Dear Jazzy Girl, My Best Friend and Companion

Jazzy - Always Smiling

Jazzy – Always Smiling

Dear Jazzy Girl, my best friend and companion,

We figure you were about sixteen-and-a-half when you passed away on Monday. I don’t need to tell you about the immense number of people whose lives you touched over those years. You were there and you had that experience, conscious for every moment, until your final day. What you may not know, is the impact you had on the world – because you were good. I wanted to tell you why you were so special.

Did you know we may never have met if it weren’t for the sad death of a puppy? My partner Jackie and I adopted a very young Pit Bull mix puppy from the Humane Society in Florida, where you’re from as well. She was only a couple of weeks old and surely she’d have been as sweet as you, as being a Pit Bull doesn’t mean she’d have been a bad dog. But tragically she died within a couple of weeks. Turns out her whole litter was missing organs, purportedly due to inbreeding, and she was the last of them to die. It was sad, but that door closing quickly led to you being brought into my life.

I’m not a dog expert. Maybe some dogs are really born bad, but I’d be willing to be that a bad dog is usually thanks to a bad owner. Not necessarily that the owner is purposefully abusive, but perhaps just ignorant, not realizing the consequences their actions or inaction might have on their dog. Perhaps they also underestimate animal intelligence. I always presumed you understood me and that you were smart. You never disappointed me.

Young Jazzy

Photo from September 2004 – you were about six months old.

When I got you in 2004 I did some research into dog training methods. I came across the “no free lunch” method and it felt right. Dogs need to be in a hierarchy – they are a pack animal. The “no free lunch” method is all about establishing the dog’s position as beneath the humans and rewarding it with love for its good behavior. Unlike independent-minded humans, a dog needs to be able to find its place and be comfortable there. In your case, you were directly beneath humans and on top of the pack of dogs, ever the alpha.

“No Free Lunch” is simple and effective. Anytime you wanted something, you had to give me something first. When you sat, I said “good sit”, and praised you. I gave you love and attention – not food, as some do when attempting to train their dog. So, any opportunity I had, I’d employ “no free lunch”. If you wanted to go outside, I’d ask you to sit first. Same thing when we’d come back inside the house. If we were playing with a toy or something, I might ask you to sit before giving it back to you. We quickly expanded to a multitude of things you could do in order to get what you wanted.

I figured you were smart, so anything you did that I named with “good” in front of it, I presumed you remembered the word and its associated act the very first time I spoke it. I don’t think you ever disappointed that expectation. Of course, just because I said “no free lunch” is simple doesn’t mean its always easy. You definitely pushed the envelope to see what you could get away with. You’d act like you didn’t know what I’d said, doing the wrong thing, on purpose. I remember the times when I’d already successfully taught you several commands and you’d run through your whole inventory of tricks – EXCEPT the one I asked you to do, expecting I was going to give you what you wanted. You were frequently testing me. Training a dog with the “no free lunch” method, in my experience, requires significant discipline on the part of the trainer. You were trying to beat me at the game and I had to hold firm on not giving you the thing you wanted, no matter how adorable you were.

Eventually, you were performing multiple tricks on command in order to do special things, like receive a meal. You could sit, stand, roll over, wait, come, lay down, roll over, bow, give kisses, speak, shake right, shake left, look, back up, and probably some more I don’t recall off the top of my head. At some point, you realized that you were well fed and you weren’t going to run out of food, so we moved to an open bowl where we just kept adding to it daily and you decided how much to eat and when.

Renee Spinella and Jazzy on the Rainbow Bench!

Renee Spinella and Jazzy on the UCC Rainbow Bench!

You were indeed quite beautiful. You regularly received compliments from total strangers who frequently commented that you had an unusually expressive face and raved about how pretty you were. You had collected a large number of fans including neighbors, libertarian activists, people in the area lucky enough to encounter you, and even people on the internet who watched you on the Free Talk Live Jazzycam during our nightly radio shows. You mostly slept through the shows, but hey, talk radio’s not for everyone. Free Keene blogger Garret Ean even named you Keene’s #1 Dog Activist and you deserved it. You were regularly my secret weapon to get hundreds of Keene State College students every year to accept CopBlock know-your-rights flyers. You participated in and helped bring attention the United Church of Christ’s rainbow bench situation, were a regular attendee of the Porcupine Freedom Festival and Forkfest, the official greeter at Keenevention, and of course were at my side through countless instances of freedom activism and beyond.

Even more impressive was that bulk of your amazing activism & outreach career came in your senior years, since you didn’t move back in with me until you were 10. When Jackie and I broke up in 2006, after being with you and training you for those first two years, I chose to let you go. They say if you love something, let it go. I love you and I loved her, and I’d always rather a breakup go as smoothly as as possible, so I made the choice to let Jackie have you. As it turned out, she was unable to take care of you immediately, so we got to spend another six months together, until Jackie was finally ready, then I sadly gave you to her. That happened to be right around the time when I moved to New Hampshire as part of the NH Freedom Migration.

I had the pleasure of seeing you a couple of times over the years, once when you visited here with Jackie early on and again when I stayed at your house while visiting Florida when you were seven or eight. However, when you were ten, Jackie could no longer take care of you due to her having developed an opiate addiction. Thankfully, she brought you up here to retire with me in the Shire and you and I spent a wonderful six years together. You were, of course, just as well trained as when I left you, as Jackie also continued on with “no free lunch” while she had you. You still knew all your tricks, but some were no longer an option due to your age, like rolling over and eventually standing up on your hind legs. That said, even at ten, when many dogs your size and age had died, you were still able to go up and down a full flight of stairs at my house.

Keene's #1 Activist Dog

Keene’s #1 Activist Dog

Upon your return to me, you met your new mama and biggest fan, my partner-at-the-time, Renee. She fell in love with you and you really helped brighten her days. She launched a social media page for you where she could collect a variety of your photos, including you in some very silly costumes. You were always so tolerant of being dressed up and tolerant in general. You were great with little kids and some other dogs, though you would always ensure they knew you were the alpha dog. Understandably, some bitches just couldn’t handle being around you. It was probably your confidence, beauty, and intellect that set them off.

You knew your place and you loved your life. I know this, because you were always free to go. Even from the earliest training days, your collar was always loose enough to where you could slip out anytime you wanted, and go, if for some reason you did not want to be with us. Because you stayed, you were able to touch countless people’s lives both directly and online. I’m so grateful to have had the chance to spend so long with you, Jazzy.

In your later years, you could no longer handle a full flight of stairs as your hips were pretty sensitive, but you never complained about the few steps in front of the house. In fact, you never complained about anything. The only time you ever cried was when that mean old skunk sprayed you a few years back, and that was more a crying of actual tears due to the awful spray than it was you vocalizing pain. In fact, you and I were walking around the block daily right up until the night before your last 24 hours. Your strength was exemplary for such and old girl and the vet even commented this year that you were in “impressive” shape. You had a battery of senior tests done on you just several weeks ago and you passed with flying colors. You are truly an inspiration to me, and I hope I can be as strong as you are when I am over 120 years old, which is about how old you were at your end, in human years, according to newer calculation methods.

Jazzy's Blue-Spotted Tongue

Jazzy’s Blue-Spotted Tongue @ Forkfest 2017

Perhaps due to your amazing genetics, you never had any kind of need of any significant medical care. We did have you on some limited pain meds and an occasional steroid – that you decided when to take – to help you with incontinence, but overall you always checked out as healthy for your age. Your strength continued right up until your last 24 hours. That morning, when I came downstairs to wake you up to go outside, you had a look in your eyes that told me it was the end of our long path together. You, who just hours before were walking around the neighborhood as normal, were now crippled and unable to walk. You were heavily favoring a front leg, but that wasn’t the only thing. It also seemed like you were slipping away. It took a while to get you from your bed outside and down onto the ground, where you spent most of the day barely able to move, and amazingly holding in your urine for many hours – still not willing to pee where you lay, even at the end. You were such a good dog.

In your last years, Renee had moved in with her fiancee-now-husband Andy on a farm in Derry, NH and you had the pleasure of going out there multiple times a year so you could roam around and play with the various farm animals. Between the visits to their farm, yearly trips to Forkfest, and various activism around Keene with me, you were well socialized. You were definitely a people dog, loved by friends and strangers alike, everywhere you went.

Renee’s vet tech friend Jordan, who also had the pleasure of dogsitting you previously, came to visit during your final night and she helped you get a little more comfortable while calls were made the following morning to try to find someone willing to perform home euthanasia, which was highly recommended by my other former partner Julia, who herself sadly died last year around this time, though in her case, it was far too early. It was clearly time for you to go, though you weren’t in obvious pain while laying down, thankfully. You did not deserve any pain. Your way out really couldn’t have been any more ideal, comfortable in one of your favorite places, surrounded by a group of your favorite people. Home euthanasia is a great service that allows a pet to be put down in a place where they are comfortable so they don’t have to spend their last hours being transported to a medical environment. Sadly “due to COVID”, the service is harder to find than ever. Luckily, after several calls, we reached Journey’s End, who not only recommended someone in the area, but she also happened to be available and came out within an hour. What amazing fortune.

When the angel of death arrived and administered the necessary medicine, you were surrounded by so many people that Jordan commented that in all her time as a vet-tech she’d never seen such a turnout for a dog’s passing. You really made a positive impact in your friends’ lives.

Jazzy at Thanksgiving 2017

Jazzy at Thanksgiving 2017

On the day of your passing, we stayed out on the porch for hours reflecting on your life, your impact, and remembering Jazzy stories. Most importantly, after years of trying to figure out what your lineage is, we finally all got it. Initially and for years we considered you a “Florida Brown Dog”, a generic term for a brown mutt, but later Renee discovered the Carolina Dog, an American Dingo that evolved naturally in the swamps of the Southeast – South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. The photos of Carolina Dogs were striking matches to you and we were fascinated by this possibility. The descriptions of Carolina Dogs’ general demeanor were also a match. We researched and learned about this “breed” that’s not really a breed at all, because they are a natural dog, and also very rare.

We learned that the Carolina Dog is considered a Pariah Dog, and its lineage may be quite ancient. The Carolina Dog is amazingly similar in appearance to other natural dogs such as the Korean Jindo, the Australian Dingo, the New Guinea Singing Dog, and the Indian Pariah Dog – all of which look a lot like you, Jazzy. We thought we’d figured out the mystery, and so when the technology became affordable and available, we had a DNA test done on you, choosing the only company that claimed to even be able to detect Carolina Dog DNA. We were shocked when the results didn’t show Carolina Dog. 33% Rottweiler and 17% Pit Bull Terrier? It just didn’t add up for us. It also detected Asian dogs like the Chow Chow and Akita. There’s a theory that the Carolina Dog’s ancient lineage goes back to when humans migrated across the Bering Land Bridge, which would have of course been many thousands of years prior to many of the European and North American breeds being created.

So, we think the reason your DNA shows all those different breeds, is because your genetic history is deeper than those human-bred dogs. You’re the ancient “breed”, so why wouldn’t your DNA show up as though it were from other breeds, which at some point came from ancient dogs like you? Either that, or somehow all those breeds combined together to make a dog that looks identical to a Carolina Dog. We all agreed with the former story, and we’re sticking to it! The breeds seem so fragile and you were so strong – doubling the lifespan of other dogs in your large weight class. Your intelligence was also outstanding.

You were also exemplary for your trust, compassion, and forgiveness. I love you and you’ll always be that of which I am most proud. Thank you, my dearest friend, for allowing me to be your partner in this life. You’ll always be part of me and so many others who had the pleasure of knowing you. Until we’re reunited in whatever comes after this life, I’ll hopefully have Jazzy dreams.

Jazzy, Renee, Andy, Ian @ Forkfest 2020

Jazzy, Renee, Andy, Ian @ Forkfest 2020

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