I have known since last June that Jazz’s cough wouldn’t go away and I wasn’t sure how I would handle losing my 14 year old pup.
Jazz was our cockapoo who had come to us with a mission from the angels by way of a pet store bought on an impulse to fill the void of death for myself and my boys of not just our other dog Jo Jo, but of their dad who had died just 10 days before. This would be a tall order for any dog but for Jazz, it was a task she was born to.
I don’t know where to begin telling this story so I will begin at the end and will not finish the story today.
In June the Vet on Martha’s Vineyard told me she had a narrow trachea, and that surgery would be no great remedy. Her heart murmur was pronounced and perhaps congestive heart failure was what he was observing.
I left with medicine that would alleviate her cough but not her fatigue and would render her incontinent. She took it for awhile but frankly, the incontinence was not something we could deal with. We decided to ditch the medicine and let nature take its course.
Life started to change ever so slowly for Jazzy. We were no longer going on endless 5 mile walks. She coughed in the middle of the night and I spooned her close to my heart and we breathed together into the morning hours. My husband Bill didn’t love her sleeping on our bed but he understood I could not leave her in her bed on the floor. This was my baby and it was impossible not to hold and comfort her in my arms.
No matter how difficult the night, each morning she took her little paw to my cheek to wake me for breakfast. She was excited about her new junk dog food — Little Caesar, truly the Dunkin Donuts of dog food (don’t judge me). She loved it and that was good enough for me. After months of rejecting Vet recommended designer brands, Little Caesar was her passion. Once she’d licked her bowl clean we’d walk her from our home in Katama to Edgartown for our coffee ritual. The walk was just under 2 miles which used to be a round trip adventure but now, my husband Bill would meet us there by car and drive us home.
Jazz was getting too tired for long walks but never too tired to cuddle, hug and listen. She was good company last summer and seemed to be stable in her new compromised state until Thanksgiving. I was sure when the boys came home for the holidays we would be going to the vet together to put her down but that was not to be. She perked up as soon as they walked in the door and the boys looked at me like I was an axe murderer.
“She’s fine, she needs to be with us for Thanksgiving, everyone will make her feel better” the boys chimed in.
They were right and Jazzy was passed from cousin to couch, from bed to bed and back again. She seemed revived until we took her home. The boys left and she started to cough more and weaken a bit.
I met a couple on the Metro North train coming back from the city to Larchmont who listened to my Jazzy woes and they shared with me the name of an agency who came to their home to council them and euthanize their dogs. They coached and assured me I would be giving Jazzy a gift to let her go.
After an hour conversation with these most delightful people they gave me the name — A Gentle Goodbye, which serves Westchester and Fairfield Counties. After a lengthy heart warming talk with the Dr. we set up a time for them to come to my home to put Jazzy down.
Friends came over to say their last goodbyes cuddling with Jazzy telling them how much they adored her (many who didn’t like dogs loved Jazz). “She’s not a dog, she’s a human, a little girl,” one friend said. “She’s the only dog i’ve every loved,” said another.
All was set up for the big goodbye but just before it was “time”, I cancelled after a lively morning walk. “I’m so Not Ready —— I AM so NOT Ready,” I explained to the understanding Doc. on the other end of the line. She assured me there would be no cancellation charge and call when we were ready. And so, I repeated this again the next week, I scheduled and cancelled – I just could not do it.
Just 2 weeks later, my husband and I took Jazzy to Florida where we were renting an apartment. Secretly I thought, old people do better in Florida, a winter without snow and harsh cold may help her.
Two weeks later we called the sister organization in Florida to come and euthanize Jazz. And this time I was ready, my husband was ready and my kids from the west coast gave me the green light.
I believed I was sending Jazzy back to the angels who had sent her to us, to heal us and to center us and I wanted her to rest. She was exhausted from coughing night after night and so were we.
Weary, teary and foggy, we welcomed the Dr. into our rental with her wicker basket and blanket she would take Jazzy away in. I was calm and ready. We spent time saying goodbye to our pup and buried our tears in her neck. And then we lay her down in the wicker basket and she was put to sleep. No drama, just gentle sleep.
“Jazzy, sweet girl, I haven’t second guessed that decision 8 weeks ago because I know we were all ready. It was truly a gentle goodbye and honored your kind presence in our lives. When I step onto your little furry square of carpet next to my bed each morning, I feel the delight of all you have given us.”
Read more about this in this NYT article.
Knowing the Right Time to Say Goodbye to a Pet
End-of-life decisions for animals are difficult. A veterinarian has developed a scale to help clear up the confusion.