by JoAnne Dodgson, Ed.D.
author of Unleashing Love, MoonDance Journal, Walking the Spiral Path, Gifts of the Grandmother
It was clear from the start there was a wildness in her that wasn't to be tamed. Despite what they say in the dog-training manuals, Jasmine had no interest in following along at my heels or faithfully coming when she's called or obeying commands just to hear me say “good girl.” Jasmine wasn't here to live by the book. She wasn't born to be leashed or caged. She'd come to run wild in the woods on impassioned, instinctual hunts. And reach her face toward the sky, catching the scents blowing by on the winds. And roll with joyful abandon on the earth, adorning her body with pungent smells. And bark late in the night, letting bobcats and coyotes know they're nearing her terrain. And teach me about opening up my senses ~ listening, feeling, communicating without words ~ as we move among the trees intrinsically connected as a pack.
We first met at the animal shelter, Jasmine and me. There were many quirky circumstances that easily could have kept us from crossing paths. But we happened to find each other just as I was heading back out the door, questioning my readiness for the commitment that comes with bringing home a dog. I'm not quite sure who chose who, or exactly all the reasons why, but we've been sharing our lives ever since. Apparently Jasmine wasn't deterred by my doubts about being a dog mama. She's made it clear, over the years, that she's come into my life to stay. Evidently she wasn't troubled by the fact that I vowed I'd never let my dog lay on the furniture or eat my food or sleep on my bed. She did it all anyway.
When Jasmine came to live with me, I was a vegetarian. And by the trickle-down effect, so was she. That is, until we met Ken. Jasmine and Ken bonded over burgers. It was love at first tail-wagging bite. I guess it was inevitable, though completely unforeseen, that I too would soon reclaim my natural carnivorous ways. Eggs, chicken, bacon, wild fish, grass-fed buffalo and beef ~ it still surprises me how many similarities there are between what's on my plate and what's in her dish.
In those early days, Jasmine stayed in our backyard while I was away at work. She quickly let me know that the yard was way too small to hold her adventurous spirit. Running around, seeking freedom within the constraints, she wore a distinctive path in the dirt ~ a large figure-eight which extended diagonally across the yard. With this perfect geometric shape, she'd instinctively mapped out the longest running route possible inside the bounds of the fence. She careened around the path so vigorously that the dirt mounded up and created banks along the curves. Jasmine had made her own doggie racetrack right in our backyard. And her landscaping projects didn't end there. In just a matter of days, she had chewed each and every leaf and blossom off every single shrub and flowering plant. All that was left were barren stubby stalks poking up from the ground.
Our daily walks around the neighborhood were more accurately described as tug-of-war endurance tests. Jasmine dragged me down the street, my arm outstretched, trying to hold on as she pulled on the leash with all her might, every muscle tensed, panting and coughing and straining against the collar, driven by natural instincts to chase down every scent. Ken even bought a new pair of sneakers so he could join us on our morning runs. It wasn't long before those brand new shoes got tossed in the pending garage-sale box, once Ken saw for himself that outings with our puppy on a leash were really not very much fun.
Then there was that memorable day when I came home at lunch to let Jasmine outside. It was the first time I'd left her alone in the house, contained in the bedroom with a gate blocking the door. As I walked up the driveway, I noticed that the blinds in the front window were bent and hanging sideways. And there was Jasmine, in the living room, standing on a chair, perched at the windowsill, peeking her nose through the broken slats of the blinds. The moment she saw me, she jumped down from the window and leaped across the room, bounding from the chair to the couch. Then with her legs stretched out in front of her, she sailed Superman-style through the narrow arched opening in the wall and landed on the bed. There she was, back in the bedroom, innocently appearing as if she'd never left. I just laughed. Her ingenuity was amazing. The passion for freedom running through her veins was too wild and sacred to be squelched. I left the disheveled blinds, bite marks and all, hanging up in the window her honor.
During the seven years we've all been together, we've continually moved farther away from the sidewalks, fenced yards, paved roads and street lights that characterized the neighborhood of our first home. Jasmine no longer wears a collar. There's no chain link fencing her in. Our walks in the wilderness don't involve a leash. Like Jasmine, I relish the expanded freedom that has come in leaving behind what once held me back and boxed me in.
Jasmine instinctively knows that passionate aliveness has nothing to do with settling for a ho-hum existence. She seeks out abundance and lush creature comforts ~ warm and cozy places to sleep, dishes full of nourishing foods, a pack of playful companions, and lots of room to roam. She wakes me up at sunrise, standing beside the bed, wagging her tail, getting her muzzle as close as she can to my face, intently focusing on my eyes until they open. She reaches out with her front paws, touching fur to skin, and freely receives all the love and adoration that come her way.
Jasmine sleeps in the sun, sighing deeply as she luxuriously stretches her legs and flexes open her paws. She curls up in snowbanks, wrapping her tail around her body and covering the very tip of her nose, staying warm. Apparently she's made some kind of agreement with the coyotes. They chase her. She's chases them. They howl. She barks back. In their shared understandings of canine ways, they've created a unique dance of co-existence on the land.
Everywhere we've lived, Jasmine ends up knowing the neighbors long before Ken and I do. We usually find out about her grand social adventures much after the fact. She's helped ranchers round up cattle. She's been named Goldie, Sandy, and Sweetie New Dog by those she's met. We've been told recently that her daily jaunts include visits with an aging dog who's becoming deaf and blind. Jasmine stops by her old friend's kennel so they can play together through the fence. Something about Jasmine naturally invites loving connections. She evokes tender smiles and hearty belly laughs with the curious looks on her face, the creative ways she instigates play, and how she romps with uncontainable delight.
With Jasmine, I've discovered something magical about love. I can smell it. Jasmine emits an indescribably sweet smell when she's happy and content, giving and receiving love all at once. We call this gift “puppy love.” Jasmine's enchanting puppy love smell emanates from her body and wafts through the air when she's getting a belly rub, when Ken and I return home after being away for awhile, or when she's rounding us up to go outside for a walk. The exquisite beauty of Jasmine's puppy love stops me in my tracks. I want to soak it all up and bask in the feeling, breath it all in and share some back.
Imagine a world filled with Puppy Love. Imagine unleashing love. That's the dream I like to hold. Creating a world filled with love so tangible we can even smell it. We can taste it. We can feel it in our bones.