Arms opened wide and as you leave the other side of life
No turning back the door will never crack again
All that we’ve gone through
How could I have known, I’d lose you
It’s all about you leaving and you left in a sea of love
You’re riding high in style you’re watching all the while from above
I know that you’re all right, so I won’t put up a fight
I’ll just raise a glass to you and see that smile as I do … and say goodbye
— “Corey’s Song” by Shane Alexander
I always said that the day Jasmine Blue didn’t want to chase squirrels, I would know it was time to let her go. That day came in the early morning of Sept. 1, 2012. We had come to Davis for Jazzy’s final treatment in the fibrosarcoma study sponsored by the American Cancer Society. That Friday afternoon she was her usual sweet, happy self, trying to gain traction on the slippery waiting room floor, pulling Dr. Kent along with her as she hopped up on the sofa next to me for a shower of kisses. Outside, she stopped at every bush to sniff and pee as she dragged me to the fountain, her favorite spot on campus. Steve and his dog, Blue, had come along for moral support, and they went for a walk because Blue didn’t share Jazzy’s fountain fascination. There in the cooling shade of the big trees, I let Jazzy kneel on her front legs, butt in the air, to lap up some of the cold, fresh water as it spilled from the long granite trough.
The first time Jazzy discovered the fountain was the first time we met Dr. Kent. He was running behind, so the attending vet student told us there were chairs by the fountain where we could sit. Jazzy — a Lab in a pit bull’s body when it came to her love of water — kept trying to jump into the fountain. When the vet student came to get us, that split-second distraction was all Jazzy needed to plunge into the water, joyously biting at the bubbles.
For the six weeks in 2010 when we lived in Davis during her radiation treatments, the fountain became a special part of our routine. Every day after I picked her up from her treatment, we headed to “Squirrel Valley,” a big grassy basin bordered on either side by ivy where the ground squirrels lived. I would remove Jazzy’s pink leash, embroidered in black with “Mommy’s Little Girl” (it matched her collar, of course), and she would take off as fast as her low-rider legs would carry her in the direction of those strange, high pitched squeals. Just when she reached the ivy to the left, a squirrel on the right would sound off and Jazzy would go flying across to the other side. This ground squirrel taunting would send her back and forth until she grew tired of the game and returned to where I was waiting on the sidewalk above. As soon as I secured her leash she would drag me to the fountain, panting with satisfaction, her tongue hanging from the corner of that big pittie smile. Though she never got in another swim, I always let her stay as long as she wanted, drinking and splashing and stopping the stream of water in the granite trough with her paw — a trick she learned would cause the water to build up and create an even bigger splash and more bubbles when it hit the surface below.
Jazzy did all of those things when we visited the fountain the afternoon of Aug. 31, but when we got back to the motel she refused her dinner — something she hadn’t done before. “She’s probably too hot to eat right now,” Steve said as he reached down to stroke Jazzy’s velvet ear. That night she was restless, and I stayed up with her, hugging her and telling her everything was fine, but by the next morning I knew that it wasn’t. “We need to take her to emergency,” I told Steve.
On the way to the car, we stopped in a field next to the motel where I had often taken Jazzy for her last outing of the evening. Like Squirrel Valley it was filled with those taunting high-pitched squeals, and Blue took off immediately to check them out. I reached down and unlatched Jazzy’s leash. “Go ahead, Jazzy,” I said softly. Blue had stopped to wait for her best friend so they could chase the squirrels together as they had so many times before, and Jazzy half-heartedly started toward Blue, but then she returned to me and lay down at my feet.
The emergency vet at Davis said her temperature was normal, and he couldn’t see anything outwardly wrong with her, but because of the tumor, Dr. Krista Adamovich, the surgeon on duty, should take a look. For Dr. Adamovich to examine Jazzy more closely, it required putting her under anesthesia, and the doctor asked if I wanted a few minutes alone with Jazzy before the procedure. “I’ll take Blue downstairs,” Steve said, and suddenly the room was still. I slid down from the chair to the floor, and Jazzy came and sat between my legs, facing me and staring right into my eyes. I couldn’t fight back the tears any longer as I took her head in my hands. “Don’t stay for me, Jazzy,” I whispered into her velvet ear. “If you’re ready to go, I understand.” I clutched her big neck and sobbed into her fur. She nuzzled her cheek against mine and made that soft purring sound she always made when she was trying to comfort me. As I pulled back she began licking the tears from my cheek, and I kissed her nose gently. I stared deeply into her beautiful eyes, bluer than the Adriatic Sea. “When I first saw your picture on the shelter website, I knew that you were the one,” I told her. “And you’re still the one, Jazzy. You will always be the one. I love you so much. You will always be Mommy’s Little Girl.”
The door opened, and the doctor was there with a student. “We’re ready now,” he said, and took the leash. As I watched Jazzy go down the hallway, her tail was wagging, and she was looking up, first at the doctor, and then at the student. Usually when she went for treatments, she turned back at least once to look at me or even try to come back to me, but this time she didn’t.
About 40 minutes later we were summoned back to the exam room. Dr. Adamovich came in and sat down on a chair in front of me. “It’s not good news,” she said solemnly. “It’s taken a turn for the worst, and she’s suffering.” I began to sob again, and tears welled up in her eyes, too. In the corner, Steve began to cry, and even Blue, usually rambunctious, sat quietly beside him. Dr. Adamovich put her hand on mine as I tried to catch my breath. “Do you want to be there?” she asked. “She’s already asleep, so she won’t know …”
I turned to Steve. “I can’t,” I said. “That’s not how I want to remember her.”
“I’ll go,” he whispered. “I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.”
When Dr. Adamovich and Steve returned, I knew she was gone. I fell into Steve’s arms sobbing uncontrollably. “She was wrapped in a warm blanket,” he said through his tears, “She went so peacefully.”
Steve, Blue and I left the hospital and walked in silence for a few moments. “I want to go to the fountain,” I told Steve. “I’ll take Blue for a walk,” he said, and they headed off toward Squirrel Valley.
I sat down on the edge of the fountain under the cooling shade of the big trees, and listened to the water as it spilled from the long granite trough to the surface below. “They gave you two months, and you proved them wrong, Jazzy,” I said, looking to the sky. “You lived two years, and they were two wonderful years. I wouldn’t trade our journey together for anything in the world.” I closed my eyes, clutching her Mommy’s Little Girl collar to my heart, and I could picture her there beside me, drinking and splashing and stopping the stream of water with her paw.