Woman Brings Home Dying Shelter Dog So 'She'll Feel Loved For 24 Hours'

She had no idea she'd be so happy and healthy four years later.

Just one night.

That's about all the time Heather Hayes expected the very old and very sick Chihuahua to live.

As marketing manager at the Asheville Humane Society in North Carolina, she frequently passed the kennel of the trembling dog who spent her days hiding under her bed.

chihuahua sleeping with tongue hanging out
Heather Hayes

But one day, Hayes passed the kennel - and the trembling dog was staring back at her.

Hayes opened the latch.

"The staff at the shelter wondered if she was even adoptable because her health was so bad," she tells The Dodo. "I said, 'Let me take her home for a night and if we decide she doesn't have a quality of life and we have to let her go, I want her to be at a home.

"At least she'll feel loved for 24 hours.'"

chihuahua riding in car
Heather Hayes

And she told her husband as much when he came home asking about the strange little dog with the tongue that refused to stay in her mouth.

chihuahua in bed with tongue hanging out
Heather Hayes

The sudden infusion of love seemed to agree with the supposedly dying old dog. She was still there the next day.

And if she was going to be sticking around, she would need a name.

"She was surrendered to the shelter as 'Jersey Girl,'" Hayes explains. "We decided we needed to give her a better name. Josie ... Jazzy ... and my husband said, 'Why don't we call her Jay-Z?' "And then she looked right up at him when he said it. That's why she has a boy name even though she's a girl."

chihuahua in bed beside Jay-Z magazine cover
Heather Hayes

Life, it seemed, was not quite a wrap for Jay-Z. She found a fresh footing with her new siblings, all of them former shelter dogs making the most of new lives.

Rescued chihuahuas on couch
Heather Hayes

"Jay-Z was the first dog and senior I adopted," Hayes says. "After we adopted her, we took four more senior and special needs dogs . And now, Jay-Z has her pack of rescue senior Chihuahuas."

chihuahuas with family on couch
Pamela Yvonne Photography

"It is so rewarding to bring home animals who are overlooked and give them a family," she adds. But no dog packed a bigger reward in the tiniest form factor than Jay-Z.

chihuahua zipped in jacket
Heather Hayes

Realizing the dog wasn't leaving her any time soon, the couple began taking her along on epic expeditions.

Jay-Z climbed along side Hayes to the top of North Carolina's towering Mount Mitchell. She gazed at the ocean for the first time in her life. She even picnicked at the famed Biltmore Estate.

chihuahua inside tent
Heather Hayes

She camped. She sailed. She conquered.

chihuahua on boat in lake
Heather Hayes

No one's quite sure of Jay-Z's actual age - although it's certainly somewhere around ancient. But it's been more than four years since Jay-Z came home to spend just one night with this family.

And she's been motoring ever since.

chihuahua eating birthday cake
Heather Hayes

She's had few health scares along the way. In fact, Hayes even keeps a tribute letter in a drawer, thinking she will publish it in the event of the dog's demise.

Whenever that should actually happen.

"She has the most incredible will to live of any animal I've ever known," Hayes says.

chihuahua sticking tongue out
Heather Hayes

But when that end does finally come, Hayes can take comfort in knowing she taught an old dog the most important new trick of all - to be loved is to live.

"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," Hayes writes in the practice letter for the dog's funeral.

"She taught me to appreciate the little things like basking in a sunbeam together or sleeping in late, cuddling on a Saturday morning," she notes.

"I will never, ever forget her sweet face, her howls at the firetruck, her licks on my arm, or her little trademark tongue, as long as I live."

chihuahuas on camping chairs
Heather Hayes

An even more important legacy for a dog whose day never seems to be quite done?

"I hope Jay-Z will inspire others to adopt a senior animal and give them a second chance in their golden years," Hayes says.

In fact, at this very moment there's an old dog waiting at a shelter - hoping someone will unlatch that kennel door and start the big adventure that is a real life.

Think that could be you?

Get in touch with the Asheville Humane Society here.