For some people, it may be difficult to understand the very old saying referring to dogs as “Man’s Best Friend.” For me, it is as simple as a fact of life. For the past 12 years, Jazz, our golden retriever, has undoubtedly been my very best friend. At least until I met my wife.
When I first met my wife (actually on our second date), I told her I wanted her to meet my very best friend. She assumed I was taking her to my house to meet a roommate, coworker or next door neighbor. I took her to meet my best friend Jazz.
At that point, I am sure she thought I was just checking to see if she was a dog lover or not. Actually, I was checking to see what Jazz thought about her. Jazz has always been a good judge of character.
To begin with, Jazz was a rescued shelter dog. I was working as in Georgetown 12 years ago when another employee of the clinic showed up for work one morning with two new puppies. The puppies were about 6 weeks old and obviously in bad shape. The girl had rescued them from the local animal shelter.
They appeared to be pure-blooded golden retriever pups, except it was difficult to tell since they hardly had any hair. They were very ill with gastroenteritis and infected with intestinal parasites, ear mites and the mange. The girl kept one pup and gave the other to her father-in-law.
Over the next several months I was able to treat them and get them back to good health.
It was approximately two weeks before Christmas when Jazz was brought into the clinic by the girl’s father-in-law. Jazz came straight over to me, as usual, to get petted. I asked him what Jazz needed and he proceeded to tell me she needed a new home because he was extremely allergic to dogs. Immediately, and without any thought I said, “I think she just found a new home.” Coincidentally, my daughter had been asking for a golden retriever puppy for a while. It was fate. I knew Jazz would be the perfect Christmas present.
For the past 12 years, Jazz has been going to work with me every day. Her submissive personality makes her a perfect resident clinic dog. Clients have always enjoyed her presence and Jazz loves to be petted more than anything else in the world. Consequently, she accompanies me to all the day cares, preschools and school classrooms when I am asked to give a presentation.
She drags me to the front door when we arrive at a school even though she had never been there before. She steals the show. The kids are more likely to tell their parents about Jazz visiting than about me, a veterinarian.
In my eyes, Jazz is not just my best friend, she is a hero. Jazz’s hero status stems partly from her actual involvement while at the clinic. She has been a blood donor and has saved countless lives. Jazz is notorious for walking around the clinic checking on all the sick or injured patients. Jazz comes running if she hears a puppy or kitten crying just to make sure it is OK.
Mostly, Jazz is a hero to my wife and me for the role she has played in our son’s life several years ago. Our son has ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Prior to Jazz coming into his life, our son was seriously struggling with his disorder in addition to his biological father’s death when he was 5.
He had practically become a recluse in his bedroom and nonexistent socially. He struggled with school even though he is a super intelligent student.
We assumed he was picked on or made fun of because of his inability to interact properly with other kids.
Despite therapy and medication, he did not seem to be progressing in a thriving way.
In our home with multiple children, Jazz took to our son with ADHD immediately. It was like she knew he needed someone to help him.
Quickly, they became best friends, and he would sneak to let Jazz out of her crate at night so she could sleep with him. Our son’s transformation was remarkable. His doctor was so astonished he seemed eager to try this “pet therapy” on several of his other patients. Now, he is an honor and gifted student as well as an athlete playing three sports. He has lots of friends and his teachers were shocked to learn of his disorder.
Jazz taught him about friendship, love, and loyalty. She gave him confidence and a feeling of exceptional self esteem. Jazz is responsible for giving us our normal child back. Jazz adopted him from the very first time she met him and now I have legally adopted both him and his younger brother. I would love to see “pet therapy” prescribed more often for a variety of problems and disorders.
Jazz has saved lives with her blood but she has saved one with her spirit and heart. I will be forever grateful to her. If you or someone you know has a special needs child, please check with your pediatrician or your veterinarian to see if a pet might make a positive contribution to your child’s well-being too.
Now, Jazz is struggling with cancer and her arthritis has become increasingly more painful. Obviously, I am treating her with multiple medications and more love and desire than ever before. Therefore, please keep Jazz in your prayers as I’m not sure how much longer my best friend will be with us.
If “all dogs go to heaven,” I am sure that one day Jazz will lead the pack!