I always knew that at some point in my children’s lives, we would have to say goodbye to our family dog.
That point came unexpectedly last week.
Jasmine was my first “child.” Just a few years into our marriage, but not quite ready to have babies, I suggested getting a dog.
I grew up with cats, but as a young adult, my parents started owning dogs, and I fell in love.
My husband and I did some research about different kinds of dogs. I scoured the Web pages of local shelters. I told a good friend, an avid pet lover, about our quest.
Thanks to her, in the end, a young, hyper, squirmy black pug found us.
My friend’s neighbor had brought home a puppy as a companion for an older pug.
He was not impressed with the new creature in his home and when my friend mentioned our search, the neighbor suggested a trial weekend.
I picked up “No Name Dog” (yes, that’s what they called her), and brought her to our condo in Mesa.
Two days later I drove back to that street in Tempe.
“You come to bring her back?” the neighbor asked.
“No,” I responded. “I’ve come for her papers. We want to keep her.”
My husband named her Jasmine after the Disney princess. We vowed to follow every pet rule there was from the pet owner manual:
1) No sleeping in a human bed (that lasted about two weeks).
2) No eating people food (that lasted about four months).
3) Always make sure you, the owner, are in charge (yeah, not sure that one ever took effect).
I still remember clearly those first few weeks. My husband went on a trip. I took Jasmine everywhere with me: to help a friend move, to see my parents, to the pet supply shop (several trips). We started obedience training and for months she and I went weekly to 6:30 a.m. practice.
Those days my husband was gone, since she wasn’t allowed in the bed (remember, Rule. No. 1), I slept on the floor with her (puts Rule No. 3 to shame, I know).
When we finally decided to let her join us on the mattress, she snuggled down next to my legs, a spot that would remain hers even with the arrival of Babies No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3. The only exception would be winters, when Jasmine would nudge her way under the blankets and next to my chest.
Yes, I “spooned” with my dog for years.
She went with us on weekend and summer trips to my parents’ cabin in northern Arizona. Several co-workers became her babysitters when we traveled to visit family out of state.
When I paced the floors of our condo with false contractions during my first pregnancy, she paced with me. When the kids got older, and I made nightly visits from one child’s room to another, I was followed by the clickey-clack of her nails on our flooring.
Heck, I’m pretty sure she even made a few trips to the newsroom.
As she aged, and as arthritis set in, our once daily walks got less frequent. But, when she wasn’t perched like a cat at the top of my husband’s chair, she still loved to run and greet us at the door.
Just days before “Jaz” got sick, my nearly 2-year-old pointed to the dog leash, her way of asking to take our pooch outside. I’ll be forever grateful she did.
That morning, we sat on a blanket under a tree with Jasmine wandering around us, sniffing everything, taking in the warm sun. The neighborhood kids came over to love on her.
When I finally brought her in, my husband noted how happy she seemed.
Jasmine’s unknown ailment hit fast, rendering my poor 12-year-old pug unable to walk, or even lift her head. Even with two hospitalizations, and my husband and I following every instruction of the vet, it was clear we had a very sick dog.
The doctor talked me through every clinical possibility, suggesting a rare, but attacking cancer, a seizure, untraceable blood sugar levels, all striking a pug that never got more than an ear or bladder infection her whole life.
But he also kept saying words like, “not normal” and “she’s not giving us time.”
We made the heart-wrenching decision to say goodbye.
The worst part was that first night, going to bed without her by my side.
I’ve been angry that this happened so suddenly. I’ve mentally walked through every discussion we had with the vet, every action of Jasmine prior to that week, and wondered if I somehow missed something, anything, that might have indicated her condition.
My kids seem to being doing much better than I am. I think my sweet husband is silently mourning more than he’s letting on. Just like Jasmine and I, the two of them had their own little routine each morning and night.
I’ve finally stopped spontaneously bursting into sobs.
A friend gave me some good advice: Remember the good times you had together.
That morning at the park will always be one of my happiest memories.