I took a walk a little earlier today, venturing from the small apartment where I now temporarily reside. I opened the door to the front lobby and stepped out and into a world that had changed. At 5:05 pm yesterday evening…
The weather folks had been calling for a wintery mix today, first snow then rain. Such is December weather in the mid-atlantic region. As I gazed out of the bedroom window, eyes weary and swollen from the crying, I saw that it was snowing. Large, fluffy white flakes. Flakes that make you wonder: how can they fall to the earth? they’re so light. Falling silently, persistently, thickly, as if offering me a blanket with which to cover the “unbearable lightness” that was my pain.
I dressed as I have not since February 2003 when we moved from Virginia to Florida. I took no eye glasses with me because today I didn’t need them to see. Zoey would guide me. Hers is a special story. The story of an exceptional dog who changed my life, Dale’s life and Alex’s life at a time when all 3 of us needed something good. And she was all good…
I was supposed to have driven to Florida Thanksgiving Day to be with my little family. It was with tremendous, explosive excitment that I packed my car that morning, started the engine and began the 800 mile journey home.
I made it as far as Exit 82 in Virginia. I turned the car around, and with the help of the Cat, drove almost 100 miles at speeds no more than 20 mph only it was in the wrong direction. My car was sick. And so was I because it meant no reunion. No Dale, no Zoey. No holding and hugging them both until they begged me to stop. No walking in town, no walking in the park. I would have to wait until Christmas…..
I did not intend to write about me today (how rogerian of me lol). I wanted to write about Zoey. Her life. How she came to be with us. Those words are not with me today. Instead I find it important to speak of her last night, Friday, and what turned out to be her last day, yesterday with her Dad.
It all began one week ago this evening when I got a frantic and panicked call from Dale. Zoey couldn’t get up. At 11 years old we were used to her moving a little slower, taking longer to get up. Up until this night she had never lost her ability to walk.
It was an awful and sleepless night. By early morning Zoey was able to get herself up and walk, albeit tentatively. Dale took her to our vet. Tests were done. Medicine dispensed. Our dog was very, very sick.
It pains me that I was not there physically to be with my dog when she was in distress. I was not there with her when she died. It pains me that I was not with Dale physically to help him. However, it is to both of their credit I can sit and write these words knowing them to be true….
My dog walked a path with heart her last day on earth. But then, she knew of no other way. She took a stand, faced her death and she was impeccable…
She had not been eating all week. Dale, at his wit’s end, prepared a steak for her on Friday evening. As it turns out, it was her last meal. She ate with pleasure and abandon…
The home we have lived in for the last 10+ years sits on 2.5 acres. One of our favorite features of the property is a tremendous, majestic live oak tree under which all of our dogs have loved to sit and lay. Whenever Dale and I would be outside working the property our dogs would never be far from us, content to simply have us in their sight. It was often under this tree that they waited…
After Alex left us in 2010 it was only Zoey. Not quite as much the outside dog as Alex Zoey nonetheless would spend time outdoors while we worked. She kept her eye on us. Kept us company. She always kept us within eyesight. Wherever we were, she was. When dusk arrived she made it quite evident that yard work should cease and the 3 of us needed to go in the house. At times I would try and put her in the house but she wouldn’t budge until Dale came in. She would sit out in the dark until midnight if that’s what it took.
It was beautiful Saturday, December 7, 2013. Sunny and 80 degrees. Dale went outside to mow for our Zo so she might walk about the yard more easily. Not that the grass was that long but nothing short of golf course green quality would do.
After a long week of illness and staying mostly in the house, Zoey enjoyed time outside. She lay by the side of the garage watching and waiting. Patiently. For Dale, for her Dad. Who checked on her regularly, talked to her of the steak dinner he was going to prepare for her again that evening. She seemed to be enjoying this time out of doors. Like old times. Like good times.
As he put everything away and prepared to go in, Dale watched Zoey get up on her own. She knew it was time to go in now and she was ready. She trotted down the hill to do her business but struggled her way back. She insisted on making it up that hill and to the front door.
“Wanna go in hon?” Dale asked her. Something in her eyes, the way she gazed at him in answer made him nervous. She needed help getting in the house. Her last walk as a canine took everything she had. Dale helped her in. As he gently lay her down near one of her favorite spots in the foyer, Zoey lifted her head back, stretched her legs and there in her Dad’s arms departed this earth….
I don’t know if it’s weird for a person and dog to “have a song”. But Zoey and I do/did. Back when Dale and I were getting into the Ramones, playing bass with them, this song in particular made me smile, put me in a great mood always …”lettuce and tomato”… It’s a happy song. Zoey liked it. She and I always danced. To this song.