Saturday, July 09, 2005

A Death in the Family

This morning our dog died. Zooey (pronounced “Zoey”). Zooey became suddenly very sick on Thursday night after she went outside to go pee. She became lethargic. She wouldn’t eat. She had trouble lying down, but when she finally was able to lay on her blanket, she wouldn’t move for hours.

The long and short of it is that she had some bad chicken, got salmonella poisoning which wreaked havoc on her digestive system and her organs. She became weaker and weaker. Until she had to be carried.

This morning, thinking this might be “it,” I took her for one last trip around our house so our kids could pet her one final time and my wife could say good-bye.

I took Zooey outside and she couldn’t negotiate the stairs. She collapsed and tumbled down the steps. My wife and I loaded her into the car and I took her to the vet.

40 minutes later she was given a needle. She died sniffing my hand while I rubbed her ears, and thanked her for all she had done for our family. But most of all I thanked her for her faithfulness, her love, her generosity, and her gentleness, before she softly slipped into eternity.

She leaves behind a lifetime of memories.

I’ll remember our walks in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax; her and I, “daddy-doggy day” we called it. I’ll remember how she parked herself under the crib when Sophia was born. Then again when we brought Naomi home.

I’ll remember when Naomi climbed on her head and pulled her whiskers and she didn’t react. She just looked at me as if to say, “Can you do something about this?” I’ll remember how she waited under the kids’ chairs for the inevitable food to drop.

But most of all I’ll remember how much we loved her and how much she loved us. She was part of the family. That sounds like a cliché, but to any pet owner, that’s God’s honest truth.

My grief reminds me that real life is lived in small worlds. A rub begin the ears. A run in the park. A snuggle on the bed. That’s the important stuff. That’s not just the cream, that’s the coffee.

There are greater tragedies haunting the world right now, people in deeper pain than a well-fed, middle class, white boy who just lost his dog; victims of the London bombings, children dying of hunger and preventable disease, young people with cancer, old people with Alzheimer’s, car accidents, natural disasters, the list goes on and on.

But nonetheless, today, I grieve. She's the good Zo, the best Zo, the only Zo, the true Zo. That was my mantra to her.

I tell people at funerals that the pain and grief they feel is in direct proportion to the quality of the relationship that has been lost. But today I find no solace in those words. The words ring true, but, sadly, truth is not comfort.

I wonder if death is God’s way of showing us how wonderful life is. I wonder if that’s why Jesus’ death was such a big deal, and why his resurrection is an even bigger deal. Because life – the power of God’s creative love – is why the world was created. Death thwarts God’s plan for the world.

Maybe that’s why my heart aches, even for a dog, because the joy she gave us, the love she taught us, and the friendship she shared with us are echoes of the love that God has for the world.

But there will be a day when Zooey will be only a fond memory. The pain will disappear into a few scattered pictures in a photo album and tender reminiscing with my family and friends, “Do you remember when Zooey…?”

But not today. Today I miss my dog.


Terry said...

I grieve with you. We lost our companion of 14 years - Lady - the world's best (and most ferocious) chihuahua. I cried like a total infant. She said goodbye to us in the vet's office - licking my hand and then my husband's hand as she trembled on her 'blankie' in my lap. I am not at all ashamed - we loved each other! Isn't that what it's all about!?!?

Kevin said...


Thanks for that. Love IS what it is all about.


Psychols said...

Luckily my dog of 14 years still lives but she grows increasingly lethargic. For months she has been sleeping so soundly that I watch to see if she is still breathing. Often I watch her struggle to climb the steps and I need to help her into the car nowadays. She still enjoys her walks but her legs tremble so much if we walk too far. Each day with her is a treat and I fear that the days grow short.

I am so fortunate to have family in my life, but I still love my dog. When she dies, I know I will feel the same grief that you do today.

Steve Bogner said...

I've buried four Beagles in the past 20 years. We still remember them and look back at those days with pleasure.

I cant imagine not having a dog or two around to share life with.

Big Dave T said...

A wonderful tribute. Sorry for your loss.

Streak said...

I am with Terry. I am sad for you today.

Richard said...

I am truly sorry for your loss Kevin.

Ono said...

Sorry to hear about the dog.

B. Erler said...

Hi Terry,

We lost a dog back in March. Her name was Blue and she was part of our family for 9 years. We noticed her becoming less active and she was having trouble breathing. When we took her to the vet, cancer had taken over her body and was everywhere. Two weeks from her diagnosis, we took Blue to the vet to peacefully end her life. She was struggling to breathe with every breath.

So I find comfort that there are more people that consider their dogs as part of the family.

We have a "shrine" with pictures of Blue and her collar that graces our living room wall. She was a wonderful part of our life and we are thankful to have those memories.

To this day I am still fighting back the tears when I think of Blue. Even as I write this.

Thank you for posting your story. It gave me a sense of peace knowing that others share the great loss of a loved pet.

Rick Barnes said...

Thank you for telling us about Zooey.

Zooey will be missed and memories will be long and loving.

your buddies

Rick and Tigger