LOOSELEAF LAUREATE: It's tough saying goodbye to the neighborhood dog

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By Terri Likens, Editor

If you are a softie, like I am, don’t read this.

OK, you’ve been warned.

For the past four years or so, I have been lucky to have custody of my ridgetop community’s neighborhood dog.

Jasmine, so I’m told, was dumped here  about 16 years ago as a puppy.

I smile to imagine what that roly-poly golden ball of fur must have looked like then. She was lucky enough to find a home with a family that had children.

Her adoration of the kids was evident in her every step with them. Her button brown eyes flashed happiness and her tail stood upright like a flag as she went with them everywhere in the neighborhood.

But things unraveled. The mother died, a grandmother took the kids, and the father got into trouble and ended up in jail.

Jasmine was abandoned.

When she waited for the afternoon school bus, her head dropped in dejection each time it passed without stopping.

Several of my neighbors and I vowed that she would always have a home and care here and fed and watered her.

Jasmine eventually ended up staying with me, happily joining my two-dog pack and, for the most part, fitting in. She had a more comfortable indoor life, but treasured our neighborhood walks.

Still, old dogs don’t live forever, no matter how much you love them or they love you.

Jasmine is fading fast. So fast, that I took Wednesday off work to take her to be euthanized.

I awoke at 5 a.m., fussed over her a bit and as daylight began to break, I got my shovel and began to dig a hole.

Jazz, as I like to call her, is a big ol’ girl. and I knew that I’d be in no shape to dig after the fact.

My neighbors, June and Marion Dinkins, and their son, Donnie, saw me as they were eating breakfast and put two and two together. They came over to help.

I went back inside, showered and got ready when I heard the flap on the dog door move. Jasmine had gone out on the deck. By the time I got there, she was partially down the steep stairs to the yard.

Stiff-leggedly, she “did her business,” and then I walked her to the gate and around to the front, rather than making her go back up the stairs.

While we were out, I decided to see if I could lift her on my own. I could, so I put her in the car.

Then, in my anguish, I decided I couldn’t let our only car ride be a one-way ticket, so I took her for a slow spin around the block she held so dear. She stood stiffly, but seemed to enjoy the fresh air from the windows and the scenes and sounds around her. She enjoyed it so much that I went on to the bank, then to McDonald’s, where the drive-through cashier gave her a dog biscuit and commented on how sweet she looked.

“She does,” I choked, and pulled forward. I tossed the biscuit to Jazz and picked up an ice tea and a cheeseburger — the latter for Jazz.

Then I drove back to the neighborhood.

I pulled in the Dinkinses’ driveway and popped the hatch of the car and we all fussed over Jazz and fed her bits of cheeseburger.

While she didn’t eat with her usual gusto, she still ate. And that’s what made me postone her euthanasia appointment.

I have always said that when Jazz quits eating, I know her suffering is too much.

So when I left for work this morning, Jazz was still alive and breathing.

She doesn’t follow me around the house as much, except with her eyes.

And she sleeps beside my bed — just as she will in death — but on the other side of the window.

How much time does she have? Who knows. I might come home this afternoon to find her dead.

I have neighbors and friends who have offered to go with me to the vet, if necessary. I will likely accept their help because I know from experience, when the time comes, I will not be able to get the words I need to say out.

It is the most unnatural thing in the world to say, in any words, “Please kill this thing I love that loved me.”

But painful as all this is — and it is agony for me — I am proud to say I have been able to keep my promise to ol’ Jazz.

The best neighborhood dog I have ever known will be with us on this ridgetop always.