A Tribute To My “Gypsy Dogs”

How does one begin the story of two such incredible dogs? At the beginning, I guess.

First came sweet, gentle-spirited Jazzy. I will never forget the day I found her. Shortly after a divorce 14 years ago I had the urge to stop into the SPCA one afternoon. All of the dogs were jumping and barking and clamoring over one another as I walked by… all of them adorable. All of them deserving of good homes. But the one who caught my eye was this little black pup who simply sat quietly looking up at me with those sweet, gentle eyes. I fell in love instantly. Not wanting to make the choice without Elissa, I dashed off to her school and got her out early, for fear of someone else taking our pup before we got there. There was no doubt that Elissa would fall for her just as I did, but I wanted to make the choice together. Love happened, and we brought her home

She was not what you’d call an exuberant dog, and was fairly shy around strangers, but she did have her adorable moments. She thrived on making us smile and laugh… especially with her “shuck and jive” movements while playing chase in the backyard. (This is where her name came from!) When not at play she was calm and quiet, and her peaceful demeanor had a soothing effect in our home, which had the potential for being intense… with me as a single mom and busy business owner, and Elissa… at the age of 13! (Enough said?)

Jazzy, shortly after her adoption from ASPCA

Jazzy on squirrel patrol

 

It was Elissa’s incredible love of animals… insatiable need to befriend ALL of them… and her pleading to “just go look”, as we passed a Humane Society adoption event in front of PetSmart, that brought Sadie into our lives a year or so later… but only because I fell in love too!

Unlike Jazzy, who gently melted into our hearts, Sadie joyfully wiggled her way in. She was a jubilant pup… always happy… always eager… and always vying for one’s undivided attention.  

Sadie shortly after her Humane Society adoption

 

We were a family… Jazzy, Sadie, me and Elissa. We had a great yard for running and playing.  And while Elissa was off to school, and I was busy running a business, the girls entertained themselves by chasing squirrels. They took this job very seriously, and were quite vigilant about it. From the family room sliding-glass-door they watched, and although it’s been eight years since we left that home, I can still hear the two of them dancing and squealing at the back door with each and every squirrel sighting. “Squirrel! Let us out! Now! Please!!”

Elissa practicing their tricks

Elissa runs with the girls through a great snowfall in our backyard

The “author” image for my book, The Dogs of Central Park… had to include my dogs! (-photo credit actually belongs to Brandi Stanford)

Yucking it up with Elissa and the girls. (-photo credit Brandi Stanford)

 

It was when Elissa headed to college that Sadie, Jazzy and I set out on our Journey. (If you’d like to know the “why” behind this event, the mystery is solved here… The Fork In the Road)

Our lives were a whirlwind for a few months leading up to that… with the publishing and launch of my book, The Dogs of Central Park… the sale of our home… the closing of my business… and the purging of nearly all of my “possessions”.  And then… three days before handing off the keys to our house, I brought home a slightly used 35′ motorhome, and instantly they became my “roadies”.  I could not have asked for two better dogs for the job! These two, who had little need for leashes and rarely left the yard (except to go to the vet, or to stay with Elissa at her Dad’s when I was off speaking somewhere), took to motorhome travel like ducks to water. They absolutely LOVED it!

Within days of our “move-in”, when asked if they were ready to go, you could almost hear them yelling, “Shotgun!” as they dashed up the steps into the motorhome. (This is an incredibly heartwarming memory for me!) Together we traveled thousands of miles, and hiked hundreds of trails all across the US and Canada for three full years! They adapted very quickly to being on leash… a tandem leash at that. They were pros, and frequently attracted smiles, giggles and comments when they “walked each other”, which was rather common since I usually had my hands full of gear. They learned patience quickly, and without having to say a word, if I stopped on a trail and raised my camera, they simply sat down waited until I was done. Then, with my first stride, they’d stand up and we’d continue down the trail.

Their favorite times though, were trails we could hike off-leash. They were thrilled to run ahead and blaze the trail, but never got much beyond my line of sight before turning around, and running back… and then darting off again… and then back. In those days, for the first mile or so, they’d cover three miles or more, and then they’d settle in beside me. Sadie became my herder… back and forth from one heel to the other, bouncing her head off the camera in my hand, just to let me know she was there. (Clearly a herding breed in her mix!)

Jazzy’s silly habit was to get stuck on scent on the trail. We’d be hiking along, and suddenly I’d realize she was not there. I’d look back, and sometimes even walk back, to find her with her nose to the ground, oblivious to everything but the scent before her.

Jazzy and Sadie both called “Shotgun!”

Practicing patience while I’m photographing a scene near Yellowstone

Enjoying one of hundreds of hikes with the girls -Colorado

The girls, walking each other on-leash -Wisconsin

 

Being from north Texas, these two had never set foot on a beach… until we neared my home turf in the northwest, and made a stop at Cannon Beach. See the image below? Need I say more? Gleeful, is what they were. Immediately in love with the soft sand and cool, salty air.

Another incredible and heartwarming memory for me is how they loved to make me laugh! It took very little encouragement to get these two going, once they knew the “Let’s make Mom laugh” game was on. Jazzy doing her “shuck and jive”, and Sadie nipping playfully at her heels… and mine, so I’d run with them. At the moment this vivid memory brings tears to my eyes, but it’s one I’ll always hold close to my heart.

First visit to the beach, and they LOVED it!  -Oregon

Oh, how they loved running freely on the trails where they could! -Upstate New York

Jazzy displaying her “Shuck and Jive” move, and her love for the snow -Colorado

Sadie, beautiful and intensely loyal -Colorado

I fit them both on my kayak from time to time. A bit of a squeeze, but we made it work. -Michigan

Perfect shot… thoughtful Jazzy, attentive Sadie… -Georgia

 

So few people I know have managed to make the permit only hike out to The Wave, but these girls did it with me! It meant packing enough water for all of us through the desert, but it was worth it to have them with me.

Jazzy and Sadie hiked The Wave! -Arizona/Utah

Patiently waiting at my sunrise photo shoot -Death Valley

 

Amongst the very best of memories, was when “Our Girl” came to visit. Three or four times a year… wherever we were heading… I’d book a flight for Elissa. They always knew exactly what we were about to do, and who we were about to see, when I looked at them and said, “Let’s go get “Our Girl”. They’d spring up with smiles on their faces and off we’d go! They loved those airport trips, knowing what was ahead. And of course, Elissa always loved knowing they’d be there to greet her when I opened the car doors.

With “Our Girl” while visiting Gramps -Washington

 

A few years later John entered our lives, and Sadie and Jazzy grew to love him just as quickly as I did. And he loved them just as though they’d been his dogs from the get-go. He helped me see Sadie through her recovery after cancer surgery within months of meeting us.

His eyes were full of tears, just like mine, when we had to let Jazzy go two years ago, and he held me closely as I cried for her for many days to follow.

On the dock while John preps for the R2AK

 

And when Elissa came to visit he took us to Cannon Beach, a favorite and memorable place, to say our final goodbye to Jazzy, where we spread her ashes along the shore. Sadie, of course, was right there with us.

Me, Elissa and Sadie say our final goodbye to Jazzy at Cannon Beach

 

After John’s retirement a year later, Sadie added yet another title to her resume by becoming our “Boat Dog”. At this point she was aging, and arthritis was setting in, making it difficult for her to get on and off the boat, and in and out of the dinghy. We found the perfect remedy in a life-jacked with a handle. John reinforced the handle with his sail repair kit, and became her “lifter”… always playfully… with a “Wheeeeee”.

I was concerned about how she’d do traveling on a boat full-time, especially when it came to relatively frequent potty breaks, but “Pops” was diligent about dropping the dinghy in the water and rowing her ashore every time we anchored, whenever needed throughout the day, first thing in the morning, and right before bed every single night… rain or shine!

Sadie, styling in her new life vest (with handle)

Sharing my kayak excursion with Sadie -San Juan Islands

 

We had a great summer on the water, and then moved back into the motorhome and hit the road… with no adjustment needed other than help getting up and down the stairs, and in and out of the car. For this, we bought a vest with a handle, and she didn’t miss a beat.

With each passing month though, she got a little slower, and we knew our time with her was nearing an end. We braced ourselves, and couldn’t help but wonder where we would be, and how we would handle it when that time came.

Still, she carried on, and with whatever pain she must have endured, she kept right on smiling, and made it clear she was happy to be with us every single day.

Hiking with “Pops” -Alabama Hills

Soaking up some love -Yosemite

Smiling at “Our Girl”, Elissa, during a Christmas visit in Arizona

 

We set out for our second summer together on Summer Breeze… traveling all the way to and around the islands of Haida Gwaii. We gathered so many great memories with her… on the boat… in the dinghy… walking the shores and short island trails…

…and then we lost her. It was crushing, for both John and myself. That was a month ago, and Summer Breeze still feels painfully empty without her. But we’re reaching a point of smiling more at the memories… than choking back tears from our loss.

A common site aboard Summer Breeze… camera and Sadie close at hand!

Enjoying one of so very many islands in British Columbia

Sadie in her happy place, rowing along with “Pops” in Zephyr

Snoozing in the bow of Zephyr

My last precious shot of Sadie, happy to be cruising along with “Pops”

 

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my girls… my “gypsy dogs”… my “roadies”. I know just how deeply I was blessed by their presence in my life. I could not have asked more of them…except a little more time.

I trust that they are together again… happily hiking the trails, and running along endless beaches together, and waiting for the day when Mom will join them again.

RIP my girls. My memories of you are never-ending, and always full of joy.

My hope… my prayer… of where my precious “Roadies” are today… on a trail, side by side

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