Saturday, February 7, 2015


One of the hardest things to explain to children is the loss of a family pet.   With each pet that we lost while our children were growing up, heartache would follow.  To help with the heartache and healing process, we encouraged our children to treasure all the special memories they had of their beloved pet.   One of the ways they did that was to write stories about their pets.   Not only did this help them remember the great times, but it also helped us to see how they were responding to their grief.

When our dog, Chloe, passed away at three years old due to cancer in 2000, it came to a shock to all of us.   Our youngest son, Andrew, took it especially hard.   He drew pictures of her constantly and wrote a letter about how much she meant to him.    He wrote about how there are things that always go together such as peanut butter and jelly, lobsters and steamers, and swimming together with her at Ayers Lake.   He spoke about losing a sister when he lost her and asked God to take care of her because he couldn't any longer.   It broke our hearts, but we were thankful that he could express himself.  

That same year, we adopted a eight month old black lab mix.  He came from a family that had purchased two puppies together, but realized that having two was far more than they could handle.   They had named him Tazz.  When my husband went to the shelter in Stratham,  Tazz immediately responded with his tail wagging.   He asked us to meet him the next day so our sons could see him and see how they all would get along.  We all fell in love and we left the shelter with our new black lab puppy.   His name didn't sit well with any of us because it sounded like a devil, however, our sons were concerned that he wouldn't know his name if we changed it drastically.   The name, Jazz, was born when he continually danced around us and we could hear his footsteps everywhere we went.

Jazz did have some training when he came home.   He was housebroken and knew commands such as sit, down, and stay.   As new dog owners, we weren't completely sure how to make sure he continued to stay trained so we hired a dog trainer to come to our home and help us.    Jazz did great, but more importantly , we learned how to work with him to make sure he minded.   With two sons at home, we were told to make sure we all did the same thing.   I won't say that it wasn't hard work, but we loved our new addition to our family and worked hard to make sure he knew we were in control.

On January 25, 2015, we lost our beloved Jazz.   He was 15 1/2 years old, having difficulty getting around, and had taken a few falls down our stairs.   When he took a real hard fall on Saturday afternoon and was having trouble getting up afterwards, we knew that it was time to say "good-bye".    Our home isn't quite the same; our routine of taking him for walks is all mixed up and the house is eerily quiet.   As much as I know it was the right thing to do for him, our hearts are broken.  

Talking about Jazz has been good for my husband and I.    We have been talking about our favorite memories of him, looking at pictures, and attempting to help each other with the grief that comes from losing a pet.  The grief is real; it's hard, and it hurts.

To help myself just like we encouraged our children to do when they were young, I thought I would take my own advise and write about him.    There are so many memories and it would be impossible to try to talk about all of them, however, I will do my best to give you an idea of how special Jazz was.  

Jazz loved to be next to us every single second.   He would have been perfectly happy to sit on our laps all day even though he weighed between 60 and 70 pounds.   If you went outside for just a minute even if it was to get the mail or take out the garbage, he wanted to come.   When we would come home even if we were only gone for five minutes, his long tail would wag so hard, he would split it open on the walls and dishwasher.   In fact, this was the reason the vet recommended having his tail amputated.   He still found a way to wag his stumpy tail though and we were thankful he didn't have sores on his tail all the time.

Jazz loved the water.   One of my favorite memories of him was when we went to Back Lake up in Pittsburg.   We took a day trip to visit Garfield Falls which is a short hike and beautiful waterfalls to explore and swim in.   John, Michael, and Andrew all jumped into a swimming hole which was really the only way you could get in without going through the waterfalls.   It was especially cold so I stayed back with Jazz.   He wasn't going to have any of it.   He wanted to be with them and swam with all his might to get to that swimming hole.   The falls continually pushed him back, but he never stopped trying.   I was actually getting concerned about him because not only was the water cold, but he was exerting himself to the limit.   My men finally got out so Jazz got out too.   He was exhausted, but as soon as they got out, he went and stood right next to them.   He never left their sides for the rest of that day.

When my husband was hurt in 2003, Jazz was a saving grace to him.  He would keep him company and would follow him around making sure he was all-right.   You can never tell me that dogs don't know when their owners don't feel well.  Jazz helped him through a difficult time in his life and gave him something to keep him busy while he was recuperating.  

Jazz had a routine of getting up as soon as my feet would hit the floor in the morning.  He could be anywhere in the house and would hear me getting up and would run to the bedroom door.   He knew that it was time to get rubbed down and taken out.  When my husband would get ready for work in the morning, Jazz waited patiently until my husband was putting on his socks.    John would pet him before he left for the day and as soon as he left, he knew it was time to eat his breakfast.  While we were training him, we would make him sit and he would have to wait for us to say, "free" before he could eat.  There were some hectic mornings that I would get busy and forget to free him.   He never moved until he would hear, "free". Another routine would happen when John came home after working.   As John would drive in, I would look at Jazz and say, "Daddy is home". He would run to the window and stand up on the windowsill to watch him coming in.   John would take the time to rub his ears and face when he got home and Jazz knew it and loved every second of it.  

Another trick that we trained him to do was to make sure that we went into the house first after coming back from a walk or just taking him out.   We would make him sit and then we would open the door.   If it was myself, I would tell him, "Ladies before gentlemen".  He also knew that if he listened, a treat would be sure to follow!

There were times when he would definitely get into trouble.   For instance, if he decided that he wanted to go chase after something,  he would run off.    When he would come back, all any of us would have to do is to point to the corner.   He would sit there with his head down because he knew he did wrong.  It actually used to make me laugh to watch him come across the yard knowing that he knew as soon as he came in, it meant the corner.

Jazz also loved to ride in the car.   It didn't matter where we were going, but he really loved trips to the bank or coffee shops.   He knew these places had treats especially for him.  

As I sit here today, I look over to the spot where he would lie down.   He isn't there, but the memory of him is.   I watered our plants earlier this week and looked at the windowsill with all Jazz's scratch marks on it.   In my mind, I can see him looking out the window and if any of us was standing there, he would move to be right next to us.   The spot where his food and water dish is empty, but I can still cherish him waiting patiently for me to say "free" before he ate.

Jazz was our dog, our pet, and a part of our family.  There are some people that may tell you that they wouldn't have a pet because of either the work involved or how difficult it is after they are gone. I'll take every scratch mark, every chewed up towel, and every mess he made all over again.  He made us all happy and brought more life to our home. I pray that he knew how much joy and love he brought us.