The note on the trembling senior Chihuahua’s chart read: “Guarded Prognosis. Would highly recommend waiver for multiple serious medical issues.” Potential adopters passed her by without a second glance.
Since the dog was surrendered to the Asheville Humane Society, shelter marketing manager, Heather Hayes had walked by her cage multiple times, too. Then one day she decided to open it.
The pitiful pooch – named Jersey Girl by her previous owner – had been hiding under her bed for weeks, confused and frightened. Hayes decided to take her home for an overnight visit. She couldn’t stand the thought of her last moments of life being lived out in fear and loneliness. She wanted her to know what it was like to be loved, if only for 24 hours.
You see, nobody knew how much time Jersey Girl had left. Her true age was unknown and she was so frail and sickly that each day could easily be her last. Hayes and her husband, Joel decided to assess her quality of life during her sleepover and make the most humane decision for her in the morning – if she made it until morning.
Hayes cradled the love-starved dog in her arms as she coughed and gasped due to an untreated heart condition. She fully expected to awake and find that she had passed, but Jersey Girl survived. With her signature floppy tongue dangling from the left side of her mouth, she let the couple know she was ready to fight! They decided to give her a forever home – no matter how long or short forever might be. Hayes says,
“She jumped into my lap that day, and into my life for good.”
And, they figured, along with a new lease on life, Jersey Girl deserved a new name. They didn’t want it to be too different and confuse the poor old gal, so they toyed around with Josie and Jazzy. Then Joel suggested “Jay-Z” and the Chihuahua whipped her head around and looked right at him. Thus, Jersey Girl was re-named for the King of Hip-Hop himself.
Rescuing Jay-Z awakened something in Hayes. As she watched the tiny dog no one expected to live conquer camping trips, mountain hikes, boat rides and more, she realized that she’d underestimated senior dogs. Jay-Z’s life wasn’t ending, a new phase was just beginning – all she’d needed was a little love to relight the spark! (Finally getting proper veterinary care didn’t hurt, either!)
Since Jay-Z came into their lives, Heather and Joel have welcomed six more dogs – all seniors and special needs babies. Two of them even have similarly goofy tongues – but not as epic as Jay-Z’s, of course!
An astonishing 4 years have passed since that fateful day Hayes opened Jay-Z’s kennel door and welcomed her into a brand new life. She has had a few health scares, but for now she’s going strong. Hayes appreciates every day with her as the gift that it is, but if/when the time comes, she’s ready.
She shared a few lines from a tribute letter she wrote and plans to publish after Jay-Z gives her last encore:
“Jay-Z taught me to cherish senior animals, who need love and comfort the most in the final years of their lives. Just like people. She taught me to appreciate the little things like basking in a sunbeam together or sleeping in late, cuddling on a Saturday morning…That commitment of one night, not knowing if she would survive, turned into over four years of the strongest bond I’ve ever felt for a furry loved one. “
Hayes hopes that by sharing Jay-Z’s story, others will be inspired to visit their local shelter and take a chance on a senior dog. Remember, that pitiful grey face behind the bars may just need a little bit of faith and love in order to come alive again!
Featured Image via Pamela Yvonne Photography