Who was Jazz, the dog?
Part Coyote, part German Shepard - Jazz was born July 4, 1982.
“You really want her, don’t you,” asked Rick’s friend when they came upon the box of puppies someone had in front of them on the Venice Beach Boardwalk.
“Yes, I do,” Rick replied, as the last female of the litter looked up at him with her adoring eyes. That was the beginning of the relationship that continues to this date with the dog he would later refer to as his “soul mate.”
Together they cruised the Boardwalk, hiked Topanga Canyon, and rode the waves in Santa Monica Bay. She could catch a Frisbee so well that Rick considered entering regional contests; certain she would win had he done so.
She was lost one time for eight days while Rick frantically searched the dog pounds and posted flyers. When he finally found her, she was “in union” with another dog, screaming, as she had somehow suffered a broken hip while lost. On another occasion, prior to having her spayed*, a large dog burst into the house, mounted her and, as they were “attached”, ran together out onto the busy intersection of Venice Boulevard and Pacific Avenue. In his frantic effort to separate the two, Rick sent a young boy to fetch multiple pails of water that they then threw onto the dogs, all the while being the subject of more than a few chuckles and comments from passing cars.
They did everything together. Jazz would protect Rick, as Rick would her.
He saved her from being chased by cows, kicked by mules, and from an angry man whose goose she had in her mouth. They went to Grateful Dead shows, traveled to Mexico, and crossed the country together at least twenty five times. Rick picked cactus needles from her paws, tobogganed down hillsides with her, and carried her to the vet once when she tore open her side on barbed wire
Then, one fateful day while on a camping trip, Rick noticed her dragging her back paw. That was the first sign of Degenerative Myelopathy, a neurodegenerative disease affecting the spinal cord, causing progressive muscle weakness. In six months, she was unable to use her back legs.
Rick carried her around everywhere they went. She stayed close to him, dragging herself after him with her powerful front legs if he strayed too far away. Some thought it wasn't right; others saw the strength and beauty.
Because the disease affects the immune system, Jazz kept getting infections and was constantly on medications. Rick tried everything including acupuncture, but to no avail. One morning, after having finished a round of antibiotics and still having some pain, she woke him up whining in pain. Rick knew it was time.
The next day, January 5th, 1998, on a 60 degree day in Pennsylvania, they spent the whole day together playing. He hiked with her on his shoulders, gave her rides in the wheelbarrow, rolled around in the grass, and at 4 pm, took her to the vet.
“I cried my eyes out in her fur as I held her, knowing that in just seconds she wouldn't be alive any longer. I needed her,” he said, “But I didn't back down; she was in pain and it had to happen.
“I remember petting her when she was but one year old; holding her and thinking ‘this fur on her throat and chest is the softest fur I have ever felt.’ I asked her what she thought of being around in some form forever so I could always have her around, and when she gazed into my eyes, licked my face, and nuzzled up against me, I made a plan for what I would someday do.”
Rick then drove her to a renowned taxidermist a mere five miles from his Pennsylvania home, browsed through a catalogue of forms showing different poses, and chose the one that most resembled her in action, as she was always on the go. The next day, he picked up her remains and buried her on the property beneath a gravestone and cross.
“I have never regretted my decision,” he says, “and I continue to be thrilled to have her around; the memories always seem so fresh. I just love reliving it and telling stories about our travels and travails, as she was such a major part of my youth.”
“Most people just adore her; children come up and pet her; and I can't count the number of times people have taken photos with her. Of course, there are those who think it’s horrible, and we had one venue who refused to let us have her on stage while we played - (that was the last time we played there) – but far more have had told us that they, too, have considered having their pet memorialized in the same manner, and that seeing Jazz helped them to say yes to having their pet around with them forever.”
* As a volunteer at the veterinary clinic, Rick assisted in the procedure.
JAZZ THE DOG
Rick Zeek • Rhan Wilson • Patti Maxine