Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Zoe's Last Walk



Zoe's Last Walk by Cole Scott

Her daddy shot this series of photos this winter while walking in the snow-covered fields across the road from our house.  She was 16 years old.  We'd had her since 1999 when my husband and sons brought her home from a shelter with a little cat we later named Maggie.  Zoe was already named, approximately 2 years old and about 58 lbs.  At the time she was a sleek, black mix of Lab and Dalmatian.  She had a white chest with a few black spots, a bit of brown under her eyes and the softest ears I've ever felt.  She wasn't pretty but she was cute.  It took a while to calm her.  She'd been brought to the shelter, along with her brother, and was waiting for her forever home.    He'd already been adopted.

We became her forever home.  She had sensitive ears.  We didn't know why but you could not stroke or touch her ears without a yelp or a growl.  She did not like being bothered after dinner.  She liked her quiet time.  We later learned that is characteristic of Dalmatians.  They are a cranky breed.  

We already had a dog,  a beautiful, black long-haired lab/spaniel mix, about 60 lbs, named Jake.   I adored him.  Zoe became his companion.  She was as demanding as he was quiet.  She liked to run, chase balls, chase the car.  He liked to doze, keep watch, let little children climb all over him.  He was gracious, calm, gentle.  Zoe was fierce.  She could snap at you but she was always there for you.  

As my husband describes it, Zoe was "the most loyal dog I've ever had."  She stayed close.  She protected the house.  She protected my beloved cat.  One morning, while driving down our long drive with Zoe in the back and my son in the front seat, we saw Maggie at the driveways' convergence with the neighbor's drive, back arched, fur sticking straight up.  Two foxes had her cornered.  One fox stood above her on our drive, the other to her left on the neighbor's drive.  She was about to be breakfast.  Zoe dove out the open window of the car, chased the foxes away, and my son rescued Maggie.  If not for Zoe, my cat would have died many years earlier than she did.

Zoe liked to run.  I would often come home from work, too tired to walk her.  Instead, I'd put her in the car, drive to a long deserted dirt road, let her out and have her chase the car until she was exhausted.  It was thrilling to see her in my rear view mirror, speeding down the road like a bullet.  She was fast.  She loved to run in a straight line.  We called her "Radial Zoe".

Zoe aged quickly.  Her muzzle turned grey too early; her body thickened, her pace slowed.  She probably spent the last 7 years of her long life as an old dog.  But she never lost her love of the outdoors.  Her joy was palpable.  My husband would take Zoe and Dewey, our younger dog, out for walks and she would bounce around like a little lamb in a meadow.  That behaviour continued almost to the end.  

The last year of her life was fraught with physical deterioration.  She couldn't hold her food down, she 
was incontinent, she slept most of the time, she had tumors on her body and she was failing. The house was becoming a war zone of  accidents. 

Every time I suggested "It's time",  my husband would take her outdoors.  She'd bounce around in the yard, doing her little lamb act.  He'd point and say, 

"See?  It's not time."

Finally, it was.  She couldn't lie down.  She couldn't sleep.  She was very sick in a matter of a few hours.  We rushed her to the vet at midnight on a Sunday.  The vet looked at us and said,

"It's time."

Zoe went peacefully, easily, gracefully.  She slid into death quietly.  We held onto her and stroked her and told her how much we loved her.  We didn't let go until we had to.    

21 comments:

Brian Miller said...

mmm so hard...even at the end of their lives to let our animals go...pretty cool perspective on the shot...looks like the dog is on mountains or in the sky....

Janie Junebug said...

I know what it's like. The photos are beautiful.

Love,
Janie

California Girl said...

Brian, she was so difficult the last couple years of her life. I didn't want to get too graphic but we had multiple weekly occurrences to the point where I was convinced we were prolonging her life for no reason. In the end, it worked out.

California Girl said...

Thanks Janie. Can you imagine never having or knowing the love of a dog or cat? Inconceivable to me.

Cole said...

Zoe is wagging her tail and bouncing around like a lamb at the great tribute :-)

DJan said...

Wiping the tears from my eyes so I can post this comment. You told so much about this wonderful creature in just a few paragraphs. Thank you for the gift of Zoe in my own life, even for just a few minutes.

Betsy Brock said...

Pets are wonderful. There's nothing like it! But that's why it's so hard to let go and why we never stop missing them! What a beautiful tribute to Zoe!

California Girl said...

DJan, thank you for that. The words flowed today. I've waited weeks for the right moment.

California Girl said...

Betsy, we keep "seeing" Zoe when we go around corners or enter a room. She lurks in our peripheral vision.

Ellen Fisch Photography said...

Marvelous photographs by a wonderful photographer and beautiful story told by an extraordinary writer who touched me deeply. Thank you both for this.

California Girl said...


Ellen, you are super kind. Scott & I thank you.

PerthDailyPhoto said...

What a wonderful series of images CG, very poignant especially after reading the story of Zoe. It's one of the hardest things to lose our furry companions, sadly it's a fact that we will probably outlive them in many cases, doesn't make it any easier at all. Thank heavens for the memories oui.

A Beer For The Shower said...

If any of our dogs ever get to the point that all we're doing is prolonging their life for our own selfish reasons, then we want them to go like this - drifting off to sleep while we hold them. So much better than just letting them waste away in misery.

Beautiful pictures.

California Girl said...

Perth: Photographs capture so much. My husband constructed this series for her. We knew she was close to the end. He's proud of it and it's nice to receive your compliments. Thank you.

California Girl said...

Beer Boys: What kind of dogs do you guys have? It's so hard to let go even though they need to be let go.

Thank you for the compliment and kind thoughts. xo

PerthDailyPhoto said...

Hey CG, yes the sky really is that blue, sometimes in photos it 's quite startling..you'll see what I mean tomorrow :)

Jerry E Beuterbaugh said...

"Empty Nest Evolution" has been included in the A Sunday Drive for this week. Be assured that I hope this helps to point even more new visitors in your direction.

http://asthecrackerheadcrumbles.blogspot.com/2013/06/a-sunday-drive.html

Pat Tillett said...

I'm so sorry you lost your Zoe. It is a very hard and painful thing when we lose our long time companions. It's like they can get to a place in our hearts that humans don't have access to.

Tanna at The Brick Street Bungalow said...

Cole, in print, and you, in words, did a beautiful tribute to Zoe... well done. She lived a good life with you guys. blessings ~ tanna

Betty Manousos said...

i am so sorry for your loss. it is a very painful thing when we lose our furry friends...

your words and photos made me all teary.

what a great tribute to zoe!

barbara and nancy said...

That made me cry...and relive all the times I've been through it.
A beautiful tribute to a special dog!
Barbara