Monday, January 24, 2011

An obituary for our dog

Employment law takes a break today because yesterday we put Zoey to sleep. She was born on January 26, 2005, the largest in a litter of seven. It never took long for her to convince anyone that met her that 79 of her 80 pounds was heart. She was a lover of all people and all things. Nothing in this world mattered more to her than the four people she shared her home with (except, maybe, for the occasional rabbit she chased in the backyard).

Zoey was our first child. She was our not-sure-if-we’re-going-to-have-kids-let’s-get-a-dog. I slept on the floor next to her crate for her first few nights in our home, until she became accustomed to being away from her litter. She never again doubted us because she knew she was home.

I beamed with pride when I taught her to swim as a puppy. I laughed when she would relentlessly lick the top of my bald head. I was awestruck when she placed her head on my wife’s lap during tear-inducing labor pains before the birth of our first child. I felt badly for her when she got bumped down the ladder with the birth of each of our children. I was grateful when she protected our kids as if they were own, and I loved her every time she checked on them when they cried or were ill.

I will miss her tail wagging whenever anyone would pet her. I will miss her jumping up and down when someone new came to the door. I will miss her sprinting into the kitchen and begging for an ice cube whenever she heard the freezer door opening. I will miss seeing her waiting by the front window in the study as I drove up to the house, and how she was always the first one to greet me when I came home from work every night. I will even miss her shedding, which often made our floor resemble an unkempt barbershop. I will miss her.

Last summer she tore her right rear ACL while playing. Post-surgery, I again slept nearby as she whimpered with pain. While the ACL healed, her leg never really did. She walked with limp, and aged dramatically, looking and acting much older than her nearly six years of life suggested.

December gave us yet another scare, as the anti-inflammatory medications she was taking for her leg ulcerated her intestine, causing a whole bunch of new problems. My wife nursed her child back to health.

Yet, we knew, deep down, that Zoey was living on borrowed time. The vet told us the odds – that more than half of dogs who tear an ACL will tear the other within a year. We hoped that Zoey would buck the odds, but I think we knew that she likely wouldn’t.

When she gimped into the house Saturday evening with what had been her good leg trembling high in the air, in too much pain to put any weight on it, and what had been her bad leg too weak to support her large frame, we knew it was time. Saturday night, she licked my head for the last time.

Zoey was not only a great dog; she was a beloved member of our family. I hope she finally catches that rabbit in heaven.