After a snowstorm on a cold autumn afternoon, a beautiful light in my life vanished and my heart was broken. I knew it would be incredibly sad and difficult to lose our sweet little Shiba Inu Jasmine (I also called her “little monkey” and “my sweethearts” – yes, plural).I had been anticipating the day I would have to say goodbye starting as early as three years ago, even crying while she was still here. More recently, I tried to engrave in my memory how it felt to snuggle my face in her strawberry blonde fur, knowing that she would be gone some day soon. Jasmine was 15 years and 10 months when she died on 10/26/20, but her long life didn’t make it any easier to let her go. Consequently, the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic has only made the grieving process worse.

Her daddy, Tom, really misses her too, especially taking morning and afternoon walks with Jasmine (ever since she was a puppy). For a split second, when Tom wakes in the morning, he still thinks he needs to walk Jasmine. At times, Jasmine was very insistent on the direction or route she wanted to take on her walks. Sometimes we would say, “Which way…?” and she would pause, look around, then she would head in the direction of her choice. Jasmine received so many compliments on her walks, even into her old age. People said she was “beautiful” and they often asked about her breed. Visitors always said that she was “so well behaved.” One of Tom’s favorite memories is when Jasmine, still a “puppy,” caught and brought him a baby rabbit (which she let go unharmed). Once, while on a walk in her younger days, she got lost in a large field. Tom was worried that she might be gone forever, but several hours later she showed up at the door.

We loved Jasmine so much and she was a huge part of our lives. It’s been one the most painful experiences of my life, both emotionally and physically, and there have been plenty of tears. As I start to write this tribute (just over three weeks later), I still think of her multiple times throughout the day, but bedtime and mornings are especially difficult. At random moments, I can’t help saying in a soft, low voice, “my baby.” I’ve dreamt about Jasmine a lot, and although I am happy and surprised to see her, I realize in the dream that she is gone.

Jasmine was such a smart dog and I swear she knew “eyes, ears, nose” among many other words and phrases that we taught her. I also taught her the word “love” (repeating it out loud) as I was babying her with kisses and snuggles. I’m absolutely sure that she knew when we were talking about her. She would get a pensive look in her eyes and look back and forth from one person to the other as we discussed her. Even my mom commented on this when she last saw Jasmine this past summer. Grandma always remembers a time that she spent the night; in the morning, Jasmine brought several of her toys one by one and lined them on the bed right next to grandma’s face. Jasmine did the same for me, presenting me with her “little gifts” once while I was ill lying on the couch.

Jasmine’s water and food bowl are still out and I am not sure when I will “put them away.” It actually hurts me more to look at the screensaver photo of her on my phone (I often give her photo little “finger-touch kisses”). I kept the stuffed alligator that she would snuggle with while she was sleeping. I have so many photos of her with her little leg and paw wrapped around her alligator, or her head snuggled against her alligator. I miss one of the silly games we would play: I would say, “Give mommy hug” and stretch out my arms toward her, and she would run away from me and I would chase her around the house. Then, she would suddenly stop (and be completely still) and she would finally let me hug her. Hide and seek was fun too, and when she found me, I would jump out and say, “Boo!”

We are trying to think of happier times with Jasmine and the fact that she lived a long (and presumably happy) and mostly healthy life, besides her yearly “August allergies,” which could be quite severe. However, I can’t help thinking about her final days and how she might have suffered. Part of my grieving is for what my baby may have experienced. She most likely had a brain tumor, and thinking back, some of the signs were there in the last six months or more. We initially thought some of these symptoms were due to old age and arthritis. She was even receiving laser treatments for arthritis to her hind legs just prior to getting sick. At the very end, Jasmine was able to get up on her own and eat her treasured doggy biscuits. I held her little face in my hands just before she set her head down and closed her eyes forever. Of course we didn’t want her to suffer, but it was so hard to intentionally let her go.

We chose not to keep Jasmine’s ashes. I am a very sentimental person, but it would break my heart over and over again to see the little urn every day. I find a bit more comfort that she “left” with other beloved doggies and that her ashes were spread on open land (and maybe near a stream), and not too far away from us. We saved some of Jasmine’s fur over the years after grooming, and I clipped a small bit of fur from the velvety area at the top of her head on her last day. I plan to have her fur set in a clear heart pendant. I also have pictures of her paw prints in the snow on her last day.

I would like to share these quotes from a pet loss podcast that I listened to recently: “Grief is simply love with nowhere to go.” “Grief is love’s receipt.” When we lose our precious pets, I believe the unique pain we experience is because they are such innocent, beautiful creatures and they give us so much unconditional love, and there is such a special unbreakable bond.

The first time I met Jasmine, she was a puppy running down the stairs to the front entrance of Tom’s condo. As she got to the bottom of the stairs to see who was at the door, I said, “Oh, how cute!” We wouldn’t spare ourselves the tremendous pain and sadness if it meant giving up all the years of joy that our sweet baby girl Jasmine brought to our lives. When I asked Tom if he wanted to add anything to this tribute, he said, “Just let everyone know how much she was loved.”