Jasmine’s Independence Day

I had posted this on my Facebook page after we said goodbye to our beloved black Labrador retriever, Jasmine.  My husband, adult son Alex, and I spent most of our July 4th at the emergency veterinary hospital.   It was a really difficult day. We have a hole in our hearts, especially Mitch, as he and Jasmine were inseparable. She was such a Daddy’s Girl.

She would’ve been 14 years old in September. With her back pain, an inner ear issue, and age-related cognitive challenges, she had her good days and her bad days. From yesterday evening to that morning, she was increasingly lethargic, was panting hard and began to have an occasional cough. She was able to walk the previous night, but July 4th morning she could not walk as her right rear leg was dragging behind, and Mitch had to carry her. Her gums were a pale pink. We took her to the emergency clinic, where we learned she had a high fever. We left her, initially planning overnight, to have x-rays and testing, to pinpoint the cause of the fever, and to get that fever down. We went home and later got the call that she had pneumonia. That was the least of the worries, though, as she had a very low platelet count, enlarged liver and spleen. It was a very high chance of lymphoma. We made the heart-wrenching decision to go back to the clinic, love on her a little while, and say goodbye.   Mitch, Alex, and I sat with her while the vet made it happen. In just a moment, she peacefully slipped away. I thought about freedom on that day,  that she has freedom from pain and illness.  I am confident that our pets go to heaven. We lost her sister, Kiera, to lung cancer on October 30th. I am comforted with a vision of Jasmine crossing the Rainbow Bridge as Kiera excitedly greets her from the other side. They are both wagging their tails and wiggling their butts with excitement.

Five days later,  I was thinking about the week before when Jasmine brought her ball to Mitch to request a play time.  She hadn’t been able to chase it down the hall like she used to.  She would get up on the couch using the folded gym mat as a step, then sit on the end and volley or catch the tennis ball as Mitch tossed it.  Volleying involved closing her mouth just enough to bounce it back.

We are missing her terribly, and our holiday was awful, but as was the case with Kiera, I reflect on God’s blessings that helped make it easier than it could have been.

1)  Mitch has been retired for three months.  Jasmine did not have to spend much time alone, particularly after losing her sister, and Mitch did not have to regret spending time apart from her at work.

2)  When Mitch picked her up, took her outside, and we saw her leg was useless, we thought she had had a stroke and wasted no time calling the vet.  She recommended the emergency center as it sounded neurological. **No cause was found for the leg problem.  But it got us there without hesitation.*

You see, before that, we weren’t sure whether to take her to the emergency center that day, though we were seriously talking about it. Panting was normal for her.  Was she just having a bad day with her back or her arrythmia?   Her heart rate was in a normal range, her gums were pink but pale, and we had not yet taken her temperature.

3)  Although Independence Day will be a painful day in our memory, and not being able to say goodbye at our regular veterinarian’s office was difficult for us, I can find the good in it.    Alex was off work with no plans until evening.  He would have had a hard time getting off work if we had to call him suddenly on a weekday or a working Saturday.  Sundays he normally airsofts early in the day, and he would not have heard his phone.   The holiday made it work out that he was there.  He would’ve been even more heartbroken to not have seen her one more time.  And it made all the difference, especially when it came to the decision to stay with Jasmine while she passed, he was the strongest one of us.

The Fourth of July has always been an unfavorite holiday anyway from all the noise and the way it affected our dogs.  At least she avoided the stress of the fireworks.

4)  The one thing that really is unfortunate is that Ross (our older son) was coming home  Thursday 7/13, missing that “one last time” by little more than a week.  A very recently planned visit.  He was able to see her in April, though, and at that time knew it could be his last time with her.

Mitch was having an extra difficult time being home completely alone without his Jasmine while I am working.  That first Thursday and Friday were terrible for him.  (I stayed home on Wednesday the 5th) . Since I’ve been home he breaks down less.  The second Friday after our loss he was able to wake up with Ross in the house and for the week after.

He was able to have more days not being alone over the first two weeks than if Ross and I were both around on some of these days.  It would have been more difficult to have Jasmine gone, then Ross gone back home days later, than it would have been with Ross’s visit to look forward to while trying to get through the first terrible days.  It’s challenging to find any good in this timing as I know this is tough for Ross, but it doesn’t help me or anyone to focus on the negative.

5)   Jasmine enriched our lives and made us laugh.   Here are some of the things that made her our special girl:

– Being a Daddy’s Girl.  While someone else was home, when Mitch left the house to mow the lawn or run to the store, she would lie down at the front door and wait for his return.  He was the only family member for whom she waited like this, even though she loved us all.

– Retriever mode.  She rarely greeted us – or anyone that came in the house – without a tennis ball or a plush toy in her mouth.  She often lagged behind Kiera at the door while she searched for something to bring.  At the same time, she would whine excitedly with a strange sound I have never heard from other dogs.

She loved to play ball (while sister Kiera could care less).  She didn’t let her old age pains stop her from enjoying a short toss or a volley session.            

–  Being a growly bear. We sometimes had to scold her for growling at her sister.  If Kiera was near to her favorite toy or challenged her to play when she didn’t feel like it, we would hear that low grumble.  We hadn’t heard her growl since Kiera passed in October.

– Alpha Dog.  Jasmine dominated Kiera.  It was rare for Kiera to pee and not have Jasmine mark on top of it.  On walks, if we passed another person walking their dog, she would lunge and bump Kiera and snarl at her, just to show that other dog she was the boss.

– Manipulator and Walker.  For incentives for walks, she got a MilkBone walking out, then halves of baby carrots to encourage her while we walked down the street.   Often she would ask to go out, then we went out, she would sit (always was great about sitting first)  with an expectant look for a treat.  When she got it, she was like “okay, let’s go back in”.

She seldom went beyond the corner, but she did go around the block two weeks ago.  She usually made it around the pond at the Watershed Nature Center.  She also liked a stretch of the paved trail toward SIU-E across from their baseball field.

– TV Watcher.  She would watch TV for short times when animals were involved.

“Eight Below” was a favorite movie.  She loved all the huskies.  And she knew when the leopard seal comes out; she would start barking.

**We miss our sweet Jasmine.  Finding the good within this hard time has been helpful and got me through it.   I thank God that we can know Him enough to understand He is such a loving God that our pets go to heaven where, like people who chose God in their lives, they are free of pain, suffering, and sorrow.   I stop and envision her playing with Kiera like they are puppies.  When I get sad about Jasmine (and Kiera), I remember that I will see them again someday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today we had to say goodbye to our beloved Jasmine – our Jazzy Girl, Bear, Angel.   It has been a really difficult day.  We have a hole in our hearts, especially Mitch, as she and Jasmine were inseparable.  She was such a Daddy’s Girl.

 

She would’ve been 14 years old in September.  With her back pain, an inner ear issue, and age-related cognitive challenges, she had her good days and her bad days.  From yesterday evening to this morning, she was increasingly lethargic, was panting hard and began to have an occasional cough.  She was able to walk last night, but this morning she could not walk as her right rear leg was dragging behind, and Mitch had to carry her.  Her gums were a pale pink.  We took her to the emergency clinic, where we learned she had a high fever.  We left her, initially planning overnight, to have x-rays and testing, to pinpoint the cause of the fever, and to get that fever down.  We went home and later got the call that she had pneumonia. That was the least of the worries, though, as she had a very low platelet count, enlarged liver and spleen.  It was a very high chance of lymphoma.   We made the heart-wrenching decision to go back to the clinic, love on her a little while, and say goodbye.  Mitch, Alex, and I sat with her while the vet made it happen.  In just a moment, she peacefully slipped away.   I am thinking about freedom on this day, and that she has freedom from pain and illness.  I am confident that our pets go to heaven.  We lost her sister, Kiera, to lung cancer on October 30th.  I am comforted with a vision of Jasmine crossing the Rainbow Bridge as Kiera excitedly greets her from the other side.  They are both wagging their tails and wiggling their butts with excitement.

 

 

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Losing Kiera, and God’s Mercies

Written around 1 pm today:

It is a beautiful, unusually warm, late October day.  I sit in a chair outside, feeling both sorrowful that tomorrow we say goodbye to a beloved family member, and grateful to God that He has provided blessings within this time.   Kiera, our black Labrador retriever, age 13, lays in the grass beside me.   Her sister, Jasmine, is near.  Kiera’s health noticeably declined over the past 10 days.  We had discovered in January that she has a tumor in her liver.  We had not known whether it was cancerous; it seems now that it was, and it spread to her lungs. In the last few days, the cancer got very aggressive.  Tomorrow we will have our final hours with her before we take her back to the vet so she can cross over the Rainbow Bridge to a place without suffering.

Why am I grateful?  I see God’s goodness in a heartbreaking situation.  These are the blessings from God within this heartbreaking situation, from the current time backward:

*Blessing #1:  The weather, the outdoors, and a lift in her spirit. After spending time indoors, laying on her side, looking so sick and miserable, Kiera wanted to come outside.  She is laying upright, looking around.  She has sniffed the grass.  She begged food.  Her ears are perked for the first time since Wednesday.  She is interested in the activity of a neighbor.  She has always loved the outdoors.  She lacks the strength to take our stairs or to move around much, but she is able to enjoy the warmth of the sun and the feel of a gentle breeze.

**Blessing #2:   General timing and the short duration of suffering.

Kiera’s symptoms began only the middle of the week before last.  A little cough, or catch, when she was panting.  Weight loss that recently became apparent even after months ago we had increased her food.  She became uninterested in her regular food but would eventually eat it. She still seemed herself but did not want to walk beyond our yard.  We  attributed this to the arthritis in her knees.  A week ago when we took her to the vet, a good vet but not her regular one in the practice, her lungs and heart sounded fine.  Her gums had paled slightly.  She’s had allergies before, so the cough was attributed to allergy.  Home we went with an antihistamine and cough suppressant. We were to go back in 2 weeks.

We gave her higher calorie dog food but had to put broth on it or she refused it.  We thought the dry food might be irritating her throat.  This past Wednesday she began having diarrhea, so chicken and rice were on her menu.

On Wednesday I made an appointment for Friday evening for a “Golden Paws” checkup that includes bloodwork and an X-ray.  Thursday she became so lethargic and weak we had to carry her outside to go to the bathroom.  I slept downstairs with her and decided to take off work Friday, call the vet and see if we could move her appointment to earlier in the day.  We were able to get in at 2:40 with her longtime vet, Dr. Hall.  It was the only appointment available.  Thank you, God!

While we certainly don’t want to worry about the convenience of a health crisis or death, decisions related to our work schedule can increase the stress of the situation.  Having most of the weekend with Kiera without concern of having to take off the days in between to be home with her, prevents further concern (although my husband Mitch did have to work today).

***This leads to Blessing #3:    Our son, Ross, had been informed a week or so ago about the potential for Kiera’s health.  He said he would come home from Los Angeles to see her one last time when it became necessary.   In his busy schedule, with meetings and presentations for his startup company, the weekend allowed him an opportunity to come home.   The timing of the appointment allowed us to find a flight for him to be home at midnight on Friday, and then with the weekend, to not have meetings to cancel.

****Blessing #4:  A wonderful vacation, a memory, just six weeks ago.  God’s timing again allowed us to celebrate the 13th birthdays of Kiera and sister Jasmine while we were in Minnesota.   The girls both have arthritis and some backside movement issues.  I had been praying they would make it to our Minnesota trip.

The week starting with Labor Day, we took them tent-camping near Ely, MN.  We stayed at Bearhead Lake State Park.  We took short hikes. They got their paws a bit wet around the shore of a serene lake.  They survived a thunderstorm, hunkered down in the tent. We took some great pictures.  On our way there and back, we stayed at my parents’ house, so Mom and Dad were able to see Kiera a short time ago.

Blessing #5:  13 years of Kiera’s funny personality and ability to make us laugh and smile.   Here is some classic Kiera, who we often call Kiki or K:

 – Drama.  We often say she is a drama queen.  If she was not engaged in activity, she would look sad or extremely bored, sitting on the couch looking back over the top with her head arched over it, like, “oh, woe is me”.

– Playfulness.  Kiera would ask Jasmine to play by waving a paw at her and barking, as she did just two weeks ago.  With us, she would sit in front of us and bark until we played with her.  Before her knees got bad, she would jump and put her paws on our chest as we sat on the couch.

She liked swimming in our pool.  When we had a floating chair, she would crawl up in it and just float.  To fetch, she never liked balls and preferred instead to chase a squeaky toy that she liked to toss in the air.

– Sassiness and the cutest expressions.  When she perks her ears, they are floppy but fold in the cutest way.  Add to this the expression in her bright, eager eyes, I would call this her “cute look”.

– Schedule-conscious.  She always reminded us when it was dinnertime and MilkBone time.  And time to walk.  She would stare at us until we responded.  Jasmine always relied on her for these reminders.

We know that our furry family members will not live forever, but we are never truly prepared.   When the inevitable is happening, God is blessing my family with His mercy and grace. And for this I am grateful.

We will miss you, dear Kiera.  Until we meet again in heaven.