One of the best things about being a dog is that you have no clue when you’re going to the dentist. Don’t get me wrong; I have a wonderful dentist, Dr. Sima Salimi on Union Street, but as much as I like Dr. Salimi and her staff, I would rather not see them. Still, as much as I dreaded having two of Jazzy’s teeth pulled, I knew it was a necessary step toward irradiating her tumor.
My friend Kin, sensing my nervousness, offered to drive us to Davis the day before our early morning appointment. Kin is not only a good friend, he’s a scientist. His balanced voice of reason was just what I needed (emotional, Italian-blooded, artistic type that I am). As we headed for the Bay Bridge, Jazzy stretched across the backseat, blissfully snoring like a truck driver on Trazadone.
When we arrived at the Davis small animal clinic at 7 a.m., Jazzy knew something was up, but unlike a lot of dogs, she doesn’t freak out about going to the vet – she’s just happy to have all that attention. As we left her in the capable hands of the Davis dentistry team, the hardest part began: waiting for news.
My stomach was in knots, but I needed to eat something. Neither Kin nor I are great with directions, so we turned to his GPS system. “I found a Denny’s,” he said proudly. As the lady’s voice kicked in, we drove and drove, and somehow we ended up in a maze of what appeared to be fairly new residential tract homes. “I don’t see a Denny’s,” I said. “It’s right HERE!” Kin responded, pointing to the map on his GPS. We continued to drive into the residential development until we hit a cul-de-sac and wound up sitting in front of the correct address for Denny’s, but it was definitely not Denny’s – it was somebody’s house. For the first time since we left San Francisco I laughed, and I really needed that. Kin started laughing, too. “It says Denny’s!” he said, again pointing to the map on the GPS. “I’m going to go ask them if they’ll make us eggs Benedict,” I said. “No!” Kin laughed – he knew I wasn’t going to do it, but he feigned concern anyway, which made the whole thing even funnier.
Kin reset the GPS to take us back to the Stone Villa, and just off the freeway, minutes away from the motel, was a diner called Cindy’s. And it turns out, they make a much better breakfast than Denny’s.
As we sat in a booth with the summer sun streaming through the windows, I managed to get down a perfectly poached egg (not easy to find) and a bowl of grits. “I love grits. I don’t know why more breakfast places, outside of the South, don’t make them,” I said to Kin as he read the newspaper.
The waitress brought us glasses of orange juice freshly squeezed just moments before. “This place is great,” I told her, marveling at the prices.
A few hours later we got the call – surgery had gone well and we could pick up Jazzy. “There was another tooth loosened by the tumor,” the dentist told us, “so we had to pull her left canine and two teeth next to it instead of just one.”
The other times Jazzy had been under anesthesia, the doctors kept her overnight. I had no idea what bad shape she was going to be in, and whatever fun we’d had hunting for Denny’s or eating grits quickly faded. She was wobbly and weak, and she was whining (something Jazzy doesn’t even do when she wants me to let her in from the backyard). “It’s just the anesthesia wearing off,” the dentist said. “She should be OK in a few hours.”
As we helped Jazzy onto her dog bed in the backseat, it was one of the most pathetic sights I’ve ever witnessed – she was drooling blood, her face was puffy, she whined incessantly; she was clearly confused, in pain, and miserable. Every bump in the road was agonizing for her – and for me. I wished we had left her at UC Davis overnight, or stayed one more night at the motel; I wished I could explain to Jazzy that I was doing this because I loved her, and because I wanted to save her life.
That evening at home, Jazzy finally fell asleep, doped up on a cocktail of painkillers and sedatives. It was one of those rare summer nights in San Francisco that we all love – warm and still with a gentle breeze and a sky full of stars. Normally I would be sitting in the garden with friends while Jazzy snuck treats between bouts of tug-o-war and wrestling in the grass with some of her doggie pals. I took those simple times for granted, but not anymore.
As I opened the door to release some of the stifling heat, the softest breeze wafted into the room and I lay down beside Jazzy on her dog bed. “You’re going to be OK,” I said quietly, stroking her soft ears. She licked my hand, nuzzled her head in my lap, and took a deep sigh. “We’re going to be OK ...”
“Jazzy halts flow of tears with toys and tenacity, the story of how Jasmine helped Susan get through the death of her father,” appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle in Eileen Mitchell’s “Pet Tales” column Dec. 8, 2010 (www.sfgate.com/columns/pettales/archive/ ). Susan is currently working on a book based on this column.