Zoey - August 10, 2020
When we found her I didn't realize I needed her. Sure, she needed us, she was living in woods, alone, surviving on whatever she could find. She was nine months old, the vet later told me when I took her in for a check-up, still unsure I wanted to keep this undernourished mutt. We'd been on vacation in southwest Missouri, near the Arkansas border, in the middle of the woods. I was on the porch when I saw her trotting down the dirt road. A little brown dog. I whistled and she stopped to look at me from across the lawn. Then she continued on her way.
Later that night, the family was watching a movie we'd brought (no cable service out there!) and suddenly this furry face popped up in the window, scaring my husband out of his seat. We fed her some people food and went to bed.
She was still there in the morning. We asked around and no one knew where she came from. We fed her some more and she stayed. The next day we went and bought some dog food, flea and tick shampoo, and a leash and collar. We were committed before we realized it. The kids promised to take care of her. And she was a sweet dog.
My husband bathed her in the shampoo and then picked fifty ticks off of her. She stayed outside but never wandered off. She and my daughter chased frogs around the pond next to the house where we were staying. She continued to eat whatever she found outside. A trait she never outgrew.
We bathed her again before bringing her home.
She went by many names aside from Zoey.
And probably others that I can't think of right now.
She was the sweetest dog I've owned and has ruined me for others. Though I've vowed to not ever have another because the pain of putting her down is so heavy. I cried hard, like I've not cried before. Hours....days...I sobbed, hoping I'd been as good to her as she'd been to me. My prayer throughout all of the grief has been, "Thank you, God, for letting me be her dog-mom. Thank you for this precious gift. Thank you for the years together."
She was also very smart. She would wait until the minute we left the house and then make her rounds, searching for food left out or a door left open. I figured it went back to her days of scrounging up whatever she could find in the wild.
She ate her weight in chocolate over the years. I quit worrying about her after her indulgences. I just figured she had a stomach of steel. A bag of mini Snickers a friend left on the kitchen counter? Gone. A tin of chocolate covered pretzels, in plastic wrap and covered in Christmas paper? Gone. Baking supplies (flour, sugar, shortening....) when I left the pantry door open? Gone. A package of stevia-sweetened chocolate bars that came in the mail and hadn't been opened yet? Gone. And many many more things over the years. Guests who stayed with us were sometimes surprised to find their bags gone through and snacks missing.
But she was sweet.
And I always wondered what she was. I thought maybe she was chocolate lab and beagle because of her size, color, and shape but didn't know for sure until earlier this year when I got a dog DNA kit and swabbed her cheek. They didn't have any information about her other than that swab, and guess what? I was right. Chocolate lab and beagle. A mom knows.
She never even growled, until the end. And that's when I knew she didn't feel good. I'd had clues. Her eyes had clouded over and she couldn't hear me even when I was standing right next to her. She'd started coughing when waking up. She was having trouble with stairs. She trembled when I touched her. But she was still sweet.
My one year old grandson was giving her kisses and she growled at him. I knew. I just knew it was time. For her and for him. Because people are always more important than pets.
She was a good girl. A furry friend I came to love. Above is the last picture I took of her, the morning we had her put down. I'm still not able to talk about it and I'm sobbing as I write. I don't like coming home and without her waiting at the door for me.
I don't like throwing the empty pint container away without it being licked clean. Peeling apples without my apple-peel-eater buddy is sad. The kitchen floor is dirty with crumbs, splashes, and drops of food until I clean it. Nobody licks my nose when I'm stretching after a tough workout. No one begs for me to share my food. Nobody tries to get on the couch with me. I can leave food anywhere I want. The pantry doesn't have to be closed. I can walk barefoot in the backyard. There's no nose prints on the windows.
But I'm so grateful for the gift she was. And she's tucked in my heart forever.