Thursday, January 03, 2008

goodbye zappa

I remember the moment I decided I wanted another dog. We were walking, en famille, through Deas Island Park in the summer of 1998 after just having moved into this house with its huge backyard. The boys were only five and three, Zoe was approaching middle age and for the first time ever a second dog was an option. Zoe was kind but serious and dutiful and we needed a dog the boys could play with. That very same day I started doing online research as I knew already that I wanted a medium-sized, intelligent, athletic dog like an Australian Shepherd. I investigated breeders, breeding ethics and rescue groups and it didn't take long to decide that I wanted a rescue dog. There were hardly ever any Aussies available in British Columbia, though, so I started looking just south of the border where plenty of Australian Shepherds end up in rescue as their intensity and high energy levels are often too much for the average dog owner. Over the next few months there were some 'almosts', and then one day I saw Zappa's picture. He was running flat out with an expression of pure joy on his face. Little did I know that over the next nine years I would see him running with that same expression almost every day, including the day before he died. On further investigation I learned he had just been bailed out of a shelter in Wenatchee in central Washington. He'd been incarcerated so many times that the humane society refused to turn him over to his previous owners any more, a known local 'party house' who left him outside 24/7 and fed him only when they remembered. No wonder he became such a good break-out artist. The first time I took him to the local school playground he actually dug an apple core out of the sand and ate it.

We met him in Seattle on January 16, 1999, and it was love at first sight. He was just over a year old, much handsomer in person, and was the happiest dog I'd ever met. He settled in so fast it was like he'd always been here. He was a clown who hadn't yet learned to play (he did!), a child who never grew up, a sheepdog with unerring instinct (I had him tested once) and the best company of any dog I've ever known. He was smart, incredibly goofy, talked all the time in a mumbling voice, and immediately made friends with every person or dog he ever met. At the age of 10 people still asked if he was a puppy. As a sheepdog his prey drive was on high at all times and when he was young he could run faster than any dog in the neighbourhood, Border Collies included. When Greg and I started running he was a perfect and tireless running companion. But he had his 'issues'. For example, he loved the mental challenge when I took him to an agility training class but we never continued after the course ended because he'd get so excited and want to visit all the other dogs between runs that he couldn't calm down and shut up. His tendency to get overexcited in public places never improved so we simply worked around it. For example, he couldn't sit placidly watching a soccer game because he was so desperate to get in there and play, so I learned to circle the field constantly while watching the game. His high energy got him into plenty of scrapes, including a couple of serious paw and foot lacerations that saw him being stitched up under general anaesthetic. And he had some terrible anxieties. The first time Greg took his belt off he flattened himself, awaiting a beating. He never really got over some of his early experiences and as the years passed fireworks, thunder and wind storms only scared him more.

After Zoe died last year Zappa grew up a bit. He'd always had specific family roles, like leaping on the boys' beds in the morning to wake them up, but Zoe was the one in charge, the watchdog. When she grew too deaf to hear the postman any more, he started barking to alert her. When she was gone he stayed silent for a few months, not knowing quite what to do when the mail came, but before long he took up her job and started doing daily mail call. But, unlike Zoe, he was always more like another little boy than a dog as he was involved in every aspect of family life. He was always there, went everywhere in the car and had an opinion on everything (always good).

The last time Zappa was at the vet in October I noticed he'd lost a little weight but was otherwise exactly the same, so didn't fret over it. As a matter of fact he was the same happy, energetic dog until last Friday, when he was suddenly very lethargic. I thought he must've eaten something he shouldn't, being Christmas holidays and all, and the next day he was fine again. When he realized he was going for a run with both me and Greg that morning he couldn't contain his excitement, charging all over the place and barking like an idiot. And the run was great. The next day he was sick again. I'd seen a rat on our deck and there was a hole in the fence so I thought maybe our neighbour had put rat poison out and he'd gotten into it. But he never vomited and, being Sunday, the vet was closed. The next day (New Year's Eve) he was fine again and we went for a long walk in the twilight of a clear winter's day. I got up at 7 o'clock on New Year's Day and discovered that Zappa couldn't move. Frantically, I phoned around until I found a 24-hour-and-holidays emergency clinic and then got Greg out of bed. The half-hour drive in the dawn to Langley was quiet and peaceful and the clinic was empty.

It didn't take long to find out the cause of Zappa's illness: he had advanced cancer and had started bleeding internally. He was almost completely non-responsive by this time so we discussed the options with the vet, none of which were good, and decided that euthanasia was the kindest thing to do. By 8.30 he was gone.

The boys have taken Zappa's death surprisingly well but I feel angry and totally ripped off. For nine years he was my companion, my shadow, an active participant in my life and to lose him with no warning has been devastating. I've always been an animal lover but didn't know before now that an animal could have a greater hold on my heart than all but my kids and husband. I know that, in time, I'll be able to appreciate how lucky we were to have had him as part of our family and how fortunate for all of us that he didn't suffer long at the end, but for now I just miss him. And the squirrels who live in our garden already seem to know he's gone forever and are overrunning the !&*!?%# place.

I have put some of my favourite photos of Zappa in a Flickr folder here. Most have some text but if you'd just like a quick (chronological) slide show go here. I won't be posting or responding for a little while but plan to be back ASAP.


Blogger Barbara said...

I'm sorry to hear you've lost such a dear friend and family member. I'm sure Zappa is running around great open fields in the heavens, looking over you and remembering you with the same love, gratitude and happiness with which you remember him.

3/1/08 10:18 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm truly sorry for your loss Andrea. I never had a dog of my own and cannot pretend to know the agony and heartache you are suffering just now. My parents did have a beautiful border collie, Ben, for nearly 20 years who died a few years back. Although he was not mine, I visited him often and have great memories of hill walks with him and my Dad. I am thinking of you and send you a cyber hug :)

3/1/08 10:44 a.m.  
Blogger Ian Lidster said...

I miss Zappa and didn't even know him, other than through you, but your love always shone through. I love that last photo; it captures it all.
As I said, dear friend, be kind to yourself for a while.

3/1/08 10:59 a.m.  
Blogger dinahmow said...

The fabric of our lives is a patchwork of memories;a comforter for cold times.

3/1/08 12:06 p.m.  
Blogger Alda said...

My condolences Andrea. Again. xx

3/1/08 1:06 p.m.  
Blogger nadine said...

I have no adequate words of comfort... Just heartfelt empathy.

3/1/08 1:59 p.m.  
Blogger Angela Wales Rockett said...

I am so sorry, Andrea.

3/1/08 2:22 p.m.  
Blogger merlinprincesse said...

It was a good dog! I was sure of that the first minute I met him! :) In time, maybe you'll find another dog, not for replacement, but just to have as much fun as you had with Zappa... I'm sure of that! Now, just grieve.... We need that! I know and I know that you know that I know! :)

3/1/08 3:00 p.m.  
Blogger WithinWithout said...

You've had to say a lot of goodbyes, lately. I'm very sorry for your loss, Andrea.

The meaning of this beautiful creature came through in every single word you wrote.

Thank you for it. And big hugs.

3/1/08 5:24 p.m.  
Blogger Ellen said...

I'm so sorry too Andrea. Zappa really lucked out being adopted by you and had a wonderful, full life with your 'pack'. Take care.

3/1/08 5:39 p.m.  
Blogger spencer-mills said...

We are so sorry to hear about Zappa. I remember when he came to us and what a wonderful boy he was. We called him Sundance because it just seemed to describe him so well. We are glad he was able to bring so much joy to your life for those eight years. How well we usnderstand the feeling of loss.

3/1/08 5:52 p.m.  
Blogger Unknown said...

Andrea, dear sweet friend I am so sorry to read this. There are no words to make it better. so here are hugs, love and light. Take your time.

3/1/08 9:45 p.m.  
Blogger Catherine said...

I'm so sorry. Losing a pet is so hard.

3/1/08 9:56 p.m.  
Blogger Susan Schwake said...

oh andrea, i am so sorry. it isn't fair and i can'at imagine how awful it feels to go through the new year with this sort of pain.
thinking of you and yours.

4/1/08 2:35 a.m.  
Blogger Heather said...

Andrea I am so sorry for your loss. I can't even imagine how hard this must be, my fur prople are are just like my kids...Just sending your family love and light. And Zappa, we will see you in the clearing.

4/1/08 3:43 a.m.  
Blogger Cream said...

Sorry about Zappa, Andrea.
You have had fantastic times with him according to the photos.
I love two especially. The one with Zulu the cat jumping over him and the one with the geese. Absolutely priceless!

4/1/08 4:01 a.m.  
Blogger Paula In Pinetop said...

As I sit here at my desk, the tears well up and my heart just feels ready to burst with anguish. Oh, Andrea, I am so eternally sorry for your loss and know that you have a hole in your soul the size of the universe right about now.

Please accept my deepest condolences and this long and warm hug.

4/1/08 6:52 a.m.  
Blogger Heather Plett said...

Oh Andrea - I'm so sorry. I watched the slide show on Flickr and got a little choked up, even though I never met Zappa.

That picture at the bottom of this post is stunning - almost like they're somewhere in doggie heaven running together.

4/1/08 7:42 a.m.  
Blogger albina said...

Thank you for sharing all the wonderful things about Zappa – from all the posts and photos one can tell that he was a wonderful companion, well loved and well cared for. I remember that photo of Zoe and Zappa running from when you first posted it… to me it will always going to be the best expression of person’s love and those dog’s boundless joy.

4/1/08 8:50 a.m.  
Blogger tlchang said...

Oh Andrea, I'm so sorry. These companions leave such a hole when they go... I know what you are going through.


4/1/08 11:57 a.m.  
Blogger joyce said...


4/1/08 1:06 p.m.  
Blogger Janvangogh said...

I had to put down one of our cats several years ago. It was tough.

4/1/08 2:21 p.m.  
Blogger said...

With swimmy eyes and a tight throat, here's my hand reaching out to hold yours. I'll be thinking about you this week. I'm so sorry....

4/1/08 5:54 p.m.  
Blogger Romeo Morningwood said...

I had to say goodbye to my Jack 6 years ago and we still haven't worked up the courage to get a new puppy.
I understand the bond. It is unequalled in the entire animal kingdom. I am so sorry this was a terrible way to start a new year.
HUGE hug.

4/1/08 11:46 p.m.  
Blogger Mei Shile said...

Sad news :-(! Our animals are always our most faithful friends! And if I remember Zoe passed also not a long time ago. A big hole. As merlinprincesse says, make your grief. Then invite a new dog as companion and ask Zappa (and Zoe) to be their protectors from the other world

5/1/08 5:07 a.m.  
Blogger Cherrypie said...

That's the first proper weep of 2008.

I am so sorry, Andrea.


5/1/08 5:44 a.m.  
Blogger Paula Manning-Lewis said...

Andrea, I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. Your post made me cry, as we lost our dog Yoda on 12/1/07 he had to be put to sleep because of kidney failure. Just over a year ago we lost our other dog Rigby to old age. I know how you are feeling, our pets are like one of the kids! When they leave us, it takes time to heal. Especially when it is unexpected.

We just added a new pound puppy to our household for Christmas, my son had been bugging us for one. Osa helps us forget, but at the same time she helps us remember the dogs that came before her. Unfortunately, pets are in our lives for a short time compared to our live spans, but once they are here, they are always in our hearts. You have some wonderful photos to remember him with!

5/1/08 8:29 a.m.  
Blogger CS said...

WIth pets, you can't avoid losing them at some point. We know that going into it, and yet it still hits hard. They are so uncritical in their acceptance of us. Beautiful dog, and wonderful memories.

5/1/08 11:26 a.m.  
Blogger valerie walsh said...

My heart is completely breaking for you Andrea. Tears are streaming down my face and I feel crushed for you, your family and Zappa. They are the greatest love of all.

5/1/08 12:30 p.m.  
Blogger Unknown said...

I left a little something for you on my blog/most recent post Andrea, if and when you feel like it, if not, a small accolade for your cyber shelf : ) hugs, Kite.

5/1/08 1:37 p.m.  
Blogger Mim said...

So sorry for your loss, Reading about Zappa, it was very clear how special he was to your family. This is how it should be. He was also lucky to have you. As an owner of 2 recue Ausssies, I know first hand how the pros outweigh the cons.
Best Regards,
Michelle JOhnson

5/1/08 2:10 p.m.  
Blogger denise said...

Ohh, I'm so sorry Andrea. O

5/1/08 2:15 p.m.  
Blogger merlinprincesse said...

Hello! After all you have been through, you deserve a little award! :) See on my blog!

5/1/08 4:41 p.m.  
Blogger Catalina said...

I'm sorry Andrea. It always hurt to loose a pet. They are so incredibly attaching and kind to us.

6/1/08 12:01 a.m.  
Blogger zooms said...

Please accept my sympathy Andrea, with love,
zooms x

6/1/08 5:39 a.m.  
Blogger Cynthia said...

I'm so sorry, Andrea - our pets are a part of our families. You have written a loving tribute to Zappa that really moved me.

6/1/08 7:57 a.m.  
Blogger Christina Hill said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. It's incredible how much it hurts. Your post is very moving and I can feel your emotion within it. ((hugs)) to you.

6/1/08 3:45 p.m.  
Blogger carla said...

Andrea - I read this post this morning before work and didn't have time to write anything. I've been thinking about poor Zappa all day, and about you. I know how heartbreaking it is to lose a dear animal friend, and then to lose another so soon afterwards; that happened a few years ago with my two boy cats. This last picture you posted here is so sweet - a lovely tribute to your two friends. I'm so sorry for your loss...hugs to you.

7/1/08 4:00 p.m.  
Blogger kj said...

andrea,i've been so locked into my own fall-aparts that i've only now learned of your loss. what a tribute. i am so sorry. my rosie went in this way also, fine until the day before she died. look for signs from zappa. rosie sent a couple within a week.

love to you, friend.


7/1/08 5:29 p.m.  
Blogger Shadow said...

that's so sad yet what a beautiful story of his life. he was obviously glad to have shared his life with you, as you were to have shared his life. i'm sorry for your loss!

7/1/08 9:48 p.m.  
Blogger Shadow said...

that's so sad yet what a beautiful story of his life. he was obviously glad to have shared his life with you, as you were to have shared his life. i'm sorry for your loss!

7/1/08 9:48 p.m.  
Blogger Zig said...

Oh Andrea - I'm so sorry about your beautiful dog - your writing is straight from the heart and I can hardly type for the tears!

7/1/08 11:58 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep that last image on your blog in mind, it is so beautiful. I lost two dogs in the past year and understand your sorrow. Time is the only thing that heals.

Take time, all the best in the coming year,

10/1/08 4:46 a.m.  
Blogger Ann Christine Dennison said...

It is strange how heartbreaking the loss of a pet can be, they have such a special place in our hearts. My heart goes out to you, you obviously loved him very much.

18/1/08 11:06 a.m.  

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