My Little Jazz

It all started with a weird feeling. I left my office around 6:30 last evening and started roaming around the streets of TriBeCa, unable to get myself down to a subway station and then on a train home. I just didn't want to go home, but I had no idea where else to go. So, I texted my friend Andrea, who was in a similarly odd mindset. "I haven't been outside since 9am," she said. "Let's definitely do something. Anything." We quickly agreed to meet at her apartment in the Financial District and soon after I hopped onto a citibike and slowly, but surely made my way down there. After parking the bicycle about a block away, I saw my phone ringing with my mother's name. I answered, my Dad responded.

From personal experience it is a very bad sign when my Father calls me from my mother's phone. For one, my Dad, the hardworking Father, is constantly on his own phone sending emails, text messages and making calls. My mother, on the other hand, is almost the complete opposite. She doesn't care for the phone or for emails once she leaves her office for the day. So, as soon as I heard him say "Hi Sarah, it's Daddy." I knew I was in for bad news. In a hushed, barely audible voice he said, "Sarah, our little Jazz passed away today." I still could hardly hear him and wanted to pretend that maybe I hadn't heard his somber statement, so I had him say it again. The news was the same. My family dog of the past 10 years died after losing the desire to live to his leaking heart. 

To say that this dog brought anything but joy to my family is an understatement. He was nothing but a light in our family since the day we first took him home. But before that day, my brothers and I were in a constant battle against our mother, attempting to convince her to buy us a dog. She laughed, knowing that once making that purchase the pet would quickly become her responsibility, so she dared us, "If you guys really want a dog, than you have to buy it yourselves." I know she didn't think we were dedicated enough to this cause to save enough money for it. She was only sort of wrong. Between the three of us, my brothers and I saved around $50 dollars, and due to our youthful impatience we immediately dragged our parents to the local pet store to see what it could buy. Of course, we almost immediately realized a dog would cost about 10 times the amount we saved up, so we decided on a different pet - a much cheaper, smaller and honestly, less fun - guinea pig. We howled in excitement, presenting our mom with the pet we could afford together. In disgust of this hairy, mousey looking creature she immediately changed her initial decision. "No, no, no. We will get you kids a dog."

And that day finally came. We drove to my Dad's step sister's pet store in New Jersey and picked up, played with and smiled at a variety of different puppies. However, we were in the land of cuteness and we found that deciding on one dog was an immensely difficult task. Then, one of the store's employees offered to help. "I have a really special one for you guys," she said as she held up a tiny, ivory haired puppy with glossy black eyes. "Watch this," she implored before she sweetly chirped at the tiny dog she held up, "Kiss!". In a second the puppy started licking her cheek on command. It was enough to immediately melt all of our hearts. We knew this one was the one.

The entire way home was spent passing around our new, little gem, but also trying to land on a name for him. We went through hundreds, all quickly rejected. While exchanging ideas my Dad decided to tell us about his childhood dog, Jasmine - a full-size poodle, and how much he loved her. His story touched us and inspired our little dog's name. From the moment we got home, he was called Jazz.

Looking back at it all now, my mother may have been right in not wanting a dog at the time. Our home was currently under construction and not really the best place for a puppy. Nevertheless, it took a few weeks for Jazz to get settled in with the Mendelsohns. Of course, that was only after he cried when we put him in a cage (we got rid of it almost as soon as we got it), peed all over everything and ripped apart some of our belongings, which included a vintage Fendi purse my mother had given me. Needless to say that dog was worth so much more than any bag, regardless of brand, and he brought more happiness to me and my family than any material item possibly could. We always forgave him when he made token puppy mistakes, he was too cute to be mad at for long. He was our Jazz.

I went through the awkward teenage years with my little dog, Jazz. At 13, unsure of who I was and what I wanted to be, it was a relief to come home from school to a dog who didn't care either way. He would never judge my decisions, my outfits, my hair style, my opinions. It was all irrelevant. As long as we gave him treats and walked him, he was a happy dog and he was almost always a happy dog. From his puppy days to his final hours, you could expect him at the door greeting you. He would jump up and down for a solid five minutes, if you bent down to touch him he would cover you in kisses. This was always the case. Jazz was incredibly cheerful when anyone entered the house. It was the best thing to come home to, the most amazing feeling a dog could give you - that you were missed and that your presence was appreciated. Humans generally don't do much of this when you live with them for long. If any of my brothers ran to the door to hug me after a few hours of not seeing them, I would really be surprised. This was truly special and a very Jazz thing to do.

In High School, Jazz become a better friend of mine, a best friend I'd even say. Like many of us, I experienced my first heart break at age 16 and Jazz got me through it. That entire summer I would take him for a massive walk around the neighborhood every single day. We would do a huge loop around the neighborhood, through the town center and the community's two beaches and their respective board walks. I would pop in my head phones and listen to music, while he bounced around, exploring plants and people as we passed them. We often stopped for the occasional compliment - "What a sweet dog!" "What's his name?" "Can I pet him?". Jazz always obliged, he loved this aspect of our walks and I did too. I loved seeing people smile while interacting with him. He especially got a long well with small children, they loved him. It was the sweetest thing to observe.

As time went on, our walks got shorter. Over the past few years, I even got scolded by my mother for making him go on them. "Sarah, you know he has a heart murmur, he can't go on these long walks with you anymore. He's just not fit for it." She was sad about that fact. Out of all of us, my mother became the most attached to our dog. The one person in our family who was against having a pet from the start, quickly became the one to care for him the most. She treated that dog like a prince, buying him special ice cream, cuddling with him on the couch as her and my Father watched their evening television programs, buying him items of warm clothing for the winter. He became her baby and even more so once all her kids left for college, he seemed like the only one left for her to care for at home. 

He became even more important to her and the rest of our family during tougher times. I won't delve into our personal struggles, but they were definitely there. We had our fair share of pain and struggle and maybe Jazz could feel it, because he always made it better. For my mother who holds the family's worries in her heart, he gave cuddles, comfort, and just an endless amount of positive energy. Maybe this is what developed their bond, this little dog's ability to comfort her when she was stressed, but I know it meant the world to my mother and I know she is not dealing well with the loss of it now.

Or my father, the early bird, who woke up at 5am every morning with a dog for an alarm clock. Jazz would lick his face and they would get out of bed for the first walk of the day. Afterwards, you'd find my dad watching the news in the kitchen with a warm cup of coffee in hand and by his feet, you'd see Jazz curled up, keeping him company during a quiet part of the day. When my father had his doubts on certain aspects of life, Jazz gave him an extra dose of purpose. He loved my Dad. He especially loved to kiss him. Whenever my father returned home for the day and sat in his chair in the living room, Jazz would jump up on his lap and kiss his face off. Even though this happened on a regular basis, we all always thought it was hilarious. I'm sure my father will miss that.

For my brothers and I, I can confidently say that Jazz was the best gift our parents ever gave us. He taught us how to care for someone else, to see our problems as smaller ones, and just really to chill out. He was a blessing during both the good and the bad times. We will all miss him dearly. We already do. We love you Jazz.

RIP Jazz Mendelsohn, 5.28.2004 - 9.4.2014