Tuesday, October 24, 2006

goodbye zoe

Yesterday I said goodbye to someone who had been in my life for fifteen and a half years. It was one of the saddest moments of my life.

As a kid, the only thing I wanted more than a dog was a horse. Very early on it was made clear that I would never get a dog (let alone a horse), though I continued to try it on now and again, just in case. As a result, I didn't get a dog until I was in a stable enough position to properly care for one. After years of transient living I was finally ready -- and that dog was Zoe.


In 1991, after a year of teaching English in Greece, I went through a rough few months and was slowly getting back into The Real World, which meant on-call teaching and volunteering at an animal shelter in the inner-city neighbourhood where we were living. The moment I saw Zoe I completely fell for her. She was a little spitfire, a German Shepherd cross about 12 weeks old, but the woman who ran the shelter said she was only boarding the pup for a friend and therefore wasn't available. A month later she was still there, so I asked again. This time she admitted that the puppy was her dog, the last unclaimed pup in a litter, and had decided that she couldn't keep her after all. She was over her bylaw limit of two dogs so had told everyone the phony story. I had finally resigned myself to adopting another dog, but at that news I scooped her immediately and the four month old pup was home within the hour.

She turned out to be everything I ever dreamed: clever (house trained within 24 hours), dutiful, lots of fun and completely fearless. And oh, such a beauty. She learned to respect cats, to be a perfect watchdog (the poor mailman!), to protect and play gently with the babies who joined the family, to accept another dog (Zappa) with grace, to endure the pain of rupturing the anterior cruciate ligaments in both knees (1999 and 2001) and manage the long road to recovery.

After the second surgery five years ago she was suddenly an old dog. She was always a participant in family life, though, and always in good spirits. Eventually going for walks was out of the question. But she still loved going camping or on holiday. The journey to and from our various destinations required recovery time, but once there, she enjoyed herself immensely. She took over watchdog duties like a good girl while we headed out with Zappa for more active pursuits.

Just a few weeks ago she started declining rapidly. First, she could no longer manage to walk up even one stair, then she couldn't stand up when she'd been lying on a floor. Yesterday morning my deaf, frail old pooch could no longer walk. I knew the moment I saw her all those years ago that I wanted her and almost 16 years later I knew the moment it was time to let her go. Fortunately she loved going to the vet: so much to see, dog treats to eat, butts to sniff. But she was tired and ready to go. Greg and I were both there and she departed peacefully. I already miss her like crazy.

A quick chronological slide show is here.

44 Comments:

Blogger Heather said...

Sorry.

24/10/06 8:15 PM  
Blogger CeCe said...

I'm sorry. I'm always a mess when pets die. She looks/sounds like a lovely dog.

24/10/06 9:05 PM  
Blogger Within Without said...

What a beautiful, beautiful dog and an equally beautiful tribute to a dear creature you obviously loved, Andrea.

I was going to ask you where you had been since Soccer Saturday, but now I know.

I'm sorry for you and Greg and the family. But those pix on Flickr showed what a wondrous life that dog had with you.

And what a wondrous life you have had with her.

I long for that kind of unconditional closeness and that lovely dog smile the pix showed so eloquently and colourfully and clearly.

Hugs and licks and thanks and all the best.

24/10/06 9:14 PM  
Anonymous kyknoord said...

So sad, but as WW says, a wonderful tribute.

24/10/06 10:43 PM  
Blogger Denise said...

Really feel for your loss. Such special companions always hold a place in our hearts.

25/10/06 12:21 AM  
Blogger tlc illustration said...

WW said it all so very well. I'm so very sorry Andrea. I watch how quickly the white hairs appear on our black dog's muzzle and dread the day when he too will be too old... They are such kind, strong, loving presences and add so much to the quality of our daily lives. If anyone can depict unconditional love and being in the moment, it's a good dog....

Hugs...

25/10/06 1:11 AM  
Blogger andy said...

I had (still have) tears in my eyes, having been through that myself... I guess that wonderful tribute was both easy and hard to write, if that makes any kind of sense. I hope this doesn't sound patronising: I almost want to say "well done" for sharing that moment and sorting the memories to produce that beautiful slideshow.

Hugs,
Andy

25/10/06 3:58 AM  
Blogger HildaRose said...

I understand the loss of a friend. I have four and dread the day that one may leave us. Remember her always.

25/10/06 4:27 AM  
Blogger Toni said...

Damn now I'm crying. I've had to let pets go and lately some other fellow bloggers have lost pets. They are just as much a part of our family as our kids. So here is a big hug to you and your family.
Take care.

25/10/06 4:28 AM  
Anonymous Detlef said...

Truly sorry for the loss, cherish the memories of Zoe always.

25/10/06 5:11 AM  
Anonymous swampgrrl said...

Oh Andrea, that sucks like nothing else.
I've been there.

May Zoe rest in peace,
with dog biscuits showering
down like rain and endless fields
with the best smells to run
around on forever.

25/10/06 6:55 AM  
Blogger Joyce said...

dear Andrea- I'm so sorry.

25/10/06 7:13 AM  
Blogger Ellen said...

So sad. I am sorry for your loss. I don't think many people get to connect with an animal the way some of us do. I know my Rusty Boy is my dearest and closest friend and when he goes I will be devestated. On a lighter note a friend of mine had a dog pass and she said "no more pets!" Then she got a wonderful puppy...to cheer her up we threw a "Puppy Shower!" It was done the same way a regular shower would be. She loved it!

25/10/06 7:37 AM  
Blogger Bibi said...

I'm so sorry Andrea. Sounds as though she had a wonderful life with you and you did right by her. Doesn't make it easier for you though...

25/10/06 8:11 AM  
Blogger carla said...

Andrea, I'm so sorry. I had tears in my eyes reading about Zoe and looking at her sweet face. Animal friends become such "people" to us - it's amazing the real love and friendship we have with them. It's hard to say goodbye, even when the time has come. I still get very sad when I remember my two boy cats who had to be put down within a very short time period. I miss them! I had a feeling something was going on with Zoe, because you've been quiet here... I'm sending you some hugs(:>)

25/10/06 8:50 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

Wow -- I'm overwhelmed. Thanks for all the words of support. It was the hardest post I've ever written but cathartic in a way. It feels good to be part of such a community and it really helps to have an outlet.

25/10/06 9:07 AM  
Blogger susan said...

oh andrea, i am sending you a hug. it is so hard to put down an animal friend.
you did a lovely memorial on her here though.
take good care,
susan

25/10/06 9:33 AM  
Blogger tiffinix said...

Oh Andrea! Huge hugs coming your way!! I am so heartbroken for you - what a beautiful sweet dog!! Take good care of yourself. I am so very sorry for you and Greg. Such beautiful pictures. What an amazing expression she has. I am sending you huge hugs!!

25/10/06 9:55 AM  
Blogger Sally said...

What a sweet looking dog. I'm so sorry for your loss, Andrea!

*Hugs*

25/10/06 10:42 AM  
Blogger Angela Rockett said...

My heart goes out to you. I am so sorry for your loss. Zoe looks like an absolutely wonderful friend.

25/10/06 1:40 PM  
Blogger Within Without said...

OK?

25/10/06 4:38 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

OK!

25/10/06 4:49 PM  
Blogger Jana Bouc said...

Oh Andrea, What a wonderful tribute to such a beautiful, loving dog (wo looks so much like my dear departed Molly). I'm sitting here at work with tears in my eyes. I'm sure she's grateful to you for all your loving care, and for allowing her to go peacefully when she and you wisely knew it was time. I bet you've been treasuring every day with Zoe over the past year, knowing your time was short.

The only time I ever saw my ex-husband cry was the day we took Molly to have her put to sleep. I loved the slide show--we have pictures of Molly in t-shirts beside my son as a little boy too. Molly was with him from the time he was 3 until he was almost 16. When I told him we were going to have to put her to sleep, he was so upset, both to be losing her and because he wanted her to be there to see him get his drivers license.

25/10/06 6:11 PM  
Blogger kj said...

andrea, my deepest condolences. i so well know the deep sadness of saying good-bye.

look for signs from zoe. the day after we lost our rosie, she sent a dog who dug just like her in the sand to come and play. and then she sent a gentle lab to come from nowhere and lay his head on my shoulder as i sat on a sidewalk alone.

i'm so sorry for your loss. lucky zoe to be in your family.

kj

25/10/06 8:04 PM  
Anonymous chitty said...

Beautiful dog, Andrea and I am sorry to hear about her passing on.

26/10/06 12:34 AM  
Blogger Sheri Burhoe said...

So sorry to hear Andrea ! :( Life is very difficult and painful at it's moments.Take good care !

26/10/06 4:41 AM  
Blogger Jaimie said...

I had a wonderful siamese cat for 18 years. When it was finally time to let her go my heart just broke, I cried for days. I had her since before my kids were born so they grew up with her.
My most sincere condolences for your loss.

26/10/06 6:36 AM  
Blogger Caty said...

I am sorry Andrea...I have been in the same situation, I know it hurts. A friend told me once a story about pets waiting "on the other side" for owners to help them to cross the bridge when it will be the moment. I smiled...

26/10/06 7:10 AM  
Blogger Cherrypie said...

Poor Zoe. I'm sorry, Andrea. I know how hard it is when you lose such an important friend.x

She looks just like Meggy, my first dog. I'm not sure which one I am crying for most

26/10/06 9:30 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

what a loss - I'm glad you found the strength to say goodbye when the time came -
lots of love to you
xxx

26/10/06 1:19 PM  
Blogger CAS said...

So sad, Andrea, this really brought tears to my eyes. But Zoe had a GREAT life with you.

(((BIG HUGS)))

26/10/06 4:39 PM  
Anonymous ritadaphn√© said...

Zoé ne souffre plus maintenant...
Mais comme je partage ton chagrin!
C'est une grande tristesse.

26/10/06 5:43 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

I keep looking back here for bolstering. Thanks all. Et Ritadaphne -- merci et vous sympathisez, je comprend. C'est une tristesse mais c'est aussi un soulagement.

26/10/06 6:00 PM  
Blogger Trabinski said...

:( I'm so sorry. I've been wanting a dog for years but just hasn't worked out yet for various reasons. Your tribute to Zoe is exactly the reason I've been wanting a K-9 buddy.

Thanks for sharing a part of Zoe with us. I can only hope to be as fortunate to have such a wonderful bond with my own dog someday.

26/10/06 10:29 PM  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

I'm very sorry to hear about Zoe but she does seem to have had a good innings and she must surely have had a very good life being your companion and a very good friend of the family.

27/10/06 12:46 AM  
Blogger andrea joseph's sketchblog said...

Oh Andrea I am so sorry.

27/10/06 4:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh dear, I am sorry, poor you...have a hug xxx

27/10/06 11:15 AM  
Blogger ValGalArt said...

This broke my heart and made me cry!!! She is such a beauty! I'm so terribly sorry for your loss and I know she will love on in your hearts!

28/10/06 11:25 AM  
Blogger Jessica Torrant said...

So many have commented here because when you love a pet, it's an experience unlike any other, and you immediatly connect with all other dog owners/lovers. I too had tears welling up and my heart was pounding reading your post because I've lost a few best friends, siblings even (an only child here!), and now my baby boy is someone I pray for constantly... I love him so much. I recently read "Marley and Me" and it had me laughing and crying relating to the experiences of a dog owner - the ways they test you, and teach you. What a gift for both of you to have been connected so deeply in this life. I actually believe that we will see our pets just like our passed loved ones in another time and place... They are special souls with a special place in heaven. Thank you for sharing your tribute and love. Big hugs to you, Andrea, jessica

28/10/06 10:58 PM  
Blogger Homo Escapeons said...

I am so sorry. I know what it's like..I had to take my beloved Jack in 5 years ago and we still haven't seriously looked at another pooch.
I carried Jack (120 lbs ugh!) out to the yard for months because of his bad hips...when he finally met our other baby he was such a wonderful big brother. Always a great protector of Alice on her walks, a loving mushball friend, and always underfoot...I still miss him so much.

I cried for a solid twenty minutes at the Vets..the staff just quietly left and let me hug him as he slipped away...one of the hardest days of my left. I'm all choked up just writing this..I know you will treasure all of those great memories like I do.
Dog People eh?

29/10/06 11:19 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

Any time I need a little pick-me-up I just visit the comments! Something about dogs brings out the best in people.

29/10/06 3:23 PM  
Blogger suzanne said...

Thank you so much for sharing Zoe's story. I am so sorry for your loss. The slideshow is very beautiful.

30/10/06 4:15 PM  
Blogger Belinda said...

Too much animal loss this year. Just too much. Zoe was beautiful, happy, and well-loved. What dog could ask for more?

1/11/06 9:18 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

I am sorry about the loss of your dog. It is hard to lose a dear friend and that is what they are to us. She lived a long and loved life. She is out of pain and having fun again, waiting for you.

2/11/06 11:12 AM  

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