Sometimes you get that one dog in your life who gives you a lifetime of education. Jasmine and her health challenges provided me with a crash course in dog health advocacy. I still remember one vet telling me that not all bad things always happen and if they do, not to the same dog. Jasmine did not get that memo. It would probably take a hundred dogs to learn all I did with her.

Jasmine, to whom my work is dedicated.

I made my mistakes, the biggest and most common one being not knowing any better and not standing up for her in spite of my gut telling me that there was more to things than met the eye.

I still remember the first time I read the back of a treats package. We started buying them because they looked good, smelled good, and Jasmine liked them. It wasn’t until they must have changed their formula and the treats suddenly looked, felt and smelled wrong when I turned the bag to look at the ingredients. The package went straight in the trash, and I have examined the contents of everything I bought for my dogs since.

I remember how unhappy I was with the lack of satisfactory explanation and resolution of Jasmine’s continuing digestive issues. And yet I accepted the “sensitive stomach” diagnosis and did nothing about it.

I remember how desperate I got when Jasmine would spend night after night pacing around, panting, and being miserable, again with no explanation. Even though I did make up my mind that enough was enough and I wasn’t leaving the vet’s office until it got figured out and resolved.

The vet did come up with a desperate theory which needed to be either confirmed or ruled out. He figured that the problem was low thyroid hormone. Jasmine indeed did have an underactive thyroid. She also put on some weight which went under our and the vet’s radar.

But he tested for it poorly which I didn’t know at the time. I also didn’t know that other problems in the body could affect thyroid hormone levels.

As soon as Jasmine started getting thyroid supplement, she did start dropping some of the extra weight. For a short while, it seemed that it solved her other problems as well. But it did not.

The first time I decided to take charge was when Jasmine was diagnosed with a ruptured knee ligament, and her vet told us she needed TPLO surgery. After looking up what the heck it was, we really didn’t like it. I started researching other options. And what do you know, there were other options even though we were only presented with the one.

A health challenge after a health challenge I was learning to take charge of Jasmine’s health. Learning to tell when something was wrong. Finding a good vet. Getting second opinions. Working through the diagnosis. Considering and discussing all treatments.

Realizing how much better I could have done for Jasmine if I knew better from the start, I started sharing our journey and experiences online. That is Jasmine’s legacy.

Learning from one’s mistakes is great. Being able to learn from somebody else’s mistakes is even better.

We adopted Cookie a few months after Jasmine’s passing to honor her memory by saving another Rottie. I wanted a healthy one this time. Cookie was a year and a half old, sweet, lovely and appeared perfectly healthy.

The second day after we adopted her she became fully lame on her left hind leg. I couldn’t believe it. Did she really manage to bust her knee within 48 hours of being with us?

That time we got off lucky. The knee was fine; it was a piece of porcupine quill buried deep in Cookie’s foot. Or at least that’s what we thought. In retrospect, I wonder whether two things happened at one time, and one got missed in the process. You can be chasing down one problem while another slips under the radar.

Once we took care of that, it became apparent that Cookie was going to follow in Jasmine’s footstep in every conceivable way, including going through the rest of the vet textbook.

So here I am again. But this time, I know how to do things.

Our boy dogs had been relatively healthy with a normal amount of health challenges you’d expect to run into having a dog. Even then there were things to learn.

The most important lesson I’ve learned with Roxy, our first Rotty, is compassion. I learned what it is like having a sick dog and no money to do anything about it.

Sometimes I sit there wondering why I couldn’t have just a healthy dog. Hubby tells me I got these girls because they needed me. And perhaps people who find our stories needed that too. So I do my best to make sure that what we’ve been through helps as many dogs as possible.

And then there are all the family member’s and friends’ dogs whose journeys and challenges I had the privilege to be part of.