On Monday, January 4, 2016 I said good-bye to Zak, my best little furry kid! He had been struggling for several weeks, having some pain and not able to enjoy quality in his everyday life. The vet told me back in September he was failing and aging and it was only a matter of time. All I can think of right now is how I was sent this amazing gift to love me and to make me smile and keep my blood pressure down to a reasonable boil and to keep me waking up every morning when I really didn’t want to be awake or alive. I say he was a gift because I did not choose him! A very good friend gave him to me! Thank you “Twig”! Since then he has managed to wiggle his way into my heart and will reside there until we meet again! Sad just doesn’t cover what I am feeling! I held my little furry kid until he closed his eyes and breathed his last. It was like something sucked all the oxygen out of the room. He is gone and I can’t breathe!I would like to thank all of you for the support and caring shown during this sad and difficult time for me. Thank’s for caring!
Thinking of that day in January still leaves an ache in my heart.
This little bundle of energy came into my life in June 2004, a pup with issues of his own from his rescue from a puppy farm, they said he was a mistake, then going through foster care system and finally finding his way to my doorstep. This little character was definitely not a mistake. I had just experienced a cardiac event that changed my life and was diagnosed with PTSD to add to the chaos of recovery. It was strongly suggested I get a dog to add to my household, to take on walks and practice relaxing in my everyday life. At this time I had 3 adult cats, who weren’t interested in a dog entering their home, which they confirmed later in this saga. My good friend was there when the doctors were explaining the benefits of a dog and it was about a month later she was on the phone saying we were going to take a road trip to check out a puppy. Well I knew where this was going!! I would look at this cute furry little face and it would be all over. Little did I know the impact this little bright-eyed face would have on me forever. He was so handsome in his little “Tux”, shiny black coat with white ruff down his chest, 4 white feet and just the very end of his tail was tipped white. Handsome little dude! His papers said Pomeranian and Sheltie mix. H-m-m-m!!
And so we headed home with our new family member. His papers also said his name was Hercules, but he never answered to that name, so we had to find him a new one. We decided to let him name himself! I know it seems unlikely, but he did! The next couple weeks we spent time calling him; Blackie, Spot, Rover, Dog, Buster, Shadow and on and on. Then one day I was out with him while he was chasing around and I called him Prozac. He stopped dead in his tracks and looked back at me like “What?” I would never seriously call a pet Prozac, so I called him Zak and he came running over to me tongue and tail wagging. What a smile he had! I could just hear him thinking, “Like you finally got it!” He truly named himself!
When he first arrived at our house he was a little leery of those cats and rightfully so. It was only a couple hours before the 3 cats had banded together pack style to corner and then attack the intruder. The howl was enough to curdle cream! Those felines had drawn blood on his nose and ear. They all scattered and hid while poor little Zak was comforted. Needless to say he walked a wide circle around the cats for quite some time. He did make friends with the 2 tomcats, but the female cat would not give him any quarter. He avoided ever going upstairs because that’s where the cats gathered to watch over the household from the top step.
Now that we knew his name, we would have to address his life of crime! He was a Pomeranian/ Sheltie mix. In the house he was all Pom, hold me, I am the center of your world, feed me, pet me. And outside he would try to herd anything that came in multiples, birds, kids, the neighbor’s chickens, anything that would enter the yard he was on the job! He also liked to run through the yards of neighbors or follow the mail truck down the road or any other distractions he would run towards. This bad habit brought him in contact with the long arm of the law, Animal Control. The first few months I contributed plenty to the city revenue through fines paid to Animal Control for picking up my licensed criminal. So off to obedience training for Zak and I, twice a week for 2 hours each night for 8 weeks. At first it was like punishment for his crimes, but then it all begin making sense for both of us. He had so much energy and was such a smart little guy, he loved all the exercises and problem solving, etc. that he was learning and I was learning to be the Alpha in our pack! It was at training that I learned how social he was with other animals. He loved going to the dog park to play with his friends and I had some friends with dogs, so we started including the furry kids in our visits and it was wonderful to watch them all mix and mingle and play ball, tug-whatever and take naps together. Therapy to the max for all of us!
He loved playing with kids. Our neighborhood had a few for him to claim and herd. They would come over and play ball with him during the summer and fall, but then winter came and he loved the snow. The kids asked if they could make a skating rink in my yard. We had a large yard to work with. So for a few nights Zak supervised the kids and their parents while they created an ice rink. Piles of snow became fun for Zak to climb and engage in snowball fights. The kids would throw the snowballs and Zak would chase them just as he had during the summer with the tennis balls. I got the biggest kick out of the little boy next door. He would knock on the door and ask if Zak could come out and play just like he was one of the gang! I guess in a way he was! Zak thought he was the “Leader of the Pack”! Such fun remembering those days, even though it tugs at my heart at the same time.
I worked full time and my week days were spent away from home, unless I could wrangle a way to work from home which I did from time to time, but the routine was up early and on my way by 6:00 AM, home at 6:00 PM. I never ever came home to anything chewed, messed up or broken. Zak would greet me at the door with “I gotta go!! I really gotta go!” So we would get that out of the way first and the evening was ours. On the weekends we had a different routine, getting up early Saturday mornings and doing errands. I would ask him, “Do you want to run errands?” And he would get all excited and dance around while I drank my coffee, made my list of stops and when I slipped my shoes on he headed for the door. We would stop at the bank drive up where he would score a treat from the teller. He was always a charmer! Next stop the only full service gas station in town, where the elderly attendant would give Zak a scratch and a few kind words along with another treat. Next stop the mom & pop bakery, where I would park right in front so he could see me get the goodies. Well, the girls knew him, and they would wave at him and make those smoochie noises and would always put something special in the box for Zak. I think that’s where he developed his liking for donut holes. Then we would head for the Meat Market, where again he would score another treat, a bone, a chunk of sausage, or some other tasty bite for the pooch. By the time we finished our rounds, the puppy treat bag was bulging with Zak Snacks! We would head home with our treasures and he would look so satisfied with himself. He loved Dairy Queen and McDonalds! When we did road trips (he was such a great traveler), we would stop for Happy Meals and baby cones. I always got the fries and the soda and he ate the nuggets or cheese burger. He could spot a pizza delivery car from down the block, then wait with anticipation of treats inside the box and got snacks from a few of his favorite drivers.
He learned to pray with me at mealtime and bedtime. At mealtime he would sit up with his paws together and would wait for the end of the blessing before he would start eating. I fed him when I ate so I didn’t have him begging. Well it was a good plan except he ate much faster than I did. I got even with him at bedtime! He recognized the word Amen and would wait for it. When we started I would kneel next to him by my bed and start with the Lord’s Prayer with that cute little face looking up at me just waiting for “AMEN” and some nights it came in the usual fashion. Then there were those nights where I could and would stretch that prayer out to 5 – 8 minutes and Zak would wait and watch and give me such quizzical looks. He always waited until he heard “Amen” and then he would jump up and make himself comfy on his blanket and settle in to sleep for the night. He would wake early, 5:30 – 6:00 AM and would need to go out. From the time he joined our household this was the way the morning started. He was the reason I woke in the morning!
Whenever I wanted to get a rise out of him I would ask him, “Where’s the squirrels?” He would run to a window or door and indicate he was ready to search for those squirrels. He spent many hours chasing after those bushy tailed rodents only to come back with nothing more than a good workout. He chased rabbits, too, but squirrels were his favorite! He liked to watch Animal Planet programs. Wild birds, wolves howling, and of course bushy tailed squirrels. Many times he would jump on my lap when I was at my computer and we would watch clips of animals and his ears would be perked up and his eyes big, tail wagging and we would watch for a while and then he was done until the next time.
Spring of 2010 came with many changes for me and my household. The company I worked for downsized and there was a major reduction in the workforce at our campus. My whole department was phased out and so I needed a way to make lemonade out of all those lemons. I decided to move to North Dakota to be closer to my mother, who was aging and her health was declining. So we packed up a dog & my old orange cat, a household and 2 of my 4 boys moved me to Anamoose ND in May 2010. Zak adapted to the new neighborhood quickly. He loved going to visit granny Helen and she enjoyed his company as well. When we drove north on Main Street and made the turn to the left he would start wagging his tail and making squeaky noises as he could see grannie’s house. She always had some kind of a treat for him. It was at granny Helen’s that I discovered he recognized the word, “pray”. Granny had a pastoral visit when we arrived. We waited quietly in the entry hall and when Zak heard, “let us pray”, he sat up and put his paws together until he heard “Amen”. Granny got such a kick out of him!
Fast forward to 2012 and granny Helen’s passing, moving into her house and how he looked for her for days! Waited for her to come and snuggle him on the couch! He missed her so, as did I and we comforted each other. We moved on and he had new neighbors to meet and he fell in love with the beautiful black lab across the alley, but she wouldn’t give him a look, a growl every once in a while, but no looks!! He had lost he best friend Toby due to aging issues and was looking to fill the void. When we would drive by Toby’s house he would stand up to watch for him to be in the yard. A dog’s short term memory is “0”, but their long term memory is like an elephant.
Another move came in 2014, but only I moved and Zak stayed with my son and his family. I would have all of the visitation that I wanted and all would be fine! Not so much! It took me about six weeks to realize that if I didn’t have my therapy puppy with me I was not sure what would become of me. And Zak was also experiencing undue stress. Over the Labor Day weekend I picked up Zak and we took a trip to Minot to spend the weekend with my sister and family. It was so much fun to play and snack and sleep and just hold him on my lap. When we came home and I had to drop him off at my son’s house, the feeling of loss was becoming overwhelming. As I drove away I could hear him whining as he stood there with my son. I went to the apartment I had moved to and had a complete meltdown. Next step was to speak to my doctor and try to find a way out of the sadness. After reviewing my records, her prescription was to get my dog. It seemed almost like an act of congress, but I got a call from the powers that be and told I could have my beloved Zak with me at my apartment. That sparked a whole new adventure!
I have to say at this point that Zak was bettered mannered and better behaved than most kids I know. He was so happy to share the apartment with me and to call it home. Of course there were new neighbors to meet and greet and he did with such charm. He knew just who would give him a treat, a good scratch and became aware of his new yard. There were rabbits in those trees out back and he would love to chase them. Zak was even invited to Saturday coffee with the housing clan and loved all the attention.
He wasn’t a big dog! Of course he thought he was a Rottweiler and he didn’t know he was an old dog either. He was big enough to fill my heart and I am missing him every day. I have some consolation though from time to time. I puppy-sit for a couple people and that makes me smile and remember the wonderful times I had with my Zak!