She’s a familiar sight, running around joyfully at Radloff Park in the long grass, swimming in the Lourens River, and bounding over to voice an exhuberent hello when I call her name – more of a howl with excited yips, which sets my Basset hound Phoebe off in melodious, syncopated style.
“You’re a sight for sore eyes, Jazz,” I tell her, feeling my spirits lift exponentially. As always, the irony of my utterance strikes me instantly, as her lovely face looks upwards towards me, radiating the simple joy of life, that is so inherent to this very special dog.
It’s been many years since we met, when I still had Tombi and Mr Murphy, my Great Dane and Irish Terrier, who loved their daily walks, and always greeted Jazz with affection and familiarity.
Six years ago, when Jazz was just nine months old, Lindy McDonald adopted Jazz from the Helderberg Animal Welfare Society (HAWS), as a fluffy, furry companion for their two-year-old Golden Retriever/ Labrador, Roxy.
Jazz had originally been adopted at three months old from HAWS, but had been surrendered back a few months later, as she’d been getting out and making the rounds in the neighbourhood, which is where Lindy first made her acquaintance.
“We got back from holiday, and saw that construction was going on at Jazz’s house, and the gate was open, and we wondered where she was,” said Lindy.
All was revealed when she saw a post soon afterwards, from HAWS, with a picture of Jazz, and Lindy immediately called Susan Bellis at HAWS to say she was on her way to adopt her, only to find out there was already a potential owner.
“After a few anxious hours, and much pleading with my guardian angels, Jazz was overlooked, and the potential owners took another dog, much to my relief!”
But, this was only the beginning of an extraordinary journey… “of heartache, worry, soul-searching, adventure, delight and awe”.
“On that fateful Tuesday, just one week to the day that Jazz arrived, she went blind,” said Lindy.
“Literally, it took her body a few hours to break down her own retinas. After letting the dogs out into the garden in the morning, I noticed she stumbled off the edge of the verandah – ‘going so fast’ I thought to myself ‘that you almost face planted off the end of the verandah!’
“When I called them for breakfast, Jazz walked into the step below me and looked up – her pupils were completely dilated, and my first reaction was that she had been poisoned!
“I rushed to Strand Animal Hospital, who immediately sent me off to Panorama to see the eye specialist there, where they confirmed the diagnosis of Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS).”
Overnight, a new story began – how would she be able to cope, how would they cope, how would Roxy and all the cats react.
Lindy’s plans of doing agility training with her were out the window, but all these worries were put to rest after a few weeks when they realised Jazz was coping better than they could have ever anticipated.
She quickly learnt her way around the house, and runs up and down the many stairs with complete accuracy and speed.
Lindy walked her on a long lead around the neighbourhood and at Radloff Park, and after three months decided to let her run free with Roxy on the sport field, and let her off lead.
“She and Roxy sprinted across the field and headed for the river, with me puffing behind them trying to catch up. I decide then and there that if she was so independent, then I’d let her find her own way around.
“I generally guide her in the park by tapping my leg or clapping my hands to let her know where I am, and she knows ‘up’ and ‘down’ and will stop and negotiate the obstacle if I warn her.”
Lindy had to put drops in her eyes three times a day, to stop the fluid that washes the cornea daily from accumulating and building up, causing an increase in pressure, pain and discomfort to her.
“We left her eyes in purely for aesthetic reasons, and as long as she didn’t appear to be in any discomfort I was happy. Bi-annual checks to monitor her eye pressure had to be done, and after four years it was necessary to remove her eyes completely,” she said.
Jazz was incredible, and a few days later was walking in the park greeting all her friends, dogs and people alike with a new vigour and confidence.
“We had many funny moments as Jazz has quite a hunting instinct, and watching her pouncing through long grass after scuttling lizards, chasing squirrels as they ran through the trees, was quite amusing,” said Lindy.
“She has no fear, and in the early days would run full ball through the park and hit trees, fall into ditches, run into the water and simply pick herself up, shake herself off and carry on going as if nothing had happened.”
Many people do not even realise she has no eyes, and are amazed when Lindy points this out to them. She can retrieve a ball or stick that is thrown, and goes exactly to where it lands.
“Jazz lives a full, satisfied life, and not a day goes by that I do not marvel at her,” said Lindy.
I agree wholeheartedly, and seeing Jazz improvise – and not miss a beat, is music to my soul.