I purposely didn’t write a column about saying goodbye to Zeke, my family’s yellow lab who was almost 14 when it was time for us to let him go last March.
I didn’t want to be just one more self-absorbed writer spewing about the punch to the gut I felt every time I walked in the door because my dog was not there to greet me. I didn’t want you to read my sad story about losing Zeke, only to have it churn up the pain you felt when you lost your own pet.
But here I am, six months later, telling you about Zeke.
Maybe I waited until now because it has taken me this long to accept that Zeke is really gone. Or, maybe I needed to be sure that life was going to be OK without Zeke as my companion.
There have been many first-person accounts written about the anguish of losing a pet. The heartache my children and I felt is no different, no less painful, than what other families feel when they too make the difficult decision to euthanize their pet.
The difference for me in this case, of course, was that our pain was acutely personal. Zeke was a member of our family for 13 years. And unlike my kids, who grew up and moved away, Zeke never left home.
Parents often talk about the unconditional love they have for their children. But Zeke taught me that the most unconditional love of all is the love a pet has for his family.
Pets only remember the good times and quickly forget the bad. If only we humans could focus on life’s joys and forgive and forget unkind actions we experience as quickly as our four-legged friends.
When Zeke died, he left behind Sammy, our ginger cat that my daughter, Rachel, rescued from the neighborhood dumpster when she was 14 years old. Now, Rachel is 21 and a senior at Stetson University, living in Deland.
Until she left for college, Rachel had slept with Zeke every night since she was 9 years old. Losing Zeke was wrenching for her, and I suggested she take Sammy back to Deland to comfort her through her sorrow.
That left me alone in Land O’ Lakes with just Jonas, our 8-year-old Airedale Terrier that we had adopted five years earlier.
Unlike me, Jonas never seemed to miss Zeke or Sam. He has flourished as the family’s new alpha dog, and with no other pets to compete with, has become more calm, loving and attentive.
The vet who came to our house to euthanize Zeke told us that other pets in a household are remarkably accepting of another animal’s passing, that pets understand better than people the ebb and flow of mother nature. She told us not to expect Jonas or Sam to mourn Zeke, but to learn from them that Zeke’s death was natural and even good.
I have tried to accept that advice and to let go of my grief of losing my friend.
I will always miss Zeke’s presence, but also know that the love that we had endures beyond the boundaries of death.