I didn’t grow up with dogs, we were more a cat family, so when the husband and I were going to buy a house, I figured to go with the house we needed a dog. Makes sense, right? There was one thing wrong with that picture – I knew absolutely Nothing about owning a dog! I didn’t even think I liked dogs! But, I was set on getting one. We looked at a bunch of different breeds. I got a Dog Encyclopedia so I could be informed as to temperament, exercise needed, how big it got, and all those good things. In the paper, I kept seeing Vizslas and I had no clue what that was. We made an appointment with the breeder in Maple Valley to go check them out. A Vizsla is a Hungarian Pointer, from Austria. They are bird dogs. Of course, all puppies are cute. The breeder had 5 of his own vizslas and it was really how much he raved about the breed that sold us. We picked a male that was one of two left in the litter. I got to name him. I figured no husband would ever let me name a son Ezekial, so I named the dog Zeke.
Did I mention we didn’t know squat about dogs? He needed to RUN! I needed to build some muscles so he didn’t drag me through the neighborhood! We took him to obedience school and he did really well. I learned what I needed to do in order to raise up a well-behaved dog (this is SO important!). Anyway, the marriage ended and I drove away with Zeke.
Being back at the parents after divorce pretty much sucks. I had a room in the basement but Zeke wasn’t allowed in the house. He had to stay outside. Mom made him a makeshift dog house out of my nephews play pool table, by draping towels and blankets over it. Pretty soon we kicked it up a notch and built him a doghouse. Mom rocks! We insulated the walls and roof. You could even lift the roof off! We painted it and I could fit in there with him! Divorce pretty much sucks regardless of the reason, so that is actually where I spent a lot of time getting over it, in my dog’s doghouse. Eventually, the parents relented a LITTLE bit and Zeke was allowed to come into my room. Of course left unsupervised he chewed on my favorite stuffed animal, Balance the cow, not to mention devoured my fake leather scripture cover, in turn destroying the binding of the scriptures. He was 9 months old.
Pretty soon I moved into the house behind my parent’s house. Zeke had his bed, which was my $50 couch and I left the door open so he could go out as needed. Every day when I came home from work he’d be ready for his walk. He would dance around if I dilly dallied and whine and carry on as if HE was in charge! We practiced our obedience on the way to the park: heel, halt, wait, and watch. At the park he would run like crazy, often running in huge circles. It was amazing to watch. I kept waiting for him to biff it and he only did a couple times! He met some fun friends there: Gracie, the standard poodle; Molly, the black field lab; and Bailey, a yellow lab. He had fun chasing weiner dogs. It was always amazing to me that he never stepped on them!
One day we were walking through the neighborhood about 5 blocks from the Babe Pad (my place) and we see this dog that looks like a Vizsla in its yard trying to get towards us. This dog had been trained to stay in its yard, so it wasn’t budging but Zeke was pulling on his leash trying to get to the other side of the street, closer to this dog. I yell to the lady working in her yard, is that a vizsla? and she said yes. I asked how old, she answered nine months. Mine too, I said, his birthday is May 31. By this time we had made our way over to the house and I let go of Zeke’s leash and the two dogs were playing. We compared more notes and it turns out that Luke is Zeke’s brother! What are the odds of that!? So that is how we met Joy and Luke. I would ask do you want to go to Luke’s house and Zeke would get all excited. We swear they knew they were brothers. (Photo: Luke left, Zeke right)
In the summer we went swimming and he loved to chase the ducks and the birds. He needed a little coaxing at first to get in the water but enjoyed it after the first time. We had a lot of fun in the summers. Mom was walking him dutifully each morning and I would take the afternoon shift (can you say spoiled? Me, not Zeke! Well, yes, Zeke too). I started playing early morning tennis when he was 4. I had to drag him out of bed to come with me. He was terribly bored and not much of a retriever (only when he was in the mood), but he would wait and once he saw Grandma coming over the hill, he jumped up and was ready for his walk. He always got treats at Grandmas house too (hence the need to be on a diet!!). It didn’t take long for the parents to let him in the upstairs of their house, he was really one of us. I was struck at how much I loved him and depended on him. Who knew I could feel that way about a dog? I even wrote a poem about it. Tenderness!
All that regular fun would come to an end when I bought a condo in 2004. I had had a bad roommate experience and sent Zeke to live with my parents, who had recently retired and bought 5 acres on Whidbey Island. I moved in with my sister while I looked for something to buy. I don’t know what I was thinking when it came to Zeke. I guess it was a bit of out of sight / out of mind. I debated between a house or condo and all I could think about was that I’d have to do the yard work if I bought a house! I am fresh out of green thumbs. So narrow-minded! Isn’t that what the neighborhood boys are for? The condo didn’t allow for a large dog, so he ended up moving in with Grandma and Grandpa on what we call the Island. Oh, he loved it! His People were home 24/7 and he had the run of 5 acres (mostly manicured lawn). He got to chase squirrels and bunnies and deer and protect his People from the coyotes. He chased the hawks that flew above him high in the air, taunting him. (No, he never caught anything he chased.)
The first two weeks in my new place were weird and lonely. I had nothing to do! I had no after work routine of a walk to the park. I didn’t have Zeke to take care of. I felt kind of purposeless. And, I missed him. Who would lick my tears? Who would I talk to when I was down? He wasn’t there to comfort me when I was sad or hurt. Suddenly I had to get visitation rights with my own dog! That took some getting used to. This past year I started realizing more and more that he was more my Mom’s dog than my dog. When Mom brought him down for an overnight trip, he’d sleep with her, not me (um yeah she allows him on her bed – what’s up with that? Photo of him and Socks, the parents cat, on Mom’s bed). The sadness was two-fold: first, I wasn’t his main Focus anymore and everyone knows it’s ALL about me! Secondly, I felt bad because I didn’t miss the responsibility and how could that be when it was the Zekers? He helped me through so much during those post-divorce years. But, on a daily surface living level, he became less important. That ended up being okay because my Mom was taking great care of him and he was really happy on the Island.
My Lovey Boys life came to an end two days ago. While getting into the car at 8 AM he slipped and Mom just thought he had hurt his leg again. He was lethargic all day long, not even licking peanut butter off her finger (total litmus test for something wrong, we know now!). She finally took him to the Vet at 4 PM. The vet checked his gums (another learning) and they were gray which was an indicator that Zeke was in shock. They took an X-Ray and found that Zeke had had a 5- pound tumor on his spleen that had burst when he fell getting into the car. He had been bleeding out all day long. They rushed him into surgery about 4:30. The vet said it could go either way but he had just performed the same operation on another dog and the dog was doing well. We didn’t find out until Wednesday morning, the day of his 8th Birthday, that he didn’t survive the surgery the night before. He never came out of the anesthesia and died around 6:30 pm.
I don’t think anything really prepares you for losing Someone you love, or for knowing how you truly felt about that person. I feel raw and empty and like a part of me is gone. My heart has never been broken like this before. I’m so grateful I had Zeke in my life and that I got to experience him and all the unconditional love he had for me. He knew he was my Lovey Boy. Eight years wasn’t long enough, but it’ll always be worth it no matter how much it hurts now.
Here is the poem I wrote about him a few years ago when I realized how I felt about him. My feelings actually surprised me:
3.19.03 Who Knew AJO (A Jyll Original)
Who knew I would love you so much?
Who knew how soothing was the touch?
Who knew you’d be able to comfort?
Who knew you’d ease my pain?
Who knew you’d become a confidant?
Who knew we’d enjoy walks in the rain?
Who knew you would catch all my tears?
Who knew you’d take away my fears?
Who knew you’d be so true?
Who knew I’d do anything for you?
Who knew you’d like to travel?
Who knew of me you’d never get your fill?
Who knew I’d be your universe?
Who knew you’d be around still?
Who knew you would comfort me at night?
Who knew at any time I could hold you tight?
Who knew those eyes would make Everything alright?
Who knew on you I could depend?
Who knew in you I’d find a Forever Friend?
Who knew this is how it would be?
Who knew you would be so good for me?
Who knew I’d worry and care?
Who knew you could be so aware?
Who knew the great joy you’d bring?
Who knew how wonderful a thing?
Who knew with each arrival so much Joy?
Who knew you’d become such a Lovey Boy?
Who knew Id be so fond of the Squeak?
Who knew if I could survive without my Zeke?