Written by Catalina Stirling, Jasmine’s Guardian:
Sweet Jasmine entered my life unexpectedly. Even though I was working with rescue dogs at Recycled Love Rescue, I never once imagined a dog seized from the high profile dog fighting operation of Michael Vick would be sharing my home with me and my family.
Board member and friend Karen Reese asked me to speak with Guardian/Special Master Rebecca Huss about the dogs we would be accepting into the rescue. As Guardian/Special Master, Ms. Huss would be determining the placement of all the dogs. In a brief conversation with her, I was told about a dog who was so frightened that a tent was built inside the kennel. It was there that this little dog spent her days, 24/7, paralyzed by fear. I was intrigued by this dog’s story, and it was then that I heard her name for the first time, Sweet Jasmine. At that time, I had no idea how many times I would be saying that name. Within 24 hours, I met her.
En route to the Washington Animal Rescue League, all I could think about was the dog living in a tent within a kennel. When I arrived, I met the team who were assessing the dogs. It was an impressive team headed by Rebecca Huss who was diligently working with BAD RAP and Best Friends Sanctuary. It was clear to me they were all genuinely concerned about one thing only: the dogs. I saw video tapes of all the dogs’ assessments. But it was only one dog that I wanted to meet so desperately. Finally, it happened. As we neared her cage, one of the behaviorists from the assessment team was about to take her out of the kennel. I saw how paralyzed Jasmine was. The team decided not to remove her from the kennel. But I remained determined to get close to her and asked permission to sit in her cage.
As I entered her cage, I remained very calm. I sat down keeping my distance and choosing not to look at her. I just stared at the wall. From time to time, I would glance in her direction and noticed her looking at me, but then she would quickly avert her eyes away from me. She laid there motionless. The longer I remained in the kennel with her, the more I became committed to helping her.
I asked permission to take her outside. I knew she was scared, but I needed to see how she would react outside her comfort zone. As the kennel worker approached her, Jasmine didn’t move; she had a brick like appearance. She was picked up and carried outside. When placed down, she completely curled up and remained frozen. It seemed like she wished the ground would swallow her up. I needed to see her with other dogs, as I would be bringing her to a home with children and other dogs. They brought out another of the Vick dogs. Sweet Jasmine’s response was amazing. She actually stood up; her eyes opened displaying a sense of joy and comfort. It was like she started to breathe for the first time. I saw hope, and I knew Jasmine would be going home with me. I didn’t think of the consequences or of anything except helping this beautiful soul.
Once the paperwork was completed, I went back to WARL to bring Jasmine home. This was the beginning of our journey together. From that moment on, I dedicated every part of my soul to working with Jasmine. She became another one of my children. And my children learned an invaluable lesson about caring for a broken creature. We had a new baby in our family. But this baby did not talk, did not laugh and did not cry. Her crate became her tent. This is where she found solace. I had to carry her outside to potty in her brick like posture. Once outside, I had to return to the inside for her to conduct her business. After she was done, she would run and hide near the fence in the yard. I would return to the outside to gently pick her up and return her to “her room.” When placed down, she darted straight into her crate. The door to the crate was left open so she could begin to see there could be a life outside of this crate. This is where the intense work of healing this suffering little dog began.
Patience on my part was the key ingredient to bonding with Sweet Jasmine. But I knew she had to develop confidence to step outside of her limited world. With the guidance of a behaviorist, I began clicker training. I started hand feeding Jasmine by teaching her through target training. The target pole and clicker became our conduit for developing trust and confidence. Every time she touched the pole with her nose, I clicked and rewarded her with food. As you can imagine, feeding time took a while, so I would get up really early to do this before my children woke up. The change I saw in Jasmine was incredible. In only a few weeks she began to anticipate my coming into the room, and she would actually get out of her crate to greet me. Our ongoing training allowed me to put a leash on her; and then one day it happened – she no longer had to be carried outside.
Her world was changing. Jasmine went from walking in the yard on a leash to playing with the other dogs in the yard. She found comfort in my other dogs. But it was Desmond, a rescued three legged mixed breed dog that became her companion and playmate. They did everything together. They played in the yard; they dug for bones; they laid side-by-side to sunbathe on the deck – you name it, they did it together!
Smelling was her next discovery. I allowed her to stop every minute to smell whatever she wanted. Needless to say, my time outside with her became endless. My daughter Anais was her next adventure. Anais showed the same patience and compassion in observing and participating in the target training. It was a joy to watch this bond grown.
She loved hearing me sing to her as much as I loved doing it. I remember one day as I was petting her and kissing her, as I always did—she kissed me back. This changed my world. I will always remember how she looked at me with those attentive, soulful eyes that said so much!
Jasmine had really become a very intense part of my life. I spent so many hours working with her every day. But I never saw it as work. I loved being with her. Her sanctuary became my sanctuary. It was where I found myself. I felt completely whole and completely loved. It was the same pure love I experience with my children. The bond between me and Jasmine was very powerful. Jasmine did not speak; she did not ask for anything; she just really wanted to be loved and eat. God, I adored her.
When Jasmine died, I now realize I consciously did not confront the grief. It took a long time for me to really mourn for her. I saw her all the time in nature. She became this bird that frequently visited me. I decided to get a tattoo on my shoulder so I could carry her with me everywhere I went while I was here on this earth. I guess this is how I deal with death. Just like with my grandmother, I miss her; but I know I will see her again. I truly believe with every single piece of my being that I will see Jasmine again when it’s my turn to go. If I did not believe this, I really don’t think that I would make it in this world.
Thank you my Sweet Jasmine. Until we meet again…