We lost the Hound of of the Basketballs yesterday. It wasn’t really a surprise — a recent visit to the vet had revealed a tumor and some other issues, and while a prescription of steroids might, in fact did, give her a few more good weeks, she crashed overnight on Thursday. We (Mrs. M, Jasmine, and I) were at the vet’s office as soon as the door was open yesterday morning, but we were told any remaining time would be so unpleasant, and so unlike the dog we had come to know, that we should probably let her go. And so yesterday we did, but we still are letting her go today, and I suppose in some ways we always will.
At this point, I have to admit that I’m the weirdo of my family. Admittedly, that’s true in a lot of ways, but in this instance, I’m talking about the fact that I’ve never really been a “doggie person.” Honestly, I tend to be nervous, if not outright frightened, around dogs. And so, sixteen or so years ago, when the Spawn wanted a Boston Terrier like my parents had, I wasn’t really big on the idea. But I heard from the rest of my family that “a kid should have a dog”, and so we told Em that if she could come up with the money, we’d match it. And the Spawn called our bluff, saving birthday and Christmas money in a plastic container. She had two or three hundred dollars when we said okay, and she picked Jasmine from the new litter at a local breeder — that’s the first picture in the array above this. Em named the dog after the South Carolina State Flower, but we varied between her given name, “Jazz”, “Jazz the Spaz”, “the Hound of Heck/Pup of Perdition”, and of course, the Hound of the Basketballs.
When we first brought her home, the campus radio station had just gone on air, and I set up a radio so she had something to listen to during the day, while she stayed in a kennel in the house. I mentioned this to a friend who helped operate the station’s automatic feed, and so for a while, there was a station ID that went like this: “You’re listening to WNIR-LP, 95.5, Newberry. Hush, Jasmine. Good dog.”
After she became housebroken, she spent more time out of the “crate”, and would careen around the house at full speed. At first, when we took her outside, we’d leash her to a stake in the back yard, and somehow I got the night shift, so I’d sit in a patio chair while she scrutinized her surroundings and eventually did what she had to do before I could bring her back in. To pass the time, sometimes I’d whistle, usually whatever songs were on my mind, and occasionally weird medleys of Bizet and the Village Stompers. She used to flip out when I’d do that, but eventually she got used to it. But as time went by, we decided to fence the back yard at Spackle Manor and install a dog door so she could expand her territory. And when we moved across campus to the Mid-Century Mondohaus six years ago, the first order of business was to fence this yard as well.
Jasmine treated the yard as her personal game preserve, occasionally presenting us (well, specifically Mrs. M) with trophies, as you can see above. Squirrels were fair game, but so were birds that had the bad luck to collide with our sliding glass doors, and honestly, Jazz never saw another critter that she didn’t see as a fair opponent, even when they were out of her league. Even within the last few weeks, when Mrs. M would take Jasmine into the front yard and the neighbor’s big, goofy Golden named Jake would come galumphing over, he would defer to Jazz as they played.
When we first came to this house, we figured Jazz would stay downstairs in the uncarpeted part of the house, and she did, during the day. But in the evenings, aided and abetted by Mrs. M, she wound up staying upstairs, and eventually migrating from the dog bed we had provided for her to our bed, where she would wedge herself against either Deb or me. Usually it was Deb, though, and as the years went by, it became clear that while Jazz was technically Em’s dog, Debbie was Jasmine’s person. My dad used to say that if was reincarnated, he’d want to come back as my mom’s dog, and Jasmine got the same level of royal treatment from Mrs. M. She might not serve the dog melted ice cream as my mom would occasionally, but if Deb was having a hard-boiled egg, some yolk might top the dog food every now and then, and Jazz was no stranger to bits of leftover chicken either. (My contribution was more likely to take the form of bits of potato chip or whatever that landed on the floor as a result of my awkwardness. The dog ate well, is what I’m saying.)
As Jazz grew older, it began to show, as it does for all of us. The Spawn and Mrs. M both thought she was going deaf, although she would still respond to my voice or a handclap. Maybe it was because my voice is deeper; I don’t know. She also developed a cataract in her last couple of years, but again, seemed quite content with her lot. I don’t think she was ever genuinely ill until the end of her life. She remained cheerful, excitable, and attached to the family. It was easy to track her from the tick-tick-tick of her claws as she would trek across the tile or wooden floors, and I think I learned to recognize it even in my sleep so I’d know when she needed to go out.
Not long ago, she began to drag one of her rear paws in a manner known as “knuckling”. That’s when we learned about the tumor on her hip, and we knew that we wouldn’t have her much longer. Fourteen is a long run for a Boston, and she spent most of it running indeed. Over the last few weeks, we learned to help her onto our chairs, and Mrs. M bought splints for the leg and baby socks to protect the foot from scuffing. Since the schools switched to online teaching, I’d get up each morning to find Mrs. M and Jazz comfortably ensconced in the den watching TV — or Deb would watch as Jasmine snored.
But as I said, the time was good, but an Indian Summer, and the frost fell on Thursday night, and concluded yesterday morning around ten. I held her a while before we went to the vet, and Deb held her as we said goodbye, and at the end. So Jasmine died peacefully at the end of a very good life, in the arms of her person, and now I’m sitting here with my teeth clenched and my eyes watering, which I know seems weird because of that “Not a dog person” thing I said before, but is true nonetheless.
Yesterday, of course, was also the eleventh anniversary of the murders of my mom and dad, and while I know it’s sentimental foolishness on my part, there’s a part of me that wants to believe they’ll take care of her for the next however long.
One of my dad’s favorite Twilight Zone episodes was written by Earl Hamner, who would go on to create The Waltons. Entitled “The Hunt,” the episode — well, I’ll let Wiki handle it:
Hyder Simpson is an elderly mountain man who lives with his wife Rachel and his hound dog Rip in the backwoods. Rachel does not like having the dog indoors, but Rip saved Hyder’s life once and Hyder refuses to part with him. Rachel has seen some bad omens recently and warns Hyder not to go raccoon hunting that night. When Rip dives into a pond after a raccoon, Hyder jumps in after him. Only the raccoon comes up out of the water. The next morning, Hyder and Rip wake up next to the pond. When they return home, Hyder finds that Rachel, the preacher, and the neighbors cannot hear or see him, and are tending to the burial of both him and Rip.
Walking along the road, Hyder and Rip encounter an unfamiliar fence and follow it. They come to a gate tended by a man, who explains that Hyder can enter the Elysian Fields of the afterlife. Told that Rip cannot enter and will be taken to a special afterlife for dogs, Hyder angrily declines the offer of entry and decides to keep walking along the “Eternity Road,” saying, “Any place that’s too high-falutin’ for Rip is too fancy for me.”
Later, Hyder and Rip stop to rest and are met by a young man, who introduces himself as an angel dispatched to find them and take them to Heaven. When Hyder recounts his previous encounter, the angel tells him that gate is actually the entrance to Hell. The gatekeeper had stopped Rip from entering because Rip would have smelled the brimstone inside and warned Hyder that something was wrong. The angel says, “You see, Mr. Simpson, a man, well, he’ll walk right into Hell with both eyes open. But even the Devil can’t fool a dog!” As the angel leads Hyder along the Eternity Road toward Heaven, he tells Hyder that a square dance and raccoon hunt are scheduled for that night. He also assures Hyder that Rachel, who will soon be coming along the road, will not be misled into entering Hell.
Furthermore, my dad always said that (Thomas Aquinas notwithstanding) he was sure that any Heaven made by a loving God would include dogs, as they were the most loving creatures to be found on earth. Even for someone who isn’t a dog person, I saw that in Jasmine, in my own nervous, awkward, standoffish way. And I believe that the life she had and the love of this family were all she might have wanted as well.
You were a terrific dog, Jasmine. We miss you.