On Tuesday December 1st, I had to work. My vet appointment was in the afternoon, so I brought Jezzie to work with me so I didn't have to run home in-between. My coworker had nicely reserved Jezzie a room downstairs right next to the door, and written her name and instructions on the chalkboard, along with many hearts. I got her settled in her room, and went about my day, working hard like nothing was wrong. Another coworker gave me a hug and said she couldn’t look at me. This was the day I had to discuss the bone cancer prognosis.
The time to leave eventually came, and up the elevator we went, past the daycare room without looking at my coworker, down the ramp, and out to my car. I met my parents at the vet clinic. First, the vet showed my dad the two X-rays from before so he could see what they looked like. Then came the options. I had been thinking about amputation, since I had read about it online. The vet said that amputation works better for older dogs, and gives them about a year and a half to live. She said that with younger dogs, the surgery and chemo only gives them another three to four months. Again, my heart sank. How does that even make sense? Younger dogs are supposed to be healthier and stronger. The vet also said that it spreads very quickly, and could have spread to Jezzie’s lungs already.
Our final decision was to make an appointment for the 15th. At that time, the vet would take another X-ray to make me 100% sure that it was progressing. This way we could make sure it was really cancer, without doing a painful bone biopsy. If it had progressed, the 15th was going to be the day that I said goodbye. It was not worth putting her through the procedure and recovery of surgery, only to add a couple months, which would only be filled with learning how to walk on three legs in the middle of winter (a decision I later realized I’ll regret forever).
The next couple of weeks were very, very hard. My boyfriend came over, I got a haircut, I walked my dog-walking client, I had my own doctor’s appointments (another stress added), I worked, I went to testing and interviews at the Lebanon Police Department for a new job (yet another stress), and I went to my annoying public speaking class – all while trying to spend as much time with my dying dog as possible. Because of Tyson, the Puggle puppy, we had to block off a section of the living room for Jezzie to stay in, so they would be separated. I brought her food and water holder, her toys, her blankets, my grandfather’s pillow (I remember my mom saying she didn’t think Grampa would mind Jezzie using it), and her beds into the little section of the living room. My dad set up a little TV so that I could watch TV in there and be with Jezzie. She was not supposed to go up any stairs so at the end of each night when my dad and Tyson finally went to bed, I would move the bed and all the blankets into her kennel, walk Jezzie slowly down the hall, and tuck her in for the night. And of course in between all of this was going outside - having to hold Jezzie up on a short leash while we got to the door, bring her out into the cold, and wait ten minutes while she tried to figure out how to go the bathroom without putting weight on her leg.
It was hard to keep her quiet. One night I came home from work and took her right outside without changing from my sneakers to my winter boots. She was so excited to be out in the falling snow that she dragged me down a small slope to the woods, and I skied over the slippery snow in my sneakers. I was worried about her leg but I did jump around with her for a minute, just to see her happy and excited. I couldn’t bring myself to stop her from playing in what would be her last snowfall.
During the time she was in the living room, I spent most of my free time on the reclining part of the couch in front of the TV, with my laptop, and Jezzie on her bed next to me.
I had a very difficult time during those days. She was still alive, but I was already grieving. I would try to play a little with her and then just start crying. I would take her outside and just start crying. I would put her in her kennel and start crying. I would drive to work and start crying. I would leave work, without a dog in my backseat, and start crying. The nights were the worst. I would lie in my bed and think about how she had to be downstairs by herself. Poor Luke, lying next to me in his spot, probably wondered what was the matter with me. But it was nice to have him there to hug, and he let me cry on him whenever and for however long I needed to. My boyfriend at the time once commented that I never talked about everything that went on and he thought it was weird and unhealthy. I just figured I never talked about it with him because he wasn’t a dog person and he wouldn’t understand. But I never talked about it with anybody.
December 11th must have been an unusually difficult day. Jezzie still had her appointment for the 15th, but for some reason, I kept thinking it was going to have to be sooner. She must have been in more pain or something. Even though I still hadn’t completely made up my mind, I had a gut feeling we'd go to the vet the next morning. A couple days prior, I had started bringing Jezzie upstairs with me at night. I could no longer stand to leave her all alone downstairs in her kennel, confused, in pain, thinking I’d just left her there. So we’d go up the stairs very slowly and carefully, with me holding her up with the leash and supporting her.
That Friday night was no different - I brought her in my room with me. Then I turned on my flashlight and turned off my light so that my dad wouldn’t know I was still awake and try to come in my room to say goodnight. I sat on the floor, towards the end of my bed, facing the wall with my feet against the heater, and Jezzie lying next to me, with the flashlight on the floor pointed at us. I don’t know how long we stayed like that, but it seemed like hours that I just sat there and pet her and cried. The Fray’s song How to Save a Life will forever remind me of that night... "I would have stayed up with you all night, had I known how to save a life.”
The next morning I got up early, conscious of what time it was, since the vet closed at noon (normally I would have slept past the closing time). As hard as I tried, I couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks as my parents came to say goodbye to her. On the way to the vet, I listened to the same sad songs I had been listening to on repeat the past couple weeks. I wasn’t paying attention and rounded the corner onto the road at lightening speed, and almost laughed a little as Jezzie tried to stay balanced (per usual). We got to the vet and into a room I had never been in before. Silent Night was playing through the speakers. One of the vet techs put down a red and white-checkered fleece blanket on the floor. Kind of coincidental that when she was so young at the beginning of her life, she had a fleece checkered blanket, and then at the end of her life she had another fleece checkered blanket. I don’t know why that made me so sad.
The vet took more X-rays and showed me that the cancer was really progressing, just as we assumed it would be. I just needed the confirmation. So that was that. It was time to do what I had been dreading for weeks. I sat with her on the floor for a long time while she was sedated, not fully knowing what to do. Eventually I decided to leave, the vet gave me a hug, I asked if I could pay later, I threw my sunglasses on, and walked out to my car.
I kept Jezzie’s coat in my lap the whole way home, as I listened to those same songs over and over again. I took a different route home, like it would give me enough extra time to compose myself. When I finally got home, I remember hanging my purse up in the usual spot on the stairs, and my mom asking if I was okay. I’m pretty sure I stupidly said, “I’m fine,” but I do recall the tears streaming down my face. I mentioned that I wished I had a Mountain Dew, and I guess I went upstairs, probably to cry my eyes out.
When I came back downstairs, however long later, my mom informed me that my dad had gone to George’s to get me a Mountain Dew. I laughed. The rest of the day was spent on the couch numbly watching TV. My parents and the other dogs came in and we all just sat in the TV room. After awhile, my mom remarked at how odd it was that we were all just sitting around watching TV in the middle of the day like things were normal, but obviously they weren’t normal because we never did that. I did take Luke for a walk around the cul-de-sac, and I remember I just used a regular leash with no harness - something I never did with him. But he didn’t pull; he just walked slowly next to me.
Jezzie taught me many things. She taught me that the most rewarding experience is to adopt a rescue dog, and that those rescue dogs may have the biggest hearts you will find. She taught me patience - that sitting in a bathroom for what seemed like hours could finally pay off when she walked out of the kennel; that carrying her around in her kennel for days would finally cease and she’d sit in my car or walk down the hall like a regular dog; that eventually she would play with those expensive new toys I bought her, and destroy several more. She taught me that sometimes even when the timing seems all wrong, and you wonder why the hell you did this, it could quite possibly turn out to be the best decision you’ve ever made. She taught me that when everything seems like a mess, and you’re sitting on the floor ready to cry, a puppy sleeping in your lap can help. She taught me that I can never, ever have too many pictures - if I think I take too many, I don’t. I will never grow tired of looking at the memories. She taught me that sometimes it’s necessary to drive with the windows down. She taught me that the bank is a great place to go, as long as you get milk bones. She also taught me how to act like a fool in the bank drive-thru. She taught me how to go around corners slowly, or maybe, rather, that I should have gotten her a seatbelt. She taught me a new way to go down stairs. She taught me how to retrieve sticks from the water without actually having to move. She taught me how to run around a dirt pile - and she even taught my boyfriend. She taught me that sometimes you need to forget about what you should be doing, and how you should be careful, and just let loose and jump around in the snow for a minute. She taught me that sometimes it’s necessary to break the rules, and that we could make it up those stairs. She taught me that when I have such a close bond, I’ll remain forever loyal, no matter how much money it takes, how much time off of work it takes, and how much hurt it takes. She taught me that sometimes things don’t go as planned, and you never really know what the future holds. And sometimes you can’t change it, no matter how hard you try. She taught me how to try to smile and forget about the worst thing that could have ever happened. She taught me how to be the strongest person I’ve ever had to be.
I will never forget my Jezebelle Eileen.