When Susan Dyer Reynolds hired a professional trainer for her newly adopted pit bull, Jasmine Blue, the trainer started his assessment by putting a treat on the floor and saying, "Off." Of course, Jazzy went straight for the treat and promptly got squirted with a water bottle. Again, he put a treat on the floor. This time Jazzy looked at it longingly, but didn't move. When the trainer said, "It's OK," only then did Jazzy timidly approach the treat. "She's going to be easy," the trainer told Reynolds. "She's smart and incredibly sensitive."
After the trainer left, I went downstairs to check on my dad, who was watching a baseball game. Jazzy climbed into bed with him and tried to sneak in another bath of kisses. My dad laughed, and she wagged her big pit bull butt. "I love my granddog," he said. "I know," I smiled, "and she loves you, too."
One week later, my 76-year-old father passed away quietly in his sleep.
The day that followed was a whirlwind of friends taking turns making sure I was never alone. When my dad's longtime girlfriend, Kickie, arrived, she fell into my arms, a pile of grief and tears. Later that evening, we sat on the sofa, talking a bit, but mostly just sitting in stunned silence. Then Kickie perked up.
"Where's Jazzy?" she asked. Normally Jazz was there - usually on the sofa between my dad and Kickie, while I was relegated to the dog bed because there wasn't enough room on the sofa for me.
Kickie headed downstairs to check on her. When she returned, she was clutching my dad's favorite hat. "Jazzy was lying on your Dad's side of the bed," she said, tears streaming down her face. "She got up and went into his closet, sniffed his shoes, his slippers and his hat, then got back up on his side of the bed again. It's like she knows he's gone."
A week later, I drove Kickie to her home in San Jose. When I returned, it was the first time I had been alone, and that's when it finally hit me. I curled up on my bed and was sobbing when I felt something push at my back. I turned around to see Jazzy above me holding her pink stuffed bunny. Her ears were back and her butt was wagging tentatively. I rolled over and continued crying.
Again, I felt something nudge my back. This time she had her orange octopus. "Go away, Jazzy," I said. But she didn't listen. Now she had her Girducken, a stuffed duck with giraffe spots. When I sat up, I discovered she had taken every toy out of her toy box, as if she were determined to find the right toy, the one that would make me stop crying, the one that would make it better.
I wrapped my arms around Jazzy's neck and wept into her fur. She rubbed her cheek against mine, she pawed at my arm and she tried to put the Girducken in my mouth. When I started laughing, she dropped it on the bed and tried to give me a lick. Some people like it, some people don't; I'm one of those people who doesn't mind. Not when it comes from an incredibly sensitive dog.
This story first appeared in "Jasmine Blue's Tails of the Dog Park," published monthly in Northside San Francisco magazine ( http://www.northsidesf.com/). Reynolds is working on a book based on the column.
By: Eileen Mitchell