Before Jasper came into my life (2014), someone asked me, “Caroline, what do you do for fun these days, what makes you laugh?” It took a while for me to answer their question and I was surprised at my answer of, “Absolutely nothing.” I knew the solution was to find a dog. Agnes, my cat companion, was sweet and kind and a bit older so she no longer was up to shenanigans, which would elicit a laugh (Agnes is buried in our Pet Memorial Garden). I had been without a dog in my life for several years and always had a dog or dogs before that. So, I began my search. I saw Jasper’s picture on a pet rescue website and fell in love instantly. Jasper was to become the dog who would rescue me.
Jasper rescued me when he was 5 years old and didn’t come with an owner’s manual. I had to find out by trial and error what he knew and didn’t know. He loved food and the activities around food being prepared and eaten. He didn’t care for toys or fetching. He loved greeting other dogs and people, and since his first years were as a “stud muffin,” he could be a bit too loving, if you know what I mean. He thought that bears were big dogs! He had hair instead of fur, so it grew and grew. In the winter, this hair would cause wet snow to stick to it and create “snowballs” on his underbelly and feet. He didn’t like that. He had to wear snowshoes and coats in wet snow. And, he suffered if he was not with me. He would cry and bark the entire time.
Several years after my rescue, Jasper helped with the creation of Carolina Memorial Sanctuary. On our first walk on the land, Jasper’s nose to the ground, he guided me on the original single trail that led from the parking area to the southern property line. This, at the time, was the only trail with thick brush on either side. There was evidence that many animals lived here and Jasper was keen to find them. At the Sanctuary, I came to find out that Jasper did love to fetch – if he was in water. In McDowell Creek, he would fetch sticks all day long, if I’d keep throwing them.
After we completed the bridge widening in 2016, we were able to use golf carts to get around the Sanctuary (before that, all tours and work were done on foot). This became one of Jasper’s favorite things. He’d jump right up beside me and we were set to go. For those of you who received a tour from Jasper (and me), he likely put his head in your lap, making sure you were safe and comforted. This job he loved.
Jasper’s other loves were inspecting graves, making sure those being buried were nestled into the ground and feeling the love that went into closing the grave. This was his gift. He knew what was happening was sacred and his beautiful spirit was filled with love. Jasper’s energy was also sensitive; he taught me that he was comfortable with small gatherings at burials and fearful when there were many people. He could be a bit confused when pets were buried with food. He’d look up at me, asking for help, “food is for the living.”
On March 22, 2022, our Sanctuary Greeter and Ambassador of Good Will began his next great adventure. Jasper was euthanized to alleviate the suffering caused by a recurrence of cancer. He was given his Dharma name of Mudita, which means sympathetic joy. This is a joy one would feel for seeing joy in others. His little body was prepared to lay in state in our home for three days. Jasper had watched me do this act many times before in my capacity as home funeral guide and during our classes for Center for End of Life Transitions. I spoke to him about his death and the three days of rest in our home.
During this quiet time before his burial, I sewed his shroud, using a wool blanket that was handed down from my parents. I embroidered the Bodhichitta Aspiration in Tibetan calligraphy onto his shroud. Bodhichitta means enlightened heart.
“May Bodhichitta, precious and sublime, arise where it has not yet come to be
And where it has arisen, may it not decline but grow and flourish ever more and more.
And now as long as space endures and as long as living beings remain,
May I too abide to dispel the miseries of the world.”
Jasper’s friends and loved ones gathered for his Buddhist burial. We said our goodbyes and blessings for his future. He was the first to be laid to rest in our little family area. Boysenberry (his cat sister) and I will join him at some point in the future.
Jasper and I discovered that his favorite place was beside me. That’s pretty much how he lived his life and how we will be in death. I thank you, Jasper, from the deepest well-spring of my heart for your love, compassion, fun, and joy. You will always be a treasured gem. Your friend and loving companion, Caroline (Savana Amata).