It has almost been a year since we adopted the divine and the lovely Jazzmin. Her 12th birthday has passed and her gotcha day is at the end of the month. Gotcha days are what those of us who adopt second hand dogs celebrate, instead of birthdays. Often, we don’t have confirmed birth dates for our dogs and we’re lucky that we know exactly when Jazzmin’s is. But still, I can’t mark my time with her any other way, so she gets both and as I look back on this year, I can only see it as filled with change. Some was good and some bad and in spite of all of that she has rolled with everything we’ve thrown at her and landed on her feet with style, but perhaps not grace. She is a Labrador and they are not known for being particularly elegant. There is a reason that I refer to my three as “Labradorks”, after all.

Over the last year, Jazzmin has been with me through losing our beautiful Miss Lucy, who went to Rainbow Bridge in August 2011, after nearly two years of battling mast cell cancer, and my dearly beloved brown dog, Mugen, who followed Lucy to the bridge in March. Mugen and Lucy both were, and are, so special to me. Losing them both just 7 months apart has been a blow to my soul and through it all, this lady has stood quietly by my side, offering me the kind of comfort that one can only receive from man’s best friend, or in this case, woman’s. Her ink black fur soaked up my tears. Her grumbled complaints when I stopped scratching her butt made me laugh. Her barking demands for me to throw the bumper again and again, even when I knew that her arthritic hips could take no more, eased my broken heart.

I know that she is old and that her best years are behind her. Her teeth are bad and she is due for more dental surgery this year, not less. She doesn’t like the vet and, sadly, I will be the one responsible for seeing that she goes there to get regular care, and seniors need more of it than younger dogs do. I hope that her retirement here, where she is safe, loved, fed well and played with every day is everything that she ever wanted and that she will forgive me for having to see the vet. I believe that she can. I have never known a dog more forgiving than our Jazz.

After 11 years of being loved by them, she lost her family and that is tough for any dog to go through. She took a chance on us though and she has given us her heart, her loyalty and her all and we found a puppy waiting inside the elderly lady we adopted last year. She came to us weighing in at 94 pounds. It took six months to get her to a healthier weight of 75. She didn’t like not having food available to her at all times, but free feeding isn’t how one helps a dog lose weight when they are obese. She was filthy and had a massive hotspot on her tail. Her family got her out of a bad situation, not knowing that they’d put her into one until it was time to get her out, but get her out they did. Rehoming her was an act of love. I know she misses them, I see her looking at small children when they play outside and there is a special light in her eyes that I know she saves for the little ones that she left behind, but she has made her life here with us and I see a light in her eyes when she sees us that I know is only for us, her family and I am so very grateful for that. I’m very honored to be loved by this wonderful girl.

There has never been a dog more deserving of every gift that life can possibly grant her and I hope that I’m the sort of human being who is good enough to give her everything that she deserves and more. I wish I could thank her in a way that she would truly understand. I wish I could let her know that I have seen her sitting quietly in the corner in my office when I was crying so hard that I couldn’t move or breathe, when the tears would not stop long enough for me to even reach over and pet her. I wish that she could know that I saw her sitting just behind me when I got the news that I was an aunt and that I knew that she saw the joy on my face and shared in it.

As a present to Jazzmin, and a favor to me, I’d like to ask everyone who reads this to send a word up to the universe, to God, fate, what have you, and ask for as much time as I can possibly have with Jazzmin. I won’t expect miracles, I am aware of her age, but one year with this amazing Lab is not enough and I’m wishing very hard for many, many more. Happy Gotcha Day, Jazzmin. You were the dog that dropped into my lap when I least expected it, I know that we were meant to be together, even if our coming together wasn’t part of either of our plans, but I know that we’re both very glad it did. Thank you for being a part of our family and keeping us whole and reminding us of all the good stuff in life, even when times are hard.