We lost our perpetual ray of sunshine today.  Athena T. passed to the Rainbow Bridge where she now is healthy, happy, running with her friends, and waiting for us.



Athena came to us about a month ago from southern California, where she had been dumped at a shelter in terrible physical condition.  She was rescued by Karen Barnes and brought into the Thulani Program, giving us the chance to pamper her.  We did our best for her, but it was very little compared to what she gave us in return.

If there ever was a dog that could be excused for carrying a grudge, Athena was that dog.  Yet she literally greeted every situation with soft eyes, soft ears, a smile, and a wagging tail.  Every morning she would come up to my bed as I was waking, and help me welcome the morning with tail wags, soft vocalizations, and lots of snuggles.   As I watched her struggle with her medical issues, yet interact with everyone, two-legged and four, with love and affection, I was profoundly struck by her attitude, one that many of us could beneficially emulate .  She provided lessons to me about attitude and behavior that I will carry forever.  Thank you Athena, you will be sorely missed.

Below are remembrances from a few people who had the honor of knowing her.

Karen with Athena

Karen with Athena

Having recently lost our Elke T. to mammary cancer, Athena T.’s succumbing to the same horrible disease is especially difficult. It’s also heartbreaking knowing that if her irresponsible owners had simply spayed her, her chances of getting mammary cancer would have been slim. A beautiful life was cut short too soon and could have been avoided.

As soon as I laid eyes on her at the shelter, I knew we had to help her. Her happy personality, gentle nature, and those big, brown, soulful eyes were irresistible. What sealed the deal was a look she gave me that said, “well, what more do I have to do to get you to take me?”, so out the door we went with all the shelter staff cheering.

Well, what are you waiting for?  Get me outta here.

Well, what are you waiting for? Get me outta here.

We met a young mother and her little boy who was afraid of her scary physical appearance. After a quick lesson that some mean person had done this to her, the little boy went up to her, gave her a pat on the head and a Doritos chip.

Athena touched lives wherever she went. This was her destiny. A beautiful life was cut short much too soon but I’m grateful to have known and loved her. I’ll miss her gentle ways. Farewell, my beautiful girl.

Karen Barnes, Rescue Volunteer






A few months ago I was introduced to Athena T.  She was exceptionally sweet, fairly old, quite crippled, with huge mammary tumors.  She also had a back that looked like she had had a severe flea allergy and now had lots of infections and scabs.  This doggie looked like hell.  But she was so nice and she had no idea that she had all these problems.  That is the most important lesson we can all only try to learn from our dog companions.  No story about either fortune or misfortune.  Life in the moment.

Athena_T_00271I took out her mammary tumors and started antibiotics for her sad old back.  Her tumor incisions healed well and quickly but her back didn’t.  We theorized a resistant staph and started new antibiotics.  When she came in for a recheck on the new antibiotics, her back was improving but she was holding up a back leg.  She had bone cancer.  The Jachens, the leads of the Thulani Program, made the right and only decision.  Let her go.

I don’t believe in the rainbow bridge but I love the story of our pets coming to greet us when we too kick off.  I know Athena was not my pet but maybe just maybe I am wrong about one more thing and she will be there to meet me also.  The human animal bond is a lovely thing.

Dave R., DVM,

I wanted to call this “Requiem for an Angel.”  Bob wanted something about Sunshine.  Both work, I think.  Athena had the cheeriest, brightest temperament you could ever wish for.  During the month or more that she lived in my house, she was never cross; not with Bob or me, and not with any of our 4 dogs.  She loved everyone and was always ready with her bright smile and wagging tail.  And this wonderful cheeriness was in spite of being in a level of discomfort that it pains me to think about.

At home, she integrated herself into our pack of 4 easily and peacefully.  When our young male dogs, Kobuk and Wyatt, were roughhousing in the yard, being unable to romp and play, she would stand out of harm’s way barking joyfully and wagging her tail a mile a minute.  When she and our female golden were having a quiet moment, they would indulge in mutual muzzle licking and relax together, almost spooning with each other as they enjoyed a quiet time together.  When our big shepherd would make his trips outside, or line up in the kitchen for his anti-convulsants, she was right there to take her meds, too, and to keep him company outside.  Whatever was happening, she was right there to join in.  Bob working in the yard with Kobuk and Wyatt roaming around had a constant companion in Athena.  In the house, she followed me from room to room, and settled down quietly nearby when I was engaged in some activity.  She was the perfect companion.

Athena_coneI think her health issues have been dealt with already in detail.  In working with the Thulani Program dogs, we have become accustomed to seeing levels of neglect that make us angry and sad.  This sweet creature was surely the worst case I’ve ever seen.  No matter what was done with Athena, not matter how much pain or discomfort she was in, she always accepted any treatment with a calm and gentle spirit.  At times her pain made her whine in her sleep, or made her restless and unable to settle down to rest in one place for more than a few minutes.  Still, she presented us with her smile and her wags.  Visits to the vet were uncomfortable, but Athena held no grudges.  She would struggle and protest when it hurt, but as soon as she was released, she would again present us with smiles and wags.  Surely this sweet spirit deserved better than the lot she was dealt.

Athena_smileToday the decision was made that her quality of life demanded a release.  She wasn’t having fun anymore, and with the cancer in her bones, she wasn’t going to get any better.  The vet who had taken such good care of her helped her to the rainbow bridge as she was held in Bob’s lap. this vet who said that making this diagnosis made his stomach upset.  I was there, too, holding back my tears, but with a feeling of relief that this gentle, loving spirit had gone to where there was no pain or neglect, and I was thankful that she had come to us for this time to be loved and to be held in loving arms when the time came, grateful that this sweet creature had not died alone and afraid in a shelter.

Karen Jachens, Rescue Volunteer