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08/18/2005 Archived Entry: "Jasmine Marie Wolfe"

THE CARD AFFIXED TO THE KENNEL AT THE BIG-CITY POUND said "Great Dane mix, F, 9 weeks, blue merle." A sucker for brindled or merle Danes, I looked down. The only blue merle dog in the crowded pen looked back up at me with a face that had probably never even seen a Great Dane, let alone belonged to one.

But within minutes, I was in serious like, if not love. A few days later, after her three-day stray hold, I brought home Jasmine, a four-month-old blue merle Australian cattle dog mix.

In the first few weeks, not much about her really stood out, other than her pretty coat and the fact that she was clearly not destined to grow to what I then considered serious dog size. I first noticed the really essential "Jasminess" of Jasmine one day when I looked out my front door and found her on the deck, looking eagerly back through the glass. "Hey, mom! Let me in!"

What? I lived in a little city house then and I'd left her in the very securely fenced back yard. How could this be?

So I brought her in, plugged up every possible hole in or under the fence and put her back out.

A few minutes later, there she was at the front door looking in at me again.

She was then still a smallish puppy and I had a six-foot fence. So I didn't realize until I saw her do it that she was leaping the fence.

From then on, no yard would ever hold her. A boarding kennel with a seven-foot chainlink enclosure had to add an extension to keep Jasmine inside.

She was extraordinarily agile at this jumping business, too. One day I was at the post office and a woman asked, "Is that your dog?" She pointed to my truck, where Jasmine had just launched herself out of a window in the canopy. Then, as the woman and I both watched, Jasmine turned around and aimed herself straight back in through that small window opening, four feet above the ground and not much larger than her body.

The "Jasminess" of all this was that, unlike most jumpers, she didn't want to escape to explore the outside world.

She just wanted to get to wherever "mom" was.

Jasmine was the most intensely loyal one-person dog I've ever had. Although they love their humans dearly, for most dogs home is ultimately wherever the food bowl is. Mom or Dad is whoever provides the food and the cuddles. Not for Jasmine.

From the time she was about four we lived with my Significant Sweetie, a very nice person. But for five years, she refused to get in any vehicle with him unless she made sure I was going too. (That changed only after she realized that he was taking a lot of trips to a place where she could roll in and munch on horse apples. Then she finally decided he was okay -- as long as she saw him put his saddle into the back of the vehicle.)

Jasmine had the rare and blessed trait of deep empathy. If I were ever crying or angry at something, Jasmine would not rest until she calmed and comforted me. It never bothered her if I was angry with her for some misdeed (and in her puppy days, the misdeeds were many). But any other sorrow or grief, Jasmine could not bear. She'd climb in my lap and lick my face, all the while with an expression of such distress that I'd end up calming myself down just to soothe her troubled heart.

And all this from a dog who was otherwise not at all cuddly. She never cared to be petted. At times she showed a positive aversion to touch. Love, for her, was just being quietly wherever mom was.

She was also the most stoical dog I've ever known. It absolutely stunned me, at times, what that dog endured without even a sign of pain. Twice she had serious wounds in hard-to-see places -- deep rips two or three inches long high up on her thigh, tucked against her belly -- and I never saw them until a day or so after she got them. She never limped. Never licked. Never showed a sign of discomfort. Another time she had a few slightly "off" days. She moved a little stiffly. She seemed slightly reluctant to go for walks. Perhaps she's pulled a muscle, I thought. After five days, I took her to the vet -- who immediately diagnosed her with a disease that's 100 percent fatal if not treated and that usually has dogs vomiting and in convulsions by the fifth day.

At age 11, she was still going strong when I brought home a strutting, macho alpha-type pit-bull mix, Robbie. Jasmine had never been the type to throw her weight around. Robbie definitely was. That first day, he staked out the dog-food bowl and snarled to the rest of the pack that they'd better keep away. Jasmine, relaxing on a bed clear across the room, leaped up and nailed him to the ground by his neck.

A few hours later, Robbie tried his macho territorial act again. Jasmine leaped from her bed. Nailed him. Again. And again she nailed him. They were the only real, identifiable acts of dominance I ever saw in her life. For the next two-plus years Robbie, who defers to no one, deferred to Jasmine. Robbie, who bullies everyone, never gave Jasmine a moment's trouble.

But pack alignments shift and young dogs grow old frighteningly fast. At about 13, Jasmine began to withdraw from life. Part of the withdrawal happened swiftly, part slowly. She lost most of her hearing and most of her sight seemingly overnight. But even with arthritis in every joint and painfully splayed feet from bad tendons, she still attempted to jump into the truck, even as her feeble leaps increasingly landed her on her back on the ground. Eventually I had to stop her from leaping and lift her into the truck. And later yet I had to guard her against the other dogs (though Robbie, I noticed, never made more than token dominance gestures toward her).

Last spring, she was diagnosed with liver cancer, which had already spread into other parts of her body. This summer has been a waiting, watching time. When will the day come? Will she let me know? With her stoicism, how will I tell if she's suffering or not?

In the last four years I've had to put down two other dogs. The first, Jasmine's long-time "sister" Shera, I put down too early. Shera had never been a healthy dog, or a particularly likeable one. So as soon as she became incontinent, I had her euthanized -- then felt guilty about it afterward.

The second dog, a foster, came in with cancer and stayed with me for nine months. Her entire stay here was marked by those "when is the right time" questions. But after Shera, I was determined not to euthanize too early. The result of that: One day out of the blue, the dog's personality changed. This previously angel-sweet foster dog led an attack on Jasmine that was obviously intended to -- and nearly did -- kill her. The vet said the foster had probably been in terrible pain without ever showing it. The vet euthanized the foster as soon as she finished sewing Jasmine up.

That attack, last fall, was the beginning of the end for Jasmine, who became increasingly withdrawn, fragile, and easily frightened. But she still loved her walks and was greedy for her food, even though she could only manage smaller and smaller bowls of it. To me, those were the sure signs she wanted to live, even as her withdrawal continued and her cancer reduced her to bloat and bones.

In the last few weeks, she's had to be coaxed, and sometimes even carried to the truck to drive out to our favorite walking spots. In the same period, she's begun refusing everything but the tastiest special treats. She still looks eagerly at her food bowl, and every time I go into the kitchen her head comes up and her eyes light. But a little dab of rice and hamburger is all she can manage for a meal.

So today is the day. My wonderful vet is coming out to the house. She'll be here in 45 minutes and will administer the euthanasia drugs while I feed Jasmine hand-made liver treats. Afterward, Jasmine will be cremated and I'll scatter her ashes in the woods she loved, saving a little of her for every road we ever walked.

By the time I post this, Jasmine will be a memory. I never had a dog as long as I've had Jasmine. I've never loved one as much as I love her.

Jasmine Marie Wolfe
August ?, 1990 to August 18, 2005
My Beloved Heart Dog

She died beautifully on a beautiful day.

Posted by Claire @ 04:50 PM CST

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