By Jenny Pavlovic © 2021
Some dogs stay with us for a long time. Others blaze through our lives like the brightest of shooting stars. In February of 2020 I lost my 15-year-old Australian Cattle Dog-Collie mix, Chase, who had been with me for almost 14 years. In October, I lost my 13-and-a-half-year-old Australian Cattle Dog-Carolina Dog mix, Cayenne, who had been with us for almost as long.
My cat and remaining two dogs and I were healthy. I was fully employed and had been working from home since March of 2020. We needed time to grieve, but knowing other animals were in need, I considered taking in another dog.
When I searched online for a dog that would fit with my pack, I found Misty’s profile. I had a strong feeling that she belonged with us. When I inquired, I learned that she was about nine years old, had been rescued in Texas in May, and had been adopted in Wisconsin in August. A large cancerous tumor was removed from her throat in September and the adopters gave her back to the rescue group in October. They said she was in remission.
I thought a lot about Misty. Over the previous six months, she had lived in at least six different places in Texas and Wisconsin and had lost about 20 pounds. Who knew what her previous life was like? Her health issues concerned me. I wondered if I could provide what she needed because I didn’t have thousands of dollars for cancer treatment. Still, I had a strong feeling about her.
I asked an animal communicator friend about Misty. Part of the response haunted and enlightened me: “She would like to be in a good place to live out her life. She believes that if she has someone that loves her, then she won’t be suffering as her body declines.”
The response was a wake-up call. I shouldn’t overlook Misty because she’d had cancer. I should bring her home because she needed to heal in her own loving home. I have a fondness for old dogs. What’s more, I have experience supporting dogs with cancer, and access to excellent vets.
When we first met Misty, she was friendly as my dog Herbie approached, and then snapped in his face as he startled her when he stood in front of her. Turns out, she had severe cataracts and was almost blind. Once she knew Herbie was there, however, they did well together on a short walk. I noted that Misty walked with a limp.
I was approved to adopt Misty. After losing Chase and Cayenne, grief had weighed me down. But I felt empathetic toward this old, lame and practically blind dog who been through so much without the support of her very own family. I offered her our loving home to live out her life.
I renamed her Jasmine, which means “Gift from God.” She responded well to her new name. Jasmine was black with a white chest and feet and faint rust-colored markings on her legs. She had a thick coat and didn’t mind the winter weather. She weighed about 35 pounds and had big bones, short legs, and a large rib cage. She barked (rather, “borked”) just like a Basset hound. I guessed that she was probably a Basset hound/Australian Shepherd mix, due to her short legs, Basset bark, short tail, thick coat, and strong desire to chase (herd) cars.
When my mom, who has short-term memory loss, learned that I had a “new” old dog, she didn’t ask the tough questions she might have in the past, like, “Are you sure you can afford her?” and “Are you sure you can handle another dog?” She just sweetly said, “I’m sure the best part of her life will be with you.” That is what I hoped for.
Jasmine learned the boundaries of our house and yard by feeling and sniffing her way around the edges. She could hear but didn’t pinpoint the source of sound well. Soon all three dogs went for walks together and shared the yard. I was very careful when letting them loose together in the house to make sure everyone, especially Herbie, the smaller dog, felt safe.
I fed Jasmine high-quality food with supplements to support her immune system. I registered her microchip and removed her collar because it irritated her neck where the tumor had been removed.
The vet found new lumps and warned me that Jasmine might not have much time. She prescribed a chemo medication to inhibit new tumor growth, knowing that it might be too little too late, and pain meds that allowed Jasmine to bounce around joyfully like there was no tomorrow. As Jasmine rolled her toy around at my feet, her goofy, playful behavior showed that she was enjoying life. I loved how she lived in the moment.
God had disguised this gift well. On the surface, Jasmine was a completely imperfect old, oddshaped, blind, lame dog who shed hair everywhere and had bad teeth. But there was nothing pathetic about her. As I got to know her, I saw her silly side, her lust for life and her total focus on getting a treat out of a toy. She was funny and joyful, and she made me laugh. I came to know her as a gift, not a burden. She rolled on her back in the grass, laid with all four feet in the air snoring next to me while I worked, and insistently “borked” her Basset bark when she wanted something. She enjoyed her first snow, joyfully joined us on walks around the neighborhood, and bounded around the house as if to say, “Wow! This is great!” She helped me see that even with my aches and pains and imperfections, I can be joyful too.
My most treasured gifts from Jasmine, for which I am most grateful, are those times when she demanded my full attention, and we cherished the moment together. One of Jasmine’s epic moments was a chase game in the backyard with my dog Audrey. Audrey took off running full speed around the yard. Jasmine heard her and, to my amazement and horror, took off in pursuit. Jasmine had gradually learned the layout and boundaries of our yard. I held my breath as she galloped at full speed in pursuit of Audrey, surprising all of us. Part of me wanted to stop Jasmine before she slammed head-first into a tree, but I knew she needed to run free. Audrey ran like a rocket and doubled back a few times, allowing Jasmine to keep up. Their interaction absolutely stunned me.
The cancer progressed. Jasmine was only with us from November 8 until December 1. She was truly a gift from God I will never forget. Like the brightest shooting star, she reminded me that all we really have is this present moment. She taught me that although I cannot fix everything for another, I can still make life better by opening my heart and home.
Counting my blessings opened the door to bringing Jasmine home. Now when I count my blessings, I count Jasmine among them. I could not have loved her more.