My mother in law called us tonight and gave us some very sad news. Our beloved dog, Zeus, passed away peacefully yesterday in his bed, asleep. I was in the middle of cooking dinner when Howard repeated what she said to me. I naturally broke down in to tears. After he got off the phone, he leaned back against the kitchen sink and wrapped me in his arms. I cried into his chest.
Zeus came in to our lives nearly nine years ago. He belonged to neighbors who were constantly ignoring him and yelling at him even though he was just a dog, chained to a tree, not harming anyone. Howard and I used to sneak food over to him, when they weren’t home. We’d also sneak snuggles and kisses. I called the local humane society. They, apparently didn’t think it was too big of a deal and did nothing. We kept sneaking sweet words, food, water and love to him as much as we could. Our hearts breaking for him.
He was a Pit Bull. Now, of course, half the people you say that to, gasp in horror, because “Pit Bulls are mean!”
I’m here to tell you, Zeus was never mean to us. He looked forboding, but he’d snarl his teeth up and smile and wag his tale and then cover my face with kisses. He loved Howard equally as much. Our neighbors, even though they obviously hated him, would NOT let us take him off their hands. I just kept praying for an opportunity.
Finally, they moved away, leaving him tied to that tree. We immediately took him in.
Now Zeus, though sweet and loyal, was odd when it came to being indoors. He was/is the only dog I knew that hated being indoors. And we were indoor dog people. We believe if you take a dog to raise, you make it part of your family completely or else you just don’t get a dog.
But poor Zeus would pace and pant, even in the cool air conditioning, safe from the NC summer heat. We’d just shake our heads and apologize refusing to let him out until the hot weather subsided. Once we opened the door and let him outside, he bounded, and played in the grass and reveled in being outdoors. It was his element. We relented when we realized that he truly was happier outdoors and built him a HUGE dog lot, complete with a shingled dog house, cedar shavings lining the perimeter ,and even a covered “patio”, where he could lay in the grass, rain or shine. Then and only then, when we knew he had the cadillac of dog lots, could we rest easier knowing he was living outside. And even then, we felt we had to spend our evenings outside playing with him.
When we moved to Alaska, of course, we planned to take him with us. In the weeks before the move, we tried to “groom” him to being an indoor dog. But the more we tried, the more unhappy he seemed. I tried to acclimate him to being in a dog crate, but he wasn’t having any part of it. He was 71 pounds of solid steel when I tried to use my entire body to shove him in one. He didn’t cry or even flinch, he just sat, and stared at me with a poker face as if to say “Um. Sorry mom, but I will NEVER get into that pet crate.” We found ourselves in a dilemma. How were we going to get him on a plane? Much less turn him into a house dog once we got there. (because unless you’re a mushing dog, the outdoors is no place for one in winter Alaska)
The time drew near to our move. We contemplated backing out. We weren’t going without our dog. We were a family. But the house and belongings were already sold. We were going or we were homeless. Luckily, my mother in law loved Zeus as much as we did. As far as she’s concerned she has “grand dogs” and tells everyone so. She offered to let him live with her. It was tough to let him go, but we knew she’d take good care of him and love him as much as we did.
Again, at her house, we built the “cadillac” of all dog lots. Howard’s brother Chris chipped in as well. He bought cedar shavings, and planted holly bushes all around his lot, and even buit another shingled “patio”. Howard built a dog house with a covered porch. Again, we were only satisfied when we knew he had all the comforts an outside dog could have.
It was hard to leave him but Jean loved having him. She took him for walks, took him to his vet appointments, fed him, talked to him, played with him and loved him. He had a good life. Jean lived alone and loved his company.
Our last day with him was when we were back in NC in January. We took him to the park and went hiking on some back trails and played fetch on the tennis courts. He was so happy but we could see he was getting old and tired more easily. He was nearly 13, which is pretty old for a pit bull. Nevertheless, we had so much fun with him that day, he played and frolicked and we tried to fit in a year’s worth of hugs and kisses and snuggles until we could get back to NC again.
But still, it doesn’t mean we don’t feel guilty for leaving him. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have just turned down the job because if we couldn’t all go, then we shouldn’t have gone at all. Because really, that’s what we should have done.
There’s nothing we can do about it now, but Howard and I made a promise to each other tonight. Never again, will we leave an animal behind. Even if it is with his or her grandma who will no doubt love and care for them. We’re a family. Four legs, fur, and all.
Goodbye our sweet Zeus, you big baby, you big bear, you big sweetheart. We will always love you and will never forget you.