Happy 14th and Last Birthday, Jasmine

Goodbye, Jasmine. For a dog who was – most of the time – sugar, spice and everything nice, this post is for you. It’s a special, Thanksgiving cinnamon, nutmeg, ice-cream and pumpkin-pie-shake salute to Jazz.

Your pack is grateful for your life, loyalty and companionship.

You were indeed a “good dog!” 

Jasmine turned 14 on the 14th of Nov., 2011. (That’s about 98 in dog years.) Her pack of people and pups helped mark the occasion. She was mercifully unaware that this would be her 14th – and last – of many dog-gone good, dog-year birthdays.

Like most dogs, she accepted whatever life threw her way. That was true whether it was the fast-ball exuberance of youth, the slow-ball frailty of old age, or the hard-ball reality of death.

Dogged Determination Despite Fading Faculties

Over time, Jasmine became less agile in her daily activities, such as guarding the pool, running just for the thrill of it, or chasing intrusive geese, squirrels or deliverymen.

Gradually, other health issues emerged. She lost some of her formerly boundless energy and agility, but never her spirit, heart and will.

On Household Welcome Waggin’ Duty

JazzSpHallSawakeb15pxbwl

Night shift guard-dog duty.

Indoors, Jasmine would still insist on being loyally present at the bottom of the stairs with her sidekick Spunky. For years, both were always at the door to welcome whenever a wayward pack member returned home.

Undeterred by her new limitations, she and Spunky would run, not walk, to greet their humans. They responded quickly whenever they heard the familiar sound of a garage door opening.

They’d be there in a flash, waiting. Then, they’d greet people as only dogs can do – instantly morphing from sleepy couch-potato dog into energetic and ecstatic little high-jumpers.

In her later years, Jasmine would wait patiently outside a closed bedroom, office or rec room door, too. She knew that, sooner or later, its human occupant(s) would emerge.

Both dogs favored strategic hallways. From this perspective, they could guard the house –  as Shelties do so well – and have quick access to whatever door might open first. Even if one or both dogs were sleeping, their inner guard-dogs remained alert.

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

I visited Jasmine on her 14th birthday knowing it would be the last of many well-lived birthdays and years.

Earlier that weekend, her humans had abandoned the pack long enough to be pleasantly distracted by an NFL football game. It was a perfect-for-tailgating day. (There is no justice when humans enjoy chasing balls, playing games and eating barbecued beef, yet come home sans doggie bag.) Even so, puppies of any age almost always forgive and forget.

This was an unseasonably warm and sunny Autumn day. Later, we stopped by Sonic Drive-In for a cool beverage. When we got home, I shared the last of my limited-time seasonal special – Thanksgiving Pumpkin-Pie shake – with Jazz.

It seemed an appropriate, though bittersweet, way to celebrate.

For all her senior-citizen fragility, dim vision and difficulty getting around, a little treat still brightened her day. Not that she’s ever been a discriminating eater. She’s (almost) equally fond of dog biscuits, rawhide strips, doggie-bag leftovers, trashcan scraps, or even crumpled paper, Kleenex and cash.

Hoover, Electrolux and a Slower Alternative

Jasmine would have been content with just about anything for a snack. (This is how she and Spunky earned their Hoover and Electrolux nicknames.) Any crumbs, chunks, bites, scoops or slices that fall from a human’s hand or are nudged off a table by a furry paw or a wet black nose, are fair game. They’ll be snared, snatched and snarfed faster than you can reach for a broom, a dustpan or a vacuum.

Jasmine enjoyed her pumpkin shake. With her long, elegant Sheltie snout poked deep into a tall Sonic paper cup to get every last drop it took her significantly longer to eat this treat. (Her typical style was to pretty much swallow everything whole.)

Enjoying the shake and sharing the last of it gave me a little more quality time with Jasmine. It was my last chance to see our little spice-colored friend alive and, however momentarily, distracted from the newfound challenges of aging.

I encouraged her to sit, but she insisted on standing next to me as she lapped away at the shake.

Uncharacteristically, she took her time. I was grateful for that. Despite the challenges of old age, she seemed content, in her own accepting way.

On a Beautiful, Jasmine-Colored Day, Saying Goodbye Could Wait

Despite the loss of her youthful ability to run like the wind, Jasmine was still never happier than when she had her favorite pack-humans around.

A tasty snack was the icing on the biscuit.

Saying “goodbye” could wait. Winter could wait, too. It seemed that we had been given a reprieve. Despite the late November day, for now, the sky was blue, the weather warm and the lawn was still the golden color of Autumn.

Even the shake was the flavor and color of Autumn, too. Pumpkin, nutmeg and cinnamon. It was a perfect match for Jasmine’s gorgeous Autumn-colored coat, too, which she still wore with dignity and grace.

squirrel_nutb10For now, even the neighborhood squirrels seemed to feel safe from being chased. It was a peaceful and sunny day. It was an unassuming little dog’s 14th birthday, and Jasmine was sharing the last of a deliciously impractical Thanksgiving Pumpkin-Pie shake. Saying goodbye could wait.

A Three-Paw Salute: Birthday, Thanksgiving and Farewell

That evening Spunky, Simba and Jasmine joined the pack as we watched a movie in the rec room. I carefully picked up Jasmine so she could sit by me on the sofa. The formerly exuberant, squirming little puppy had shared so many adventures with her pack. Now, she was content to sit quietly among friends.

There were many memories of long w-a-l-k-s, runs and run-ins with neighbor-dogs and strangers, kosher and contraband treats. There were interesting things found – and chewed – objects, contented naps on her favorite human’s pillow (or feet), loyal watchdog duties, a despite-herself friendship with the feisty but loyal Spunky and later Simba. There were countless “life is so daily” routines, a thousand giddy greetings or sad-eyes, ears-down goodbyes. Like many dogs, she lived in the moment. She experienced every moment to its absolute dog-day fullest.

At one point that evening, Jasmine climbed up on my shoulders and gave me a few kisses — something more like Spunky than Jasmine to do. It was almost as if she knew it would be the last time some of her favorite pack-members would be around. Sometimes it seems dogs – especially highly intuitive dogs like Jazz – have an understanding that belies what humans think dogs know.

The next day, it was official. I had to leave and say goodbye to a loyal furry friend. Like an impractical but special limited-time offer ice-cream, nutmeg and cinnamon-sprinkled pumpkin-pie, once-in-a-holiday-while, human- and “good dog!!” worthy treat, Jasmine’s little, but not so little, life was a reminder. Life’s smallest moments and biggest milestones are meant to be savored while you can.

This Thanksgiving, I’d be especially thankful for canine friends who ask for so little and give so much … who are so often content and even grateful for life’s leftovers … who live life to the fullest come what may … who literally jump for joy at the sight of their friends … who are God’s little four-legged object lessons in unconditional love.

Among many things, Jazz reminded us that …

Life Is Short. Eat (or Drink) More Pie.

Jasmine, from your spirited puppyhood to your serene old age, with all the ups and downs along the way, you have not always been practical or even prudent. But you have reminded us that life – canine or human – is short. That we should stop to smell the rosewood fences and appreciate the pepperoni, the bacon, the everyday treats and the occasional decadent desserts that life sends our way. You have added to our lives in countless ways. They are infinitely rich, colorful … and – like Autumn Pumpkin Pie and Jasmine – a name that, appropriately, means “Gift from God.”

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