Friday, September 9, 2011
June 15, 2000 – July 7, 2011
By Sheila Shulleeta
My retired guide, Jazzy, died from lung cancer on July 7, 2011. She was my first Guide dog, my loyal friend, my teacher, and my “love-dog”, as I liked to call her. The wise folks at Guide Dogs for the Blind were the matchmakers for our partnership. They knew Jazzy and I were meant to be together and, thankfully, ignored me when I said, “All I want is one of those yellow Labs.”
My Jazzy-Girl became the center of my universe at the moment we met. There was no more “I” or “me”; it instantly became “we” and “us”. We were in-tune, in-sync, and in-love. My Jazzy-Girl gave me love, independence and the confidence to get out and do whatever I wanted.
Our first summer together we flew from Portland to Albuquerque, boarded a train to Las Vegas, NM, and then bounced around in a jeep as it navigated up 8,000 ft. to a remote, stunningly beautiful, and ecologically balanced section of the mountains of northern New Mexico. Jazzy was barely 2 at the time and handled everything with grace and ease. She kept me on the trails and skillfully guided me from campsite, to mess hall, to meditation hall, and to the ladies room. When it was time to go home, the other retreatants thanked me for bringing Jazzy’s awesome healing energy to the setting.
The following year we cruised to Alaska together. After just a day of adjusting to the new relieving situation, Jazzy was soon guiding me all over the ship and ports of call. Every night when our cabin steward turned down my bed he did the same for Jazzy; folding her favorite blanket back and leaving a kibble in the center. Jazzy brought him joy every day with her wagging tail and happy spirit. There were tears in his eyes as he said goodbye to her at the end of the cruise.
Jazzy was also a devoted hospice volunteer. Her calm, loving nature brought smiles to dying patients’ faces. They loved to rub her silky ears and feel her cold nose in their hands. Jazzy’s presence stirred the patients’ memories of dogs they had loved throughout their lives and they were sometimes able to share those stories with me.
Another time, again in hospice work, we met a young boy who had just lost his father. He had Asperger’s and struggle with human relationships. He fell in love with Jazzy and Jazzy loved him right back. She just knew how to “be” with him. My sweet Jazzy eased his pain.
These are just a few examples of what Jazzy did every day of her life. Whether we were on some big adventure or simply riding the bus to get groceries, Jazzy was there for me. She helped me grow and change into a better person. She brought me happiness, love, and independence. She gave me her eyes--and so much more--while keeping me safe. While my heart aches from missing her I can also smile thinking about the time we spent together. Jazzy lived a rich, interesting, fun, and meaningful life as part of my family. She will live on forever in my heart.