her in my arm. The little white tip of her tail was still wagging when I turned out the light.