|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,
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.