Ok, so if you were anticipating something sports related here, sorry. In fact, if you don't have pets, you are likely excused as well. But, if you do live in a "pack" situation--which can mean dogs, kids, goats, birds, snakes, whatever as far as I am concerned--you might want to just throw caution to the wind and hang in there for 900 words or so.
Of course, we are indeed all familiar with the dog days of the baseball season, the period towards the end of July, and into August when Sirius, the "Dog Star," and the eye of the constellation Canus Major hangs in the late summer sky.
And, this past couple of weeks entering into those dog days have been challenging ones in my circle of hound owning friends. Diane and I have three dogs, two of whom, Mahi, aged 13, and Jazzmine, aged 15, were clearly in their twilight years.
Mahi had been in generally good shape though his aging body is such that his legs cannot receive the message sent to move as fast as when he was a young dog, and as a result our white German Shepherd spends time needing help up after a spill. The whole thing reminds me of the great Little Feat song, "Old Folks Boogie," which features the line "when your mind makes a promise that your body can't keep."
But Jazzy, whom I adopted when she was five, had been suffering from lymphoma since early this year, and though she was basically hanging in there, I was aware our time together was drawing short. We went to Pismo Beach with family in mid-June, and by the time we came home, after a few weeks of travel, that time had come.
It is hard for me to write how much Jazzy and I had bonded. She came to me at a time I really needed her, about seven months after my wife Cathy passed away from breast cancer (just ten years ago) and a few months after my son Joey followed his step mother in 2006. At that time, we had a dog, Macaroni, but Roni was almost 12, and he was suffering the same loss of neural control that now plagues Mahi.
My sister-in-law, Jill Hedgecock, suggested that I get another dog to "help keep Macaroni young," but her real subtext was that Roni would also be gone soon and within a short period my entire family would be gone. So, I decided to look for another dog, and just happened to spot a picture of Jasmine (I changed the spelling of her name) and thought I liked the way she looked.
So, Jazzy's owner brought her over, and that was that: she lived with me forever after. Jazzmine was indeed my heart dog, and I was her human, and I can think of dozens of times when we looked at one another over the ten years she was with me when we were in the same zone. In fact, after the loss of my family (Macaroni did leave eight months after Jazzy arrived), I credit Jazzmine with being the catalyst to helping me out of that very dark and difficult portion of my life.
She was cute, and smart as a whip, and though Jazzy was a low-key/low-maintenance dog, she was very self assured and would not back down if she had a path to follow.
In all, she was a lovely creature, but sadly, I had to let her go on July 8. But, an eerie thing is my friend and fellow roto analyst Paul Sporer wrote a note of sympathy when I tweeted Jazzy had left us, and said he was concerned about his Beagle, Curtis (named for Granderson), who had been suffering an undiagnosed illness for a few months.
Strangely, that same night that Jazzy left, Curtis also took sick and departed this plane as well. Note that one of the things that really triggered my friendship with Paul was his bringing the pup to First Pitch Arizona several years back, and just seeing the Beagle (I needed a dog fix) made me feel better.
If you have, or have had a dog or cat or like pack member, you know what a hole this can leave. As a man who also lost his only child, I cannot say the loss of a pet is as hard by a long shot, but neither would I dismiss the whole affair by any means.
Further, when your pet goes, the thought does go to replacing, but then the issue becomes questions of how soon, and how will I know it is the right dog, and am I honoring my deceased pal by "replacing" him or her?
Still, the universe is a strange place. Several months ago, our friend Jeanne Schuman told us that the dog groomer we had in common had our next dog, a black Lab, that our groomer Dianne had rescued off the streets.
Diane (my partner with one "n" as opposed to our groomer friend who uses two) and I agreed we were not ready for a new pup over and over, until last week when she suggested she wanted a third dog, and we both thought "hey, why not check out the lab Dianne had?"
It didn't take long. Diane stopped in up the street and I finished playing golf and essentially brought Jeep (actually, Eugenia Jeep, named for magical dog Olive Oyl presents to Popeye) home with us to join the pack. Amazingly, right at the same time, Paul got a new Beagle named "Charlotte" (they are calling her "Charlie," and I referred Paul to Alfred Hitchcock's "The Shadow of a Doubt").
To say that Jeep just stepped right into the groove of our household is an understatement, and I have to admit that though I still have a hole in my heart where Jazzy has gone, the beauty of life is we do move on. And, part of that equation is that if we are open, the voids in our hearts do more than refill: when given the chance, it seems all hearts, human, canine, whatever will embrace and grow and comfort beyond what any of us mortals could ever imagine.