How it all started (part one)

(Yasmine — the first EOE rescue)

How different life would be without Yasmine! Hundreds of dogs and cats would not be alive and well today. Yasmine herself may have met an untimely end at the local shelter. And, my own quality of life would be much less than it is today. Yasmine was EOE’s first rescue. I found her as a stray in a park behind my house. Almost as important as finding her, though, are all the reasons it almost didn’t happen. We had spent the day in Reno, so I almost decided to forego Charlemagne II’s nightly walk. I had several walking routes; I almost chose an alternate one. Or she could have been a he, which would have prevented us from keeping our new charge altogether. (Charlemagne was not dog-friendly in general, and there was no way another male dog could have coexisted with him).

So, fast forward to the evening of March 25, 2000. I was walking Charlemagne II down one of the paths in Larsen Park in Tracy, where we lived at the time. A little black Lab puppy was rooting around in the bushes. The puppy bounced over to Charlemagne and tried to get him to play. Charlemagne wheeled around and tried to attack. After several minutes, I managed to position myself between Charlemagne and the darting puppy. Somehow we scrabbled our way home.

I flew in the door and shoved Charlemagne inside. I was completely speechless, and gestured wildly between Charlemagne and the front door. I opened the door and peeked outside. The puppy was still sitting there, panting. I opened the garage door and the puppy went inside.

The next day, we determined the puppy was female, but we still kept the two dogs separated. We let her out into the back yard. She went over to a side garden, where a large palm tree grows. In those days the palm was much smaller than it is today. Its lower leaves reached to the ground, forming a sort of cave. The puppy crawled under the leaves, and slept there the entire afternoon. She must have been exhausted. But she knew she was home.

Days passed. Karl would come home for lunch and the two of them would share tuna salad. We introduced her to Charlemagne, and they hit it off instantly. I put up flyers, went door-to-door, advertised at the shelter. No one came forward to claim her. We briefly advertised her as free to a good home, but discontinued this when no one suitable applied. I named her “Yasmine”, after Yasmine Bleeth, as she seemed to share the actress’s saucy personality. I had never owned a dog, and now, it seems, I had one.

But she had a few quirks, to put it mildly. She was terrified of going into the kitchen at first. She would lie on the floor, up against the wall, trying to scrunch herself into the corner. She shredded a sofa cushion one day when left alone. At times, she was violently dog-aggressive. When she jumped on top of my laptop and crashed the hard drive, I concluded it was time to seek outside help. I had noticed a dog trainer advertising in the local paper. I called, spoke with the owner, and started attending classes.

It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The trainers were K-9 Development, (http://www.k9development.com/index.html), located in Lathrop. The owners, Jack Fields and Amy Uecker, conducted group obedience classes in Tracy. In these classes, I saw miraculous transformations. Wild, unmanageable dogs became delightful family companions. Although we had our work cut out for us, eventually Yasmine herself took to the challenge of obedience training. She eventually learned advanced obedience, and earned a CGC certificate in 2002. I became an ardent student of canine behavior, and studied under Jack and Amy for over four years. During one class, we were standing in a circle, and I had Yasmine in a down stay. I stepped back slightly, as Jack was lecturing. To my surprise, he started using her as a demo dog. Yazzie remained absolutely motionless, except to look at Jack and thump her tail occasionally. I was never as proud of her as at that moment.

Today, Yasmine is the centerpiece of my life. She will know a life of birthday parties and camping trips and the best of care. She is the spokesdog for EOE, and has met hundreds of people at our community events. She has since been joined by Desiree and Siu Mai at EOE Headquarters. She greets every day with joy, and has taught me to do the same. She is living proof that, with a little time, effort and dedication, any dog can, and should have, a good life.