Those of you who have followed The Poundry for the last few months are aware that we had been trying to work with our vet and Jasmine to rehabilitate her broken leg since I tripped over her back in June of last year. That's a long damned time! Seven months translated into dog years, with adjustments for Jasmine's size, becomes something like three years of rehab for our sweet little girl. Yikes! Can you imagine that much time with your leg bandaged? That much time hobbling from one pillow to another, waiting for someone to bring you your meals and to carry you outside to use the bathroom? Jasmine had always been a puppy at heart, and her unbridled playfulness probably complicated her recovery at first, and gave us a false sense of progress that made it that much tougher when things started to get more difficult a month ago. We lost Jasmine to pneumonia Tuesday afternoon. That is a loss we will carry with us forever.
Once Jasmine's meds wore off after the night her leg was broken it seemed like she might bounce back from the accident pretty quickly. She freaked us out a few times at first trying to run, but her playful nature kept her from taking things easy. You can try to explain to a dog that they need to chill out, but if they have nearly boundless energy you are wasting your time. Not too long after the initial surgery she had some bad swelling in her leg. The pin that had been inserted from her shoulder down to the break, which was a long, complete break just above her elbow, had come loose and was stabbing at her from the inside. They took that pin out and inserted another, smaller pin that was more perpendicular to the break than the first one they tried. That seemed to work at first, but before too long we had more swelling. The entire process was a series of ups and downs.
When we had our vet take more x-rays we realized the smaller pin had fallen out of place. It had not simply slipped out of the holes in the bone, but out of her leg entirely! It wasn't there anymore! While it was kind of rare it wasn't unheard of. By this point there had been some new bone growth, and that gave everyone hope that things would be okay. She still seemed to be doing fine, so we started being more careful about keeping her from trying to jet out the front door. There were no pins to hold things together anymore, just the wire they had wrapped around the break line during the original surgery. After a few more weeks had passed, the swelling came back. Of course it did... why should anything go right? We felt like it was time to take the support wire out. It seemed like an irritant to us, and the vet agreed. They went in for a third time and extracted the wire. Great! Now everything had been sorted out and our path to full recovery was clear. The vet was satisfied with her progress, so we were feeling good about how things would turn out. We were looking forward to Jasmine becoming a very old, very spoiled dog with us. Not so fast, guys. The gods of bad luck weren't done with our sweet girl yet.
We became a little more freaked out when the swelling in her leg came back a month or so after that third operation. We were afraid it had become systemic. More x-rays showed something that horrified the vet. He hadn't gotten all of the wire out. He had felt around to make sure he extracted all of it when he performed the procedure, but somehow he missed a piece. Unfortunately there was another setback that was more serious. The same x-ray showed that the two sides of the break, while they did have new growth, weren't actually growing together. By this time we were almost six months into this process and we had to start at square one again! They had to put her under for a fourth time to scrape the new growth off of both sides to give clean, smooth surfaces a chance to do what should have taken place months earlier. Another long rod was inserted from the shoulder down to the elbow and they bandaged her in such a way that swelling, even if it occurred, would not be as extreme as it had been up to that point. It took a little longer for her to shake off the meds that time, but this was her fourth surgery in six months. She had gone from the human equivalent of 78 years old to 81 years old in the six months since the night of the accident. Our poor girl was beaten up and tired. She seemed to finally be getting better after about a week, but then things started to turn.
When Jasmine seemed to be slowing down in front of our very eyes we were beginning to get scared. We tried to stay positive, but we both had bad feelings about things. We acted as though things would be okay, but our guts told us that would probably not be the case. I couldn't help but feel that she had given up. We were both willing to do whatever we had to do for however long it might take it if she would eventually come around. Even if she didn't have the strength or the willpower to keep fighting we could carry her across the finish line. We had to believe that. We just had to... For about the last six weeks we carried her outside every time she needed to go out. She could hobble around once we set her down, at least until the end, but we weren't about to let her attempt going down the stairs anymore. She always looked a little perkier when she was done and it was time to come back inside, but once inside she mostly slept. It was a rough time. Then about two weeks ago she lost her appetite. Jasmine always wolfed her food down so fast that you questioned whether or not you actually put anything in her bowl. We should have entered her into speed eating competitions! For her to lose interest in food was alarming. She had been on intense antibiotics for six months and endured four surgeries. It wasn't a total surprise, but we really began to fear for her well being. I had heard a little congestion from time to time when I held her. I could feel the vibration. Every day when I got home from work I would pick her up and lay her on my chest, but just like when you take your ailing car to a mechanic and the weird sound you brought it in to have checked out disappears, she had no problem breathing when the vet listened with his stethoscope. At this point she was getting the heavier bandage changed weekly, and the next week we insisted that the vet double check her breathing. Still nothing, but when he took her into the back to change the bandage she coughed like an eighty year old smoker, so he x-rayed her again. Pow! Her lungs were full of pneumonia.
In a way, we were relieved to know why she was so weak. At least that part wasn't a mystery. More meds, more heartache. She seemed to begin perking up after a couple of days, but that's about the time she started to fade. Instead of her appetite returning as we had hoped, she simply showed zero interest in anything we put in front of her. She would sniff at the things Monica was cooking for her ( eggs and other caloric foods to help with her energy, and nutrient rich pastes designed for dogs ) and she might even throw out a half hearted lick just to pacify us, but you could tell it was to make us feel better. I had to force everything that she ate for her last few days. I was determined, dammit! I was willing to do that twice a day for the rest of her life if she would just get better. That lasted from last Friday until Tuesday morning when Monica took her in for her weekly bandage change. Jasmine's breathing had become more labored the day before her appointment. When the vet saw her he looked really concerned. She had lost several pounds in the last couple of months too, so she looked spent. We hoped that they would take her for the night and give her fluids. He actually suggested leaving her there for a couple of days. Monica and I were both relieved because we felt like she had reached a point where the level of care she needed was beyond what we could adequately provide at the house. Dr. John hooked her up to something to help her breathe easily and he said that she finally seemed to relax, so he left her there to help another vet with an operation. When he came back to check in on her she was gone. Our sweet little Jasmine had passed away, hopefully in her sleep.
I have always been a dog person, and dogs have always liked me from the moment they meet me. Of all of the dogs Monica or I have ever known, Jasmine was without a doubt the sweetest, gentlest soul we've ever come across. Monica took her in as a puppy with every intention of fostering her. She even found a family to take her when she was about three months old. The family lived a few hours away and Monica went to visit them once. She had a feeling that things might not work out, so she reiterated her previous offer to take Jasmine back if the family changed their mind. A few months later Monica got a call... Jasmine was hers if she still wanted her. Monica told me once that her heart melted the first time she ever laid eyes on Jasmine, and the two of them have made each other sweeter and sweeter from that day forward. I met Jasmine when she was about two and a half years old. Oh yeah, she was a natural born sweetie! We both fell for each other right away. Jasmine never minded being carried or held, so we developed a sofa napping regimen right away. Sometimes she would fall asleep on my chest, or sometimes beside me on the sofa, but whenever I would go down to Georgia to visit Monica, Jasmine and I would spend lots of time together if Monica had to go to work. Once I left a tee shirt there and Monica said that Jasmine dragged it around with her everywhere she went for days on end, holding it in her mouth or just sleeping with it under her head. I can't find the words to describe how heartwarming that is to me, even twelve years later.
Everyone who knew Jasmine loved her. Some people came by to visit us, others claimed they were visiting us but really just wanted an excuse to see Jasmine. She would let anyone pet her all day long, and if your hand rested for more than about 1.47 seconds she would gently nudge you to remind you she was still there. She never stopped being a puppy until her arthritis made movement more difficult for her a little over a year ago. Even so, she would tear into her basket of toys and pull every one of them out in little frenzied bursts of puppy-like energy. She would play tug of war with us and get all wild-eyed, snarling like she was a real badass, but she could never harm a fly. She was a weenie, and we called her "Weener" at least as much as we called her by her name. "Weener", "Jazz-weener", "Ween", "Wee-niorita" ( like "seniorita" ) ... any variant thereof worked, and we loved it when other people caught on and followed suit. We also worked her nickname "Weener", into lyrics of songs being played on the radio or at home constantly. It was as instinctive as saying "Bless you" when someone sneezes. Try it! You'll want to get a dog and name it "Weener" tomorrow! Jasmine's enthusiasm and good mood were contagious. She was always so happy to see us come home. Hearing her tail hit the walls or coffee table so hard you thought she might break it was a daily occurrence. I had a hard time sneaking out of the bedroom if Monica was still sleeping because Jasmine's tail would inevitably start banging against the floor once she saw that I was awake.
Jasmine loved us so much. There was no doubting that. She also trusted us to a level that I found amazing, especially near the end when she relied on us for so much. In those last few days it reached a new level as I had to start forcing her to eat. I had to wiggle my thumb and index finger under her lips until I felt that they were touching her teeth instead of her lips or gums, and then slowly pull her clenched jaws apart so I could slide my fingers into her mouth. She never just opened her mouth for me because the smell of food was beginning to make her nauseous. Once I had my thumb fully extended across her shut mouth she would just hold it there. She never put any pressure on me and let me keep it there until I could get the next bite ready to drop in without falling apart. No matter how long you have know your dog, they look more like a wild animal when they have your hand clenched between their teeth, but she always looked up at me as if to ask "Daddy, is this one going to be easier than the last one?". Sometimes it was sometimes it wasn't, but I am a more grounded person because of that experience, and I have more admiration for the kind of love and implicit trust that can exist across species because of how willing she was to let me shove food down her mouth. I rubbed and petted her every step of the way, and I made a big show out of cleaning up all of the bits of food around her between bites, hoping that she would realize that I was doing this for her and not "to" her. There is a big difference. Her trust in me was humbling, just as I hope that our love for her made her see how much she meant, and will always mean to both of us.
Monica and I went to see her one last time at the vet's after we got the call that she had slipped away. I had been at work and had to hold things together as long as people were around me. I lost it when I finally got in my truck to come home. We were both anxious about going to the vet, and we only barely kept it together when everyone who was working at the front desk looked so sad for us. Jasmine was a favorite there. They took us into the back, just beside the room where I watched our German Shepard, Luna pass into the next world a little over one year ago. When we saw Jasmine laying there I was almost instantly relieved. She looked peaceful. She had been struggling so much for the last few weeks, and our hope for any kind of meaningful recovery had been all but snuffed out. The irony is that her leg was actually coming along really well, finally. But so much time without being able to walk around meant that the pneumonia had a perfect environment to spread, and in the end our sweet girl didn't have it in her anymore to fight it off.
It may be that once Dr. John made her comfortable and she finally could breathe without fighting for it, her heart gave out. When I first saw her laying there I was struck with the idea that she had made the decision to go before things got really bad. She was always a puppy, but her adventurous streak was only there if one of us was there for her to hide behind. In other words, she was brave as long as we were there to handle things for her. I think of her deciding to take this one journey, this last journey, all on her own. I imagine her hopping in the back of a big flatbed truck with the side walls beaten up, like a refugee in a movie, only it's just her in the back. The truck slowly, clumsily creeps down the narrow road with tall trees all around us, and she just watches Monica and me as she, and the truck eventually fade from sight. Jasmine will never fade from our hearts. There is nothing that we would not have done for that girl. But in the end, there was nothing that we could do for her except love her and tell her as much, over and over.
Jasmine was around fourteen years old, just like her sister-from-another-mister, Luna. They are together again, running around with Jake, our three legged dog who was the old sage that no one ever messed with. The three of them, and our beautiful cat, Ginger are having a blast in doggie and kitty heaven, far away from failing livers, broken legs, old age and pneumonia. We'll all be together one day, but in the meantime we'll miss them dearly. Maybe they'll mess with us by pulling one of their old toys out of the toy basket by the television, or we'll hear a phantom bark, or catch one of their scents when we walk down the hallway. They were each very unique souls, and their love for us helped make all of our lives more special and rewarding than we could ever make them understand. We just hope that somehow, some way, they knew.
We have Ripp to spoil mercilessly now, and Damien and Marvin, our sibling felines who have retired from randomly drawing blood from anyone who dared to rub them for more than two minutes, and have actually turned into kind of sweet kitties. Their days of sniper attacking friends and each other are mostly behind them now. Ripp's deafness has confounded them as they were accustomed to Luna and Jasmine backing up and changing direction whenever they noticed either of the little terrorists... I mean "adorable kitties", in their way. Ripp is oblivious to them, so they have hung up their claws. We will get another dog companion for Ripp, and for ourselves, though it will be a little while before we are ready. Right now we are happy to swim in memories of Jasmine, even if it's bittersweet for the time being. We may never be fortunate enough to find another dog who will love us and trust us like Weener, but boy am I ever thankful to have shared one quarter of my life with her! We miss you, girl! Sweet, sweet Jasmine... there are a lot of broken hearts wishing you well back here on Earth. We look forward to the next time we hear your tail banging against the wall when we are all together again!