Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Walking the Walk

Jene with Bogie, Misha and Tallie
Jolee at National Mill Dog Rescue
My journey producing the documentary, I Breathe, is over.  Another journey is just beginning.  Her name is Jolee.  She is a tiny Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that spent five years producing puppies.  That was her job and when she was no longer able to do it, she was "fired".  That was a good thing for both of us.  Jolee came into my life on November 6, 2010. We were both broken in a sense.  I had lost my beloved Tallie on October 17th.  It was very sudden and certainly unexpected.  That is another story for another time... Jolee was brought to Colorado from Missouri by National Mill Dog Rescue.  I respect the work the organization does and it is featured in I Breathe.  The director of National Mill Dog Rescue, Theresa Strader, knew how much I loved Tallie and how utterly devastated I was by her death.  She invited me to visit Jolee as well as two other Cavalier King Charles Spaniels they had brought back from Missouri.  Until now, I had been a tourist in the world of rescue adoptions.  I have seen many of the success stories and told a few of them in I Breathe.  I was about to experience life imitating art...
Jolee with Sharon, a volunteer at NMDR

Joelle, as she was named by volunteers at the rescue, was the tiniest adult Cavalier King Charles Spaniel I had ever seen.  She was way too thin, her coat was shaved and dull, but her little tail seemed to have a life of its own!  She made the decision for me.  She was going to be my dog.  Jolee needed surgery which would be performed at the same time she was spayed.  She had an inguinal hernia, likely from a rough delivery of her last batch of puppies, an umbilical hernia that was never corrected, and her teeth were in bad shape.  It was hard to leave her, but I knew she was in good hands.  One of the other Cavaliers that was rescued with her was missing an ear and had a grade 5 heart murmur.   Those afflictions didn't dull that little girl's enthusiasm either!  She wagged and wagged and looked so hopeful.  My furry household would have been too hectic for her, but I was happy to learn that she found her peaceful, perfect forever home!
Jolee getting ready to go home!
Jolee was rescued on Halloween.  A day celebrated with scary images became her independence day.  The scars of her lifetime as a "kennel dog", and "breeding stock" took their toll.   Her kneecaps are permanently luxated and she probably suffers from arthritis.  Her tiny toes are splayed from years of living in a cage with a wire floor.  She was horribly infested with parasites including hook worms, tape worms, round worms, and nasal worms that were robbing her of nutrition.  The lab that did the analysis hadn't seen many cases of nasal worms.  Her ears were a mess from years of chronic infections.  We continue to work through her problems and when she gazes at me with her grateful eyes,  I melt.  It is truly an honor helping her though the rough spots and teaching her what it means to be somebody's baby instead of merely a commodity.  Of course, for her that also means a few panicked visits to the vet and being poked and prodded and pestered quite a bit...

Jolee with the ever watchful Bogie
Jolee with her new "Grandmama"
I held her close on the ride back from National Mill Dog Rescue.  When we arrived at my Mom's, where we would be spending  a few nights, Jolee growled and snapped at Bogie.  He is my male Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and he has never encountered this type of behavior.  He was shocked!  Misha, my Siamese cat, threw her usual hissy fit.  When it was time for bed, I tried to put Jolee in her kennel.  She was having none of that.  She had spent too many nights locked up in a cage.  So I put her on the bed where she promptly peed all over the covers.  One clean set of sheets later, we tried again.  Jolee slept peacefully on the fresh sheets, but woke up at the crack of dawn.  Now I am not a morning person, period.  It took some time and many blurry eyed, abrupt wake up calls, but Jolee has discovered the joy of sleeping in and gives me a dirty look on the rare occasion I have an early morning.  Despite her time as a "mill dog", Jolee did not have any accidents at my Mom's house.  "Grandmama" has a magical gift with dogs.  They are always on their best behavior around her!

Jolee on "her" pillow
Jolee might be missing some teeth, have quirky habits and feet splayed from too many years of living on wire, but she is my show dog.  She continues to show me the lessons of healing, of forgiveness, of second chances, and the beauty of new beginnings.

Jolee gets the last laugh
To her previous owner:  Shame on you.  How could you have looked at that little face and not felt any tinge of compassion?  Shame on you for continuing to breed her and sell her puppies and not give her the proper medical care and attention that she needed and deserved.  Shame on you for selling a promise to the people who bought her puppies and delivering dogs that are genetically prone to orthopedic problems. Shame on you for not loving her and for sending her on her way once you used her up.  The money that you made from her puppies is probably gone, but her love is unconditional.  As she sleeps on my pillow every night and snores happily (and loudly!) into my ear, I hope she is forgetting every second she spent imprisoned by you.  She wins. You lose.

To my friends in rescue:   Thank you!  Your selfless work is amazing and so very important.  I initially summed it up in I Breathe as "the tears are part of what keeps them going."  Now I know what the other part of that equation is ... it's the laughter and the joy that these little ones that were someone's castoffs bring to their new people.   It's the lesson you will learn when you walk the walk of rescue.
My sweet Jolie went to the Rainbow Bridge at 4:15 am on December 18, 2013.  We did not have enough time together, but I will always cherish those three years.  What a precious, undemanding soul that learned to love and be loved.  She was a joyful little dog.  "JoJee", I kept my promise to you.... When I brought you home, I held you close and whispered in your ear that you would never, ever have another bad day.  You didn't.

I, on the other hand, had many bad days after you passed away.  One night, I was sitting on the porch of the house where I grew up, looking at the sky from the same vantage point I had for more than half a century.  That night, as tears poured down my face, I saw something I had never seen before.  A shooting star bolted through the sky, and for a split second, it appeared to suspend itself in time.  I stared at it and in that blink of an eye, I KNEW ... and it brought me peace. 

Thank you for being my dog and for the lessons I learned from your life.  RIP my girl.  Run free, Jolee.  Run free.


  1. Ohhh Jane!

    I just read your note to sweet little Jolee's previous human. I literally have tears in my eyes, but their tears of joy for the family, love and life she's finally found through you :) Big hugs to all four of you!!

  2. Thank you Lisa. Jolee is a dear, sweet girl and now has the loving home she has deserved all along! She sends doggy kisses to you!